René is a Denver-based singer-songwriter who’s infatuation with writing timeless melodies has gotten him into deep trouble with all his muses. After years of honing his craft in Washington, D.C. and Dallas, TX, this forever burgeoning songster has settled into the foothills of the Front Range where he is hell-bent on carving out his own place in the Colorado music landscape. Upon his recent move to Denver, René’s discography was included into Denver Public Library’s local music project, Volume. Active in the local music scene René has played at numerous venues around town including Wash Park Grille, The Brew On Broadway, and The Laughing Goat. He’s a recurring performer with the showcase Songwriters & Stem Ciders and was a recent featured performer in Swallow Hill’s Best of Open Stage. A lifelong supporter of local music, René co-founded a local music initiative while living in Washington, D.C. and serves on the Denver Arts & Venues’ Music Advisory Panel. You can listen to his music on Spotify, iTunes, or on the music page.
“At some point I recognized that we experience everything for a reason: empathy. To me, songwriting is an opportunity for collective empathy. A well written song compels the listener, the audience, to identify himself with what the singer is singing about. It might be a poignant paean to lost love or a hook driven melody. Either way all that is required is for one listener to connect and the moment is seized. These are the moments that I live for as a songwriter. I’m not just writing for myself, nor for anybody else, but for that which lies in between.”
Few DC area musicians fully embody the phrase “homegrown talent” in the same manner as singer-songwriter René Moffatt, a Texas native turned Washington, DC transplant. With only six years of District living and five years of musical pursuit under his belt, René has quickly established himself not only as a premier solo artist but a passionate advocate for local music.
With introspective lyrics and soulful guitar and piano, René’s emotive music reflects his deeply personal relationship with songwriting, as well as the inspiration of influential singer-songwriters such as Jackson Browne, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, and Paul Simon. After cultivating this sound into his debut EP Here and Now is Home, which was recently nominated for a Wammie for Folk/Contempory Album of the Year by the Washington Arts and Music Association (WAMA), René has catapulted to the forefront of up-and-coming local artists. With a relentless drive to immerse himself in the DC music scene, René has gained the momentum to pursue his most significant passion project to date: the launch of a music video for “Route 42,” his acoustic homage to the (at times) tumultuous experience of DC public transportation.
René’s (somewhat unexpected) exploration into writing lyrics and playing guitar began far later in life than the average professional musician. Until 2006, aside from sporadic piano lessons, childhood choirs, and casual fiddling on the guitar, René had never fully explored his musical talent. But at age 26, René found himself at a professional and emotional crossroads that drove him to pick up his long-neglected guitar, which he had ignored for other ambitions many years prior. During an unsettled time in which René packed up his life in Virginia Beach to begin a new chapter in DC, he increasingly used guitar, piano, and songwriting to channel his emotions into artistic expression.
With a new city and a new artistic interest to explore, René turned to a quintessential DC institution for artists to help him pursue this passion project: the Levine School of Music. Under the guidance of instructor Eric Ulreich, René essentially started from scratch as a musician. For three years, René focused on the most honest (and least glamorous) requirement of any successful musician: becoming technically proficient on his instruments of choice. With a tireless work ethic honed from years playing collegiate Division I soccer, René built his technique from the ground up—with both music and writing. After three years of instruction and countless hours of practice, this burgeoning singer-songwriter felt ready to showcase his talent.
In 2007, René dove headfirst into the local live music scene, and he began performing original songs at the ever-popular open mic night at Iota Club and Café in Arlington, Virginia. He booked his very first show that June with an opening spot at Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse. Soon, after becoming a fixture at their open mic night, Modern Times Coffeehouse invited him to be part of their artist compilation album. This also provided René the first opportunity the use his professional expertise as a graphic designer to enhance his musical pursuits, as he designed the compilation’s album art.
Simultaneously, René poured himself into refining his vocal, instrumental, lyrical, and performance skills even further. He wrote and performed non-stop, and in 2009 he began to record his debut EP, Here and Now Is Home, which he recorded at Recording Arts Studios with Marco Delmar. The EP, comprised of six original songs, provides a stunning example of René’s growth into a full-fledged artist with a unique sound and confidence in his voice, lyrics, and instrumentation. In just a few years, René had grown from using music solely for self-expression, to now creating an entire body of his own work and discovering his own sound.
As René became completely immersed in recording and performing music, he became similarly immersed in supporting the larger DC music community in the same way it supported him. He organized and performed at songwriter showcases throughout the city, and he was a featured artist on the first iteration of “The 9,” a long-running songwriter series. Gaining this momentum, both with his own music and in his role in the DC artistic community, gave René the confidence to leave the security of his career as a full-time web designer.
Without the distractions of a 9-5 job, René’s creativity rocketed in new directions. He began to conceptualize the idea for a song and accompanying music video about the storied Route 42 Metrobus, which he had relied on to travel to and from his former job. The resulting track, a melodic, hook-driven, and aptly-named toe tapper called “Route 42,” would soon become one of René’s most popular songs. This acoustic tribute to his adventures in DC public transportation perfectly illustrates how René’s urban experience lives and breathes in his music at all turns.
To make this music video dream a reality, René turned to the city for help: he launched a Kickstarter campaign and applied for a grant with the DC Commission to the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) to shoot the video for “Route 42,” which he secured amid fierce competition and thousands of applicants. Drawing on local resources even further, René teamed with talented American University film student Alex Bryant to produce the film. With Alex behind the lens, René on the mic, and the streets of the District as the stage, a successful formula emerged; the whimsical, heartfelt, and oh-so-relatable music video was shot in 2011.
As if successfully creating an original music video wouldn’t suffice to keep René occupied that year, 2011 also marked two crowning accomplishments for both René’s individual career and his involvement in DC music as a whole: he released his aforementioned EP in April, and he co-founded a local music initiative called Listen Local First in August. Listen Local First, a partnership with Think Local First, seeks to increase exposure and opportunities for local musicians. Spearheading this initiative in the same year as the release of Here and Now is Home cements René’s commitment to nurturing the artistic community that gave him the inspiration and opportunity to pursue his non-traditional path to becoming a working musician.
René’s tireless dedication to his craft has begun to pay off, both with critics and fans, in DC and the surrounding area. René has established himself as a force to be reckoned with among DC folk musicians, and his introspective lyrics, soulful voice, and elegant instrumentation have gained accolades. His song “Demons On Your Sleeve” received an Honorable Mention from the Songwriter’s Association of Washington (SAW) in 2011, along with a Wammie nomination for Folk/Contempory Album of the Year. Recently. René has taken his show on the road with short tours along the east coast and in the south, and he was a featured artist on WDVX’s “Blue Plate Special,” a long-running radio showcase in Knoxville, TN.
In five short years, René truly transformed himself as an artist. He has achieved a level of musical expression that only a few years prior seemed to be out of reach, and his maturation as an artist is only just beginning. With lyrics that pack an emotional punch, a voice that resonates, and memorable melodies to boot, René’s sound will continue to impress upon the DC music scene and beyond.