Frank Sinatra once called Ray Charles ​​“the only genius in the business.” Blending a panache for blues, rock ‘n roll, jazz, R&B, pop and even country, Charles persisted and defined music on his own terms. His influence and spirit live unmistakably through today’s generation. In Nick Moran’s musical heritage, you instantly find yourself sunbathing in a smooth, intoxicating and richly Charles essence, particularly in songs like “Better Let It Be” and “Lay Your Money Down,” cuts from Moran’s latest studio record, Easier Time. Horns, Hammond organ, Wurlitzer, Rhodes, vintage electric guitars come together to illustrate his signature brand of upbeat, funky blues. Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, James Brown and Sam Cooke ⎯⎯ “hands down my favorite singer of all time,” he notes ⎯⎯ are also prevalent forces through much of Moran’s production choices, instinctually embedded in a classic approach and isolated from hackneyed modernisms.

   Behind a sound that is big, bold, and undeniably
powerful lies a record that, at its core, is
stubbornly optimistic, and it unmasks a soul genuinely struggling with questions of heart and home, place
and purpose, yet it is determined to keep
moving toward to something better.

Based out of New York, the sprightly singer, songwriter and musician aims high with Easier Time, which “jostles from wholesome throwback to brightly contemporary” ( B-Sides & Badlands ) and features “Moran’s distinctive, soulful voice” ( Elmore Magazine ). The record “even [gives] a dash of Jamie Cullum on this mix of smoky Memphis stews” ( Jazz Weekly ). But his gutsy and measured techniques run far deeper than meets the eye, owed in large part to his no-nonsense, cool demeanor. “I never rush anything,” he says. “It takes me a while to write a song, especially one that I'm truly proud of.” “Easier Time” (written and recorded over the course of two years) stands as the catalyst for much of the album’s cutting, self-exploratory tone. “Songwriting isn’t something that should be done quickly. You should let it happen at its own pace...within reason. Songs will come out when they’re ready,” he explains of how the title track exemplifies his patient, assured approach. Songs are typically born through the music first, and the lyrics are layered on much later.

“I had the song’s melody in my head for
almost a year before I finished the title track,
from the voice memo I took on a subway platform to
the finished product.”

Through letting the process breathe, common threadlines then became woven in not only the storytelling, which you can feel profoundly on other sterling moments like “Just Isn’t You” and “Losing Steam,” but Moran’s vocal leanings. He shows delicate care when crafting his story, and you might cheer, weep or even feel the inexorable weight of his soul. In talking about his craft, he talks candidly and passionately ⎯⎯ and he’s never brief. Expect to spend a couple hours reveling in his long-winded speech, unshakably witty and self-aware, knowing precisely how treacherous and slippery the climb in music business can be.

Gathered in such studios as the Cutting Room and Virtue & Vice, the band of musicians, along with co-producer Or Matias, clicked instantly. “The longer you do this and the more musicians you play with, you realize that certain people just snap together musically. They anticipate everything you do. You get to exactly what is necessary. It’s invaluable,” he says. Armed with a bevy of talented musicians ⎯⎯ including Or Matias (piano), Simon Kafka (guitars), Dan Weiner (drums), Matt Cusack (bass), Gregorio Hernandez (trombone), Mike Kammers (tenor-sax, bari-sax, flute), Clynt Yerkes (trumpet), Jason Cummings (engineer) ⎯⎯ the album sparkles with contemporary brightness, polished with well-worn tradition. The band’s presence, as you’ll witness by Hernandez and Kammers’ robust playing or Yerkes’ punctuated vibrancy, shapes and pushes the textures to the surface. Meanwhile, Moran’s spotless but soulful delivery pushes and pulls the arrangements with nuance and plucky know-how. He flexes personal vulnerability toned with universality across a meager nine songs, but that’s enough to capture the entire essence of his being without exposing the wizard behind the curtain. “The songs are less about exactly my story. I always make sure the songs could be malleable and fit anybody else’s story, too,” he says.

“My first album was my excitement about
sharing the music in the biggest and boldest way I could. The second album is a little more about
coming to grips with the reality of it all, 
how hard it is, and how you can burn out but still want to keep moving forward.”

While Easier Time proves his knack for handling sounds and hefty arrangements rather adeptly, he promises his next album to be far simpler. “Having nine people play on a record can be a trap. I do think some things become muddy when you start adding way too much,” he considers. He then recollects his first artistic endeavors when he initially moved to New York. “I did these kind of acoustic, trio shows. They were more folksy than anything else,” he says. Those collaborations were fulfilling, yes, but he yearned for “more sound, more firepower.” He completely revamped the band right before his first album, 2013’s Who We Are, and that opened the floodgates. “I brought in horns, made everything electric and switched over to wurlitzer and all that stuff. A lot of the songs on the first record were written on guitar. They were bluesy folk songs originally, and then I’d bring them to the band and re-instrument them and bring the funk and soul into it,” he says.

And the rest is history. Easier Time ⎯⎯ adorned with glowing intensity, refreshing honesty and some of the year’s most compelling vocal work ⎯⎯ is Moran’s crowning achievement. Amidst the album’s creation, he ventured to Nashville for recording sessions, mounted a small tour in Hong Kong, played a sequence of corporate events and launched successful radio promotion (50 stations nationwide are now spinning his music). Who knows what his next steps will lead him; but one thing is for certain, we should all be paying rapt attention or we might miss out on something truly great.