This summer, So So Gay reviewed Lost and Found, the debut album by singer-songwriter Moya. It’s a stunning album with a depth of maturity and eclecticism that’s rare to hear coming from such a young artist. We eagerly jumped at the chance to interview Moya so we could learn more about her musical influences, personal journey as a musician, and the album itself.[pullquote_left]I think going on a talent show is kind of an easy way out. I mean if you’re in it for the long spell you should really do it from the heart and go for it on your own.[/pullquote_left]After listening to Lost and Found and doing some research on Moya, we were surprised to learn she was only 21 years old. Everything about the album, from her voice to the song-writing, has a seasoned grace to it that you would expect from an artist twice her age.
When asked where she thinks the sophistication of her music comes from, Moya enthuses about her mother: ‘My mum always said to me that she thought I’d lived a life before I lived this life. I think it’s a classic case of an old mind on young shoulders. I’m not really trapped into the commercial vibe that’s going on at the moment. I mean, of course I enjoy a lot of the commercial music out there but I really take inspiration from the oldies. I write so much from what I heard as a kid, and that was great music, very talented people writing those tunes. That’s kind of the way I wanted to go rather than push out a dance hit that’s going to hit number one next week.’
After that remark, we couldn’t help but ask Moya what she thought of the various televised talent shows out there, such as X Factor. ‘It’s not for me’, Moya laughs and remarks that everyone has been asking her that. She continues: ‘It’s a difficult one, talent shows are mainly to sell television and entertain…The X Factor I really think is just churning out the same stuff over and over again. It’s good for some people. I kind of have a pet hate about it, because I really did everything on my own. I didn’t go to a university or musical college or anything I just spent my days sifting through books and writing to people, sending my stuff off, getting into places. It’s just through sheer hard work and determination that I actually managed to get to where I got to, and I think going on a talent show is kind of an easy way out. I mean, if you’re in it for the long spell you should really do it from the heart and go for it on your own I think, personally.’ Moya’s honestly is admirable. It’s not often you’ll encounter many people Moya’s age in the music industry who are so ready to admit they think televised talent shows are a bit of a con.
We were curious to learn more about the musicians that influenced her from such an early age. When asked, Moya once again reflects on her mother and upbringing: ‘We had this old record player in the house I grew up in. I was only about six years old and I remember this record player so, so well. We had the most incredible vinyl collection in the house and I remember Stevie Wonder was always on, Gloria Estefan as well. My mum was seriously into disco as well as jazz – like Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone – so mostly genres like soul, motown, disco. I’ve always been really into musicals and still am, there was always the Grease vinyl on 24/7 I don’t think I ever grew out of that. It was quite an eclectic mix of music but it was always around the soul motown kind of thing.’[pullquote_right]I don’t want to be a girl that uses auto-tune or takes 300 times to do a track. I’m not that person and I want people to see that because I think they’ll respect me a whole lot more.[/pullquote_right]Wanting to turn the conversation toward Moya’s own music, we start to inquire about the current single ‘Making Me Fall.’ It’s a breezy song with a great chorus and an interlude featuring a male vocal. Moya talks about how she went to Sweden to co-write with a songwriter who goes by the name Anders: ‘It actually came to us quite quickly; I mean this co-write was done in a day…the guy that sings on the record, a guy called Mill Thomas, ended up doing the vocal for us by chance. We needed someone to sing the male vocal because Anders had done it when we wrote it in Sweden. My producer was like “I know a guy, he’s kind of like got this smooth Bruno Mars-esque voice” and he had that, so he did a vocal for us and I was like “brilliant”, so that’s how it all came about.’
When discussing her music, Moya gushes enthusiastically, but without ever sounding pretentious. She’s clearly a girl who loves a good chin-wag and is very personable. When we mention one of our favourite tracks from Lost and Found titled ‘One Breath’, Moya’s chatter charmingly goes off in many tangents: ‘I’m so happy you like that song, that’s my favourite track on the album. It’s another track I wrote in Sweden and we wrote it in approximately two hours flat. It was one of those things we just walked into the co-write and started tickling around on the piano and went “we have a song already” and you know it’s good when it comes that quickly. The song is kind of about being in a relationship with someone and taking a chance on them, really letting go for someone and taking a leap of faith.’
‘The lyrics are so simple but I think they’re so effective because it’s just me and a piano – and we recorded that track in one take as well. We recorded it in London and it was just me and a pianist, I think it was four takes we did and then we had one. It was the song I could really show case my voice on and say “this is what I can do” from start to finish. I don’t have any auto-tune, there are no effects on my voice, I just got in there and did what I know best. I think that’s really important for me because I don’t want to be a girl that uses auto-tune or takes 300 times to do a track. I’m not that person and I want people to see that because I think they’ll respect me a whole lot more.’
