Thom Moore was born on December 6, 1943, in California, the third son of a heavy-equipment operating engineer from the island of Santa Catalina, off Los Angeles. His mother, who was by nature a romantic and a reader of Isak Dinesen and Lawrence Durrell, persuaded her husband to take employment in East Africa and the Middle East, so he spent his formative years in Ethiopia (1950-53) and Lebanon (1955-61).
After graduating from the American Community School in Beirut, he entered the U.S. Navy and served three years as a journalist on the staff of the Pacific Fleet commander in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He entered the University of California, Los Angeles, after getting out of the Navy in 1965, not soon enough to avoid service in Vietnam. He took a bachelor’s degree Magna cum laude in Slavic Languages and Literatures in 1969 and a master’s in 1970.
He moved to Ireland in 1971, settling near Sligo in the northwest of that country. He formed the band Pumpkinhead in 1973, performing original material and Irish traditional music. Their only recording was released in 1975, the very first release (LUN-001) of the Bothy-Band house label Mulligan, but the band itself was dissolved a year later. He then founded a new group, Midnight Well, which also recorded in Ireland with Mulligan Records (LUN-011) in 1977. Vicissitudes of various shapes and sizes ensued at this point, among them his divorce from his first wife in 1978 and the breakup of Midnight Well shortly after. He returned to California in 1979 at the behest of his manager, Paul McGuinness, but instead of furthering his musical career, he found himself an instructor of English grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary at a machine-stenographers’ school in Van Nuys, a position he held until July 1987. The only explanation that suffices for this turn of affairs is that his material is probably not appropriate to most existing American markets.
Then the looming Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty (1988) convinced him to refresh his Russian language capabilities, which he did courtesy of the U.S. Navy Reserve, after which he went to work for the newly formed On-Site Inspection Agency (OSIA) as an interpreter-escort for Soviet inspectors coming through Travis Air Force Base in northern California. But the entire period he was in California in the 1980s he was writing songs and performing weekly with an Irish-music band, Train to Sligo. One of his songs from this period, The Crooked Road (Carolina Rua), was made popular by the Irish singer Mary Black in the summer of 1989, and he decided to return to Ireland and resume his musical career in the fall of that year. Fate intervened again in the form of an offer of a job as an interpreter-inspector at the INF permanent-monitoring site in Votkinsk, a manufacturing city in the Udmurt Autonomous Republic, on the European side of the Ural Mountains in what is now once again Russia. Not wanting either to give up this opportunity to live and work in Russia nor his intention to return to music in Ireland, he spent as much as possible of his frequent time off from the Votkinsk job in music circles in Ireland.
Fate again intervened when he fell in love with and married Lyubov Gennadyevna Koroleva, a Russian interpreter-escort that he worked with, and perforce quit the restrictive circumstances of the government job, finding employment in 1993 as a professor of English at the Udmurt National University in Izhevsk. He continued this practice of working in Russia and playing music in Ireland until his removal back to Ireland with his new family in November, 1995. His creative work, which he considers more literary than musical, shows the distinctive influence of the various countries and cultures of his experience. But the most serious influence of his life has been and will always be the rich instrumental-music tradition of Ireland, upon which he bases an ever-increasing amount of his work.