moses sumney replaceable
By Sound Check
July 30, 2013
On June 1st, King, the vocal trio from Minnesota began their month long residency at the Bootleg Theatre in Los Angeles. The opening act was a tall, charismatic, and talented young artist named Moses Sumney. Sumney’s music is a tender combination of singer-songwriter soul with a tough and sometimes daring series of vocal loops. Performing by himself, he was openly nervous and dealt with it with a bright sense of humor. However, as soon as the music started, his gift overcame any timidity making the delighted audience scream at the end of every song, each time louder. I approached him afterwards and we struck up a conversation. Later that evening I thought it might be nice for Mochilla to help showcase his talent. This video is what came of that thought. Just one take, no edits, no corrections, no after effects, just pure soul. Below Moses tells us a little about himself.
When and how did you get into music?
I started singing when I was 7, and I’m not really sure why. Nobody in my family is musical. I’ve always just had a natural affinity towards it, but I didn’t really start doing it publicly and consistently until i was 20 years old.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in San Bernardino, California in 1990. After living there for 10 years, I moved to Ghana with my family. Then at 16 I moved to Riverside to complete high school and begin college.
Does your period in Ghana have an influence on your music?
It’s hard to tell. I think it’s impossible for any period in our lives to not affect the art we output. I write about my life experiences and realizations, many of which occurred during my teen years in Ghana. Aesthetically, it may be too early to tell how much my upbringing affected my musical style. I’ve started to dabble in West African melodies and rhythmic patterns, but that didn’t happen until years after I left Ghana and started actually paying attention to the music that was no longer ubiquitous in my life.
Do you have any formal training?
I do not. I am completely self-trained.
Who are your friends/co-workers in music??
Hard to say. I collaborate with many people on many different projects, I guess, but the bulk of what I do, I do alone.
Please tell us some of your influences… (not just music, if so…)
One of my earliest and main influences is India.Arie. Apart from being inspired by the folk-meets-soul genre she invoked, her lyrical content inspired me to want to create music that sparks consciousness and non-superficial levels of thinking. I’m also very influenced by Jeff Buckley, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray LaMontagne, and José Gonzalez.
Please tell us something about this song “Replaceable.’
It started with a melody. Sometimes I hear overlapping vocal melodies and harmonies in my head, and need a way to bring them to life. That’s why I started looping. So the most important part of that song, to me, is the moving melody. The lyrics kind of just came naturally. I tried to write a song that, instead of the typical “you’re-no-good” break-up song, gives perspective into the psychological trauma that causes us to treat people like they’re expendable, and how those are cyclical behaviors. (Listen to the 2nd verse.)
Please tell us some of you career highlights so far…
Well there aren’t too many so far! I won a few singing/performance contests when I attended UCLA but those matter very little to me now. The biggest highlight so far was definitely doing my first residency this June so early in my career, opening for the (amazing) band KING. Before that, it was the gig I did with Zee Avi. I think opening for Tony Allen at the Mayan Theatre will prove to be a highlight of sorts. Baby steps.
Moses is back with King at the Bootleg Theatre, this Friday August 2nd 2013. Doors at 8pm.
Dont think I’d want to miss it.
Thalma de Freitas
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