Both of Moya’s first two singles, the title track ‘Lost and Found’ and second single ‘Making Me Fall’ are accompanied by great videos (click song to view). We wanted to know more about Moya’s role in the visuals of her music: ‘The “Lost and Found” and “Making Me Fall” videos were done by the same production company – Asylum Films. We’d initially sit down and have a conversation about concepts and stuff, but “Lost and Found” – for me – I knew what I wanted completely and utterly. I knew the feeling that I kind of wanted and I wanted the connection between me and the guy to really come out through the lyrics. So I had a real concept and vision for that one. “Making Me Fall” was quite different, I knew I wanted (it to be) performance-based. The narrative just came out of building the concept, I kind of left the guys a bit to their own devices for that one because I wasn’t entirely sure of want I wanted to do, and I knew they would be able to do a good job. So I had a lot of input but I kind of left them to it as well, to sort of surprise me at the end really.’
Moya had a great time doing gigs around the UK in the summer; we asked her what one can expect when coming to her show: ‘You can definitely expect to be taken on a complete emotional roller coaster. With the album being as it is, there’s a lot of people that have come out of the shows saying “you know, that’s happened to me”, and that’s the whole point of the album, is that people relate to it. People come out of my shows saying that, and I think that’s my job. It doesn’t matter that we don’t have a big elaborate stage performance or what-not, you know? It’s honest, good, loving music that people want to listen to and they feel happy and chilled out when they leave and that’s really what it’s about.’[pullquote_left]It wasn’t just music in the beginning; it was the whole of performing arts. I just wanted to sing, dance, and act, forever.[/pullquote_left]We were surprised to learn that for most of her life, Moya thought she would end up doing musical theatre: ‘It wasn’t just music in the beginning; it was the whole of performing arts. I just wanted to sing, dance, and act, forever. There’s a stage school called Stage Coach and my sister went, so I used to bug my mum I was like “mum, I wanna go, I wanna go” at the age of six. She finally got me in about six months later, and it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I found out that I wasn’t actually supposed to go at the age of six; you had to be at least eight. My mum had managed to kind of fool the people into getting me in so I would stop bugging her. I was quite a stubborn child to say the least.’
For at least the third time during our conversation, the topic affectionately returns to the influence and support of Moya’s parents: ‘I’ve been very lucky my parents have never pushed me into doing anything. It was always whatever I wanted to do. From then it kind of just progressed, until the age of 18, I swore I was going to be in musicals I honestly did.’ This obviously leads us to inquire why Moya ended up becoming a solo recording artist and not a theatrical performer. ‘I think it was purely the fact that I didn’t get into drama school, and I really didn’t have a musical theatre voice. It’s very specific type of voice, and my voice is not like that. I might be good for something like “We Will Rock You” (chuckles), I kept getting into the final rounds of auditions at the drama schools, and they were just like “no, your voice just isn’t the right kind of tone.” So I just thought that there’s a reason why this is happening, and I went traveling for three months and came back and decided not to re-apply. I was just going to perfect my writing and that kind of thing’.
We ask if it was difficult to come to terms with the fact that the theatre was not to be Moya’s destiny: ‘You know it tears your heart apart at the time, the one thing you’ve wanted to do all your life and you realise you’re not quite good enough. It was quite difficult. I’m still a complete fan, and my friends do musical theatre. I couldn’t quite get there, so I think there’s an ache in my heart that I couldn’t do it.’ We joke that maybe Moya’s career could lead her to write for a musical theatre company one day. Her response to this was a chuckle, yet we also got the sense she wasn’t entirely joking ‘Well you never know I might just write a musical one day.’[pullquote_left]I had to kind of dig deep in my past to get this album out, but right now I want to write again. I can feel it bubbling away in my body.[/pullquote_left]The conversation begins to turn towards the future. Moya discusses her excitement about starting to do some support tours, and artists she’s excited to open for. In particular is one of her personal favourite musicians, Karima Francis: ‘She’s been around for about four years, she had her debut album and then kind of went off the radar, but she is unbelievable. She stands for what I believe in as an artist, she’s her own person and she’s just herself, not what anyone else wants her to be. Her voice is the most remarkably soulful and captivating thing I’ve ever heard.’
We were surprised to learn that even though Lost and Found was just released this summer, Moya is eager to get started on her second album: ‘The next thing really is being commissioned to write a second album…I had to kind of dig deep in my past to get this album out, but right now I want to write again. I can feel it bubbling away in my body. I’ve got to start writing because I’ve learned so much in this past year and a half; I’ve completely changed as a person. I can’t quite explain it, I’ve become the kind of person I probably should have about seven years ago. The second album I think will really kind of cement that for me.’
We draw our pleasant conversation to a close and notice that well over 20 minutes have gone by (originally a 10 minute interview was planned). Moya is a great conversationalist and incredibly enthusiastic when discussing all aspects of her work. She has the right to be, Moya has demonstrated that she definitely has the talent and determination to back it up.