Ariel Bui is not a one-track artist. The folk singer-songwriter is well-versed in the influence of worldly travel, having experienced life all over the South, but also in different music genres. Though classically trained, she resides now as an Americana songstress with old-school country tones. Next week, Nashville-based Bui is releasing her latest self-titled record, full of dark, universal themes like death, fate, and love, told in a classically country voice with her own distinct sound. One track off the new album, “Moon Over Kentucky”, seems to tackle all of these at once.
Opening with a standard folk rhythm and Bui’s smoky voice singing the song’s title, “Moon Over Kentucky” feels distant; older somehow. Soon, the track welcomes a strong repetitive percussion beat underneath Bui’s lilting vocals. “Moon Over Kentucky” came about because Bui “wanted to write a song using three chords and the simple truth, that could sound classic yet be new and original,” thus the repeating rhythms and lyrics. Told through Bui’s slow drawl, “Moon Over Kentucky” is a lullaby love song to travel. Its story takes listeners along the same route the artist took; from New Mexico to Canada, through Kentucky and Louisiana, and finally to Nashville. The uncomplicated rhythmic structure of the track sets a catchy, country tone, but allows Bui’s own shivering harmony to stand out on its own.
Listen to “Moon Over Kentucky” below and connect with Ariel Bui on Facebook. Read on for the full story behind the track.
Ariel Bui on “Moon Over Kentucky”: “This song is a true story from my life, about the travels that led my life to Nashville and about the love lost and found along the way. It is inspired by the classic country music in Nashville, performed by artists like Chris Scruggs. I wanted to write a song using three chords and the simple truth, that could sound classic yet be new and original.
It chronicles my move from Taos, NM, where I was working in sustainability at Earthship Biotecture, to Nashville, TN. In my quest to follow my calling as a musician, I ended up driving from Taos to Toronto, Canada to elope with a man I met at Burning Man in hopes of becoming a Canadian citizen and receiving assistance for being an artist and musician in society. However, not long after arriving in Toronto, it was clear the relationship was not going to work and I felt I had no choice but to move back in with my father in Dallas, TX.
On the drive between Toronto and Dallas, I stopped in a rural town outside of Bowling Green, Kentucky where a friend from Taos was building his own off-grid, self-sustainable Earthship home. I found refuge there in the country-side, helping my friend build his home and playing music together. From there, I visited a good friend in Nashville and we recorded my third album, Niche EP, live to tape. I left Nashville for Dallas and had a blow-out with my dad there, so I went to stay with my mentally ill mother in Shreveport, Louisiana for a few weeks before deciding to move to Nashville.
While I was in Louisiana, I was listening to late-night college radio and called the radio station to compliment a DJ. We hit it off, met up, and fell in love. He followed me to Nashville. In Nashville, I found myself working as many jobs as I could so that I could pay off my student loans and THEN pursue my music and dreams unencumbered.
One night, when I was driving home from one of my many jobs, I caught a glimpse of the full moon from the highway. I really missed Taos and Kentucky, places where I felt connected to nature, the moon, the earth and the sky. The first line of the chorus came to me as I was driving, I recorded it onto the voice memo feature of my Nokia brick phone at the time, and got home and wrote the whole song. Also, another aspect of classic country music I find compelling is the connection between it and folk music from other parts of the world. My paternal grandfather, before he passed away, told me he was listening to a lot of American country music. I found it interesting that my Vietnamese grandfather, who listened to mostly Vietnamese music, would love American country music. But upon contemplation, I find there are many similarities. Similar simple melodic lines, twangy singing, sliding and bending stringed parts, and subject matters of love and heartbreak. This song is dedicated to my paternal grandfather, who passed away from a rare strain of pneumonia from Southeast Asia while I was working on this album.”