Though he’s been captivated by country music since way back, Chris Moreno’s journey to full-time musicianship has hardly been a steady climb.
A Massachusetts native raised in Northboro, Moreno went to UMass Amherst and landed in Boston about 10 years ago. Before that, he was that kid who locked himself inside his bedroom with a stack of albums and at 12 years old convinced his parents to buy him his first guitar.
Throughout high school, Moreno played gigs with a band as a guitarist, never a singer. His journey as a vocalist began more recently, when he decided to take lessons just to see if it was something he could possibly pursue. In a short time he fell in love with singing.
Despite his country act, Moreno’s spent the past 10 years making a name for himself in Boston, performing in the places that you might be more accustomed to seeing your favorite indie rock and pop acts. As a whole, he says that the exposure has helped him grow as an artist and build strong connections with other local musicians. A nominee for Best Country Artist of the Year, he’s done a solid job of getting his name out there.
Moreno’s passion for music has always been lingering, but his drive to perform wasn’t always there. At one point, he took a five-year break from playing to focus on his former corporate career, but despite having good friends and steady work, he says something was missing.
“I definitely felt kind of unfulfilled, and I think I just didn’t really know why,” Moreno says. “I didn’t know what the solution was.”
Eventually, Moreno realized the solution was to dust off his guitar and warm his vocal chords back up. The five-year break gave him a new appreciation for his craft, the time away showing him how much he truly values the feeling of having music in his life. And though he grew up on rock music like the Deftones and Aerosmith, these days he draws inspiration from country stars like Keith Urban and Brett Young.
“The more I started getting into country and the storytelling through the lyrics,” he says, “the more I sort of realized that this was the right fit for me as far as genre.”
With so many country singers writing songs about love and relationships, Moreno says it is important to find qualities about yourself that set you apart from similar artists. “You have to have something that makes you different, and so I’m always trying to figure out what it is about me that’s different,” he adds.
On his newest single, “It Was You,” Moreno sings about a past relationship and his struggle to move on, but instead of focusing solely on feeling hurt he reflects on the good times, adding a positive spin on a sad situation.
Though Massachusetts is his home, earlier this year Moreno moved to Nashville to push his career ahead. He says Boston was the stepping stone he needed to gain experience and build confidence, but he ultimately had to head down south.
“If you’re doing country, this is the place to be,” Moreno says. “It was really just wanting to move to a place where I feel like I could elevate myself and where I would be best and see where things go from there.”
With solo artists who carry a full band dominating country charts these days, he sees a unique opportunity.
“I want that full band sound,” Moreno says. “I want to honor all those rock roots that I grew up with.”
CHRIS MORENO. 12.15/9PM AT FINN MCCOOL’S PUBLIC HOUSE, 200 HIGH ST., BOSTON.