After a lifetime of writing and playing music, a local documentary finally gave Terry Moran the perfect reason to get into the recording studio.
If you were at the September premiere of A Childhood Lost and Found: A Journey Back to the Lake Bluff Children’s Home, Kraig Moreland’s touching documentary about the stories that came out of the historic Lake Bluff Children’s Home, then you’re already familiar with the music of Lake Bluff’s Terry Moran. One of Terry’s most popular original songs, “Down at the Crossroads,” plays over the opening of the film, the bluesy guitar riff evoking an earlier time as it plays under sepia-toned footage of children experiencing an important crossroads in their lives: boarding the train that will take them to the orphanage.
“I’ve known Kraig for forever,” says Terry. “His father was my gym teacher, [the Morelands] used to live across the street, our kids babysat their kids. He came by one day, told me about the project, and said he was looking for some music for it. I played him about eight of my songs and he picked the ones he wanted. But then to sit in the high school auditorium [where the documentary premiered]—it was full—and to have my songs coming over the sound system? That was cool.”
Terry has been writing his own music for most of his life, but he took a hiatus from performing live while he and his wife raised their family in Lake Bluff. Over the last few years, however, he started getting back out there, performing alongside other familiar faces in our community music scene, like Derrick “Suede” Stout and Steve Ragsdale. But it was while Terry was playing “Down at the Crossroads” during a Community Church of Lake Forest & Lake Bluff service that Kraig realized his music was perfect for the film.
“Terry is such a talented musician,” says Kraig. “And it was really important to me that this project was the community’s film. So every single person that’s a part of it—from the actors in the reenactments, to the people that helped me write it and proof it, to the person that’s doing the graphic design for the cover, to the people that do the music—are all people from Lake Bluff and Lake Forest. It’s really a community project.”
Kraig used several of Terry’s originals for the movie with titles like “Safe Harbor” and “Shores of Lake Michigan.” Terry even wrote one song called “Say Goodbye” specifically for the project, adapting a poem Kraig found in one of the Children’s Home scrapbooks called “Their Other Mothers,” about the bond between the kids with their house mothers. “I’ve never done anything like that before,” says Terry. “I sat down with the poem and within a couple hours, I had taken what I could use, added lines, arranged it, and came up with that simple guitar melody. It just worked perfectly. I finished it, got Kraig over here, and I sang it for him. We were both in tears, literally. I’m an old, weepy Irishman, and he was just so involved in this project, it just went right to the heart of it.” The final recording is made even more special by a beautiful vocal performance from Terry’s own daughter, Jessica. In fact, Jessica also sings backup on many of the tracks, which were recorded right here in Lake Bluff at Diameter Records.
The recording process has been the first time that Terry has had a chance to fully build up and produce his original songs with percussion, bass, and backing tracks. “It’s like the song being fully realized,” he says of working with producer Danny McMurray at Diameter Records. “It’s like it goes from a little thought to this big, complex thing. It probably wouldn’t work with every song and some of them we’ve kept very simple, but for ‘Safe Harbor’ and ‘Crossroads,’ that really added a lot.” Terry and Danny are currently laying down more of Terry’s songs in addition to the ones recorded for the documentary with an eye toward releasing a full 10-song album early this year.
Until then, you can find Terry playing his music live at South Gate Cafe on the first Friday night of every month, or get yourself a copy of A Childhood Lost and Found: A Journey Back to the Lake Bluff Children’s Home from The Lake Bluff History Museum, and hear his tracks accompanied by fascinating local history. You can also find him working on his music every week as part of a round-robin songwriting group called Songcatchers alongside writers like Derrick “Suede” Stout, Dave Hawkins, and Daniela Sloan; every Tuesday night, anyone can join in and give their input on the latest musical offerings from the group. “We have a really cool music scene here,” says Terry. “There are so many talented people in these towns. It’s a great experience for everyone to have a chance to get out and see local people do their local thing, whether it’s in the theater, or music, or whatever. I’m just really grateful to places like South Gate and Noodle Bar for giving us a venue to do that. Local music, original songs, I think it’s really a special thing. It’s fun to be a participant, and it’s fun to go and listen.”