Elizabeth Moen, by Robert Alleyne

For four years I had two homes. I lived day-to-day in San Francisco, yet always referred to London, England as my home whenever anyone asked. When I visited London, the opposite would happen — home became San Francisco. I defined home as the place I was away from.

Cheap flights and messaging apps have made the world a smaller place in the last 20 years, so defining "home" can be complicated. Why tie yourself down to one place when you can roam free? All you need is a mobile phone, a credit card, a few friends, and an idea.

Soul-folk singer Elizabeth Moen is living this very idea. She was born and raised in Iowa, yet as her musical career blossoms, she is trying to split her time between three bases: Iowa, Dublin, and San Francisco.

Her unusual arrangement started after planning a trip to France, where she had studied during high school, to visit some friends. “Before I went to France, I went to Dublin with my guitar for a couple of days because I heard it was the place to be,” Moen says. She did what you do as a singer with a guitar in a new city: She went to some open mics and she made some friends. “Hey, if you come back, we'll try and help out with shows,” she says her new friends would say to her. “If you come back...you can stay on our couch.”

The same happened when she traveled to the West Coast. Before she knew it, Moen had musicians learning her music in three cities and had three places to lay her head.

“I love my [band] mates in the Midwest...But I want to be able to move around, and right now, I'm the only one who can move around with me,” Moen says.

Elizabeth Moen, by Robert Alleyne

Moen’s second album, That’s All I Wanted, is a rich mixture of soul-based Americana with warm guitars and a penchant for honest storytelling. “People are hesitant to share about [the time] I was drinking by myself late at night. It's like, 'Not proud of that.' But at the same time, it's an important song to get out, not only for myself but for someone else to hear that and be able to relate.”

“I love my [band] mates in the Midwest...But I want to be able to move around, and right now, I'm the only one who can move around with me,”

On the subject of honest storytelling, much of her sophomore record was written about a former partner. “I was in this relationship where it ended, and it ended horribly because, essentially, they were falling in love with someone else,” Moen shares. “It broke my heart.”

Moen took her ex-partner back even though she knew she should not have at the time. However, playing sad songs about them had a profound effect as she performed.

“Playing shows and constantly singing songs, I couldn't really let go of what happened,” Moen says. “It's like [I am] trying to forgive and forget but then almost every night [I am] playing songs talking about how someone kind of mistreated me.

“It's like, “No, I can't forget that...And so it was maybe a blessing in disguise that I finally...that it didn't work out the second time,” Moen confides with a somber smile. “The only person I've ever kind of talked shit in my songs is the person who kind of deserved it.”

Elizabeth Moen, by Robert Alleyne

At the time of this interview, Moen was preparing to split her time between Dublin, Iowa City, and San Francisco. She speaks of it as a freeing moment. “It feels really good when you let go of objects. It helps you let go of a lot of other things that you might not have known you needed to let go of,” she says.

“You don't have to tie certain emotions in with a coffee table or a pair of shoes. When you let go of those things you realize you don't need them...you can just really start relying on yourself.”

Relying on herself has led Moen to find a place for her music in three locations. Moen is prepared to “live out of a car” or “out of a suitcase” and see where her music takes her. She’s not going to rush into finding a place to call ‘home.’

“I'm in love with all three places, and I just can't make up my mind. But for right now, I don't have to,” she says with a smile.

Moen's new album, A Million Miles Away, is available now on Bandcamp. She will be playing Neck of the Woods next month.

Elizabeth Moen, Emily Brown
Neck of the Woods
November 17, 2018
9pm, $10 (21+)

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