The first time I came across Denai Moore was around this time last year, when she opened for friend and fellow musician, Moses Sumney. It was a room-silencing performance, at the end of which I remember turning to a friend to say – “I completely forgot I was here to see anyone else.”
The 23 year old already boasts four projects – including 2015 debut album Elsewhere – and returned last month with the consuming new single, ‘Trickle’. gal-dem caught up with Denai to chat about her path into music, the form her style takes and what inspired the new single’s songwriting and visuals.
gal-dem: Do you remember the moment you decided to pursue music?
Denai Moore: Very much so. I feel like once you have that feeling you can’t ignore it. I started writing when I was really young, and actually got my first guitar given to me by my old music teacher in Year 6. I hadn’t thought about it as a career option or anything, it just became something that I loved doing. And then I got to sixth form and everyone was applying to university, and I just had this urge to be really uncompromising.
Do you have inspirations? Any artists that have shaped your work in some way?
DM: The people that inspire me most are people that take risks and push themselves. I remember my dad bought me Lauryn Hill’s Unplugged when I was younger, and it was one of the best live performances I’d ever seen. She messed up, had a breakdown in the middle of the gig, maybe said a bit too much – and I thought, “that’s how music should be. It has to be raw. It has to be honest.”
“I’ve always felt that it’s important for my music to represent the person I am in a moment – like a screenshot almost.”
In your Twitter bio, you refer to yourself as “23 and genre free”. What do you mean by that?
DM: “Genre free” to me means creating with no boundaries. To me, assigning genres is a way of enforcing set rules, and it’s annoying when people label me a certain “type” of artist. I feel like we shouldn’t be so simple, especially now that we all have access to so much.
Ok, let’s talk about the latest single, ‘Trickle’.
DM: ‘Trickle’ was the first song I thought could begin this new record. It came out of a spell of bad anxiety towards the end of tour dates for Elsewhere. I travelled for a bit, came home, started writing new songs. This was the first one I wrote off the back of that. I’ve always felt that it’s important for my music to represent the person I am in a moment – like a screenshot almost. This song is how I felt at that time. I’m really proud that it exists, and that it’s the next song to be released.
What inspired the video?
DM: The idea was that it would be a visual representation of me and all the anxieties I have. In the video I’m quite stoic, almost expressionless, whilst these scenes are happening around me. It represents the unexpected nature of anxiety. It’s like a stranger that you know. An uninvited guest almost. One you’re familiar with, and lives within you. And you have to keep some sort of relationship with it. I had a real connection with the director, Raine Allen-Miller which meant the visual was so easy to create, it felt like a genuine collaboration.
All of your projects so far have been solo, are there any collaborations you’d like to do in future?
DM: I’m so open to working with other people! I think it’s really powerful to bounce off someone else’s talent, and I think music right now is so exciting because people are really working with each other as opposed to competing. I mean, I’m a massive fan of Moses Sumney…
I would love to hear you two collaborate!
DM: He’s so special. We met in London when he was here a few years ago, and I think we became friends via the internet. I think all of my friends are via the internet right now…
Enter the ballot here to win free tickets to Denai Moore’s headline show on Tuesday 9 May at The Courtyard Theatre with DJ sets from Jamz Supernova and In Bloom.