From the road to the stage: Driver follows passion for music to Nashville

From the road to the stage: Driver follows passion for music to Nashville

Writing and playing country music is his "passion,” says Smokey Point driver Nate Moran, and it's what he's "meant to do in this world.” It’s also been something of a lifesaver.

“It kept me out of trouble,” he says. “It kept me out of going down the wrong road.”

Behind that is a lot of hours of work and some personal tragedy. Nate picked up a guitar “to keep my mind right” at age 11, just after his father died of a massive heart attack, at age 41, while the two were on a hunting trip together.

That right road might just lead to a career in country music, says Moran, who has been driving for SPD for a year and a half. “I’ve always been a fan of music and I love singing. It’s something I’ve been blessed with.”

Acknowledging and encouraging those passions and dreams of its employees is good for them, for the company and customers, says Dan Wirkkala, Smokey Point Distributing’s president.

“We have a great appreciation for people’s strengths here at SPD. We want our professional drivers to enjoy driving, and enjoy life outside of trucking,” Wirkkala says. “We’ve got amazingly talented people. We want the world to know about them and what they can do, on and off the job.”

The world is already getting to know more about Nate’s passion for music. He and his band have played at fairs and other events in California, where he’s based, and he’s looking to expand those performances to nearby states. He also recently performed at the ground breaking for Smokey Point Distributing’s new building.

Moran has recorded two songs – “Honey Drop” and “Middle of the Moonlight” – available for sale on iTunes and Amazon.com (he’s had sales in the United Kingdom and Europe). He can also be found at his website, Facebook page, Twitter @NateMoranMusic, and on YouTube.

Nate recently got a startling reminder of the power of social media when, holding the door open for women in Tupelo, Miss., one of them suddenly exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, we know you. I have your songs on my phone. Your first name’s Nate.”

“To get recognized on the other side of the country, and to be asked for an autograph and a picture with her was pretty cool,” Moran says.

His musical style is modern country with a definite rock edge to it, along the lines of Luke Bryan or Jason Aldean. Bryan, he says, is a particular influence because of the tragedies in his life. “He’s turned it into music and made all of his fans feel his music,” Moran says.

After his active service in the California Army National Guard, Moran looked to his long appreciation for the life of a professional truck driver. When he was a teen his uncle, who was a driver, would take him on trips and that’s where Moran began to appreciate life on the road. Now that he’s a driver himself, he’s “getting to see the U.S. and Canada the way most people never do.”

Moran’s music goes with him on the road. Every morning he starts his driving with the Jerry Reed trucking classic “Eastbound and Down.” During the day, as he’s driving, he’ll “freestyle” words to a guitar part he’s written until he finds lyrics he thinks work. At the next safe opportunity he’ll jot them down.

“Every evening, once I shut the rig down, I spend at least two hours with my hands on a guitar, and have a pen and a notepad nearby to write down ideas,” Moran says. “On one recent trip I came up with the beginnings to two songs and I know I can turn them into the two best songs I’ve ever written.”

He’s hoping this summer to complete a six-song EP and go to Georgia, where he was raised, to shoot the video for “Middle of The Moonlight”, the song inspired by his relationship with his bride. Eventually he’d like to move his family (he and his wife have two daughters, ages 7 and 3) to either Nashville or Austin, Texas, two epicenters of country music, to grow his career in the music business. “It’s harder than any industry to get into,” he says, “but I can do it. It just depends on how bad you want it.”

Moran believes the work he’s put in to fulfill that musical passion is worth it. “Country music is the best music in the world. I can argue that all day long.”

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