Renowned author and songwriter Allison Moorer received Troy University’s Hall-Waters Prize during a virtual ceremony on Friday.
Moorer, an Academy Award-nominee whose recent memoir, “Blood,” has been heralded as a frank and cathartic memoir of family and healing, is a leading voice in country, folk and Americana music and has written hit songs for artists such as Trisha Yearwood, Kenny Chesney and Miranda Lambert.
The ceremony, which was originally scheduled for an in-person event on the Troy Campus was moved online following the cancellation of campus events due to the COVID-19 coronavirus. Plans for a fall event that would bring Moorer to campus are under way.
The Hall-Waters Prize is endowed by TROY alumnus Dr. Wade Hall, an author, former member of the faculty at the University of Florida and professor emeritus of English at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY.
Dr. Hall, a native of Bullock County, endowed the prize as a memorial to his parents, Wade Hall Sr. and Sarah Elizabeth Waters Hall. The award is presented regularly to a person who has made significant contributions to Southern heritage and culture in history, literature or the arts. Past winners include Rep. John Lewis, Bobbie Ann Mason, Pat Conroy, Natasha Trethewey, Cassandra King, Ace Atkins, and the songwriting team of Dan Pan and Spooner Oldham, among others.
Maj. Gen. Walter Givhan, Senior Vice Chancellor for Advancement and Economic Development, presented the award to Moorer via video conference.
“We are so proud to have this opportunity to present the Hall-Waters Prize to singer, songwriter and author Allison Moorer,” Givhan said. “That Alabama voice truly comes through, not just in her songs, but also in her written work. Her memoir, ‘Blood,’ is what we are honoring here today and what a work it is. What an accomplishment it is to bring the written word together with music for a complete and total experience. We are doing this presentation virtually here today, but we cannot wait to have Allison come to TROY and have the opportunity to interact with our students, faculty and staff.”
Moorer said she was extremely honored to receive the award, especially since it recognizes the work of Southern artists.
“I’ve always been and will continue to be a very proud Southerner. It’s in me. It’s who I am, so I’m delighted that this award is given to honor works of a Southerner,” Moorer said from her home in Nashville. “The people who have received the award before me, I’m just in awe of and I can’t believe I get to be in such company. It means a lot to me to receive this award, and especially now when I feel like our lives are so different and who knows what we are going to emerge to. To have something like this happen during these times is a real bright spot.”
Moorer said the feedback she has received from her book and accompanying album is very rewarding.
“So much of the reward for me has been in the feedback I’ve gotten from people who have read the book or listened to the record or both,” she said. “That I’m able to help anyone in any way means that I have done good work, and, above all, I want to be of some sort of service to the world. It makes me feel good on another level to know that my work is being recognized by a University. It makes me feel that maybe my work has merit on a literary level as well.”
Moorer first gained fame when her debut single, “A Soft Place to Fall,” co-written with Gwil Owen, was featured in the Robert Redford-directed film “The Horse Whisperer.” The composition was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1999, leading to her performing it live at that year’s Oscar ceremonies. The title track of the album from which it came, “Alabama Song,” demonstrates the artist’s deep connection to her native state and in particular to Mobile, where she was born, and to Frankville and Monroeville, where she was raised.
Over the course of her subsequent nine albums, Moorer has diversified from mainstream country into pop, folk, and finally into Americana/roots music, where she is widely hailed for her earthy vocals and narrative approach to lyrics. While most of her albums feature her original songs, she has released two celebrated collections of covers, including 2017’s “Not Dark Yet,” on which she and her sister reinterpret Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, and Merle Haggard.
Following the presentation, Dr. Kirk Curnutt, Chair of TROY’s Department of English, conducted an in-depth interview with Moorer focusing on her memoir, “Blood.” The full production will appear on the University’s social media next week.
“One central goal of the Hall-Waters Prize has always been to celebrate the versality of writing, to appreciate that words might be recorded on paper or they might be performed live but that regardless of format great art consoles human sorrows and uplifts grief through the craft of language,” Dr. Curnutt said. “We’re very excited to celebrate Ms. Moorer’s work, and we cannot wait to have her come to Troy, when we are able to schedule a visit, to speak with our students.”