2013’s support act of choice for Andy Burrows, Mick Hucknall and Rod Stewart, this soulful voice is destined for greatness
t’s proving to be a very exciting year for Emily Andrews from Dorset. Under the stage name of Moya, this ambitious singer-songwriter started playing modest club venues supporting Andy Burrows in February, warmed the stage up for Mick Hucknall at concert halls across the UK and Ireland in April, then by June was stepping out in front of tens of thousands of Rod Stewart fans on his arena tour.
This dizzying ascent through the echelons – coupled with soulful pop vocals drawing comparisons to Emeli Sande – have set expectation levels to stratospheric, with many predicting big things for this singer-songwriter from the rural South of England. The ears of the Songwriting team pricked up on the first listen of forthcoming single Come And Get It(you can watch the video at the end of this article), but it was the maturity of the songwriting that caught our attention and compelled us to find out more.
We find Moya relaxing in her flat in Clapham, London making the most of time at home before joining Rod Stewart for the next leg of his arena tour…
We’ve seen your impressive tour schedule…
“Which is pretty nuts, to say the least!”
But let’s go back to the beginning. Can you recall your first memories of making music?
“Playing music wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life – what I wanted to do was musical theatre. That was the big dream from a very young age. Although I did learn to play every instrument known to man and failed miserably! I don’t know what’s wrong with my hands, but they don’t coordinate with anything.”[cc_blockquote_right] IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM, WRITE IT ALL DOWN AND THEN IT’S OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM [/cc_blockquote_right]What sort of instruments did you try?
“Piano, saxophone, flute, oboe, guitar, violin… and the recorder!”
So you stuck to using your voice?
“Yeah from there I just carried on singing. I started having lessons about the age of six years old, at my primary school. I was classically trained so I basically sang opera for most of my life. Then I hit 16 years old and wanted to be myself rather than what other people wanted me to do. So I went to a performing arts college and it was there I figured that writing music was one of my callings.”
“While doing my A-levels and auditioning for drama school, I was honing my songwriting skills. I had an amazing teacher at the school who saw I’d taken an interest in it and taught me how the process of writing music worked. I wrote a lot of diaries – I still do – and it was a good way of venting anger and any kind of emotion. I’d just write it all down. When I was sixteen I’d looked through all these notebooks and realised I had some quite good stories to tell.”
Did they end up being turned into lyrics?
“Sometimes. I write quite poetically anyway, so I used to go through with a highlighter pen and pick out certain bits if I thought it was a good lyric. A friend of mine said ‘if you have a problem, write it all down and then it’s out of your system.’ So I have six or seven books where I just write stream of consciousness, and I guess some of my best songs would’ve come from there.”
Do you write at any particular time of the day?
“No, it’s whenever I ‘feel’ something. I don’t want it to feel forced because you’re never going to get the best of yourself if you force yourself to sit down and write something. I can be anywhere when this can happen. I wrote an amazing hook when I was really hungover. My phone is filled with voice memos of ideas. Sometimes I’ll be watching TV and I’ll hear a phrase that I really like, or if I see a quote I might pick out a few words. I’m always trying to find good song titles, so I’m constantly looking out for an ingenious phrase.”
Who were your early influences?
“A lot of musical show tunes, but also my mum was into Motown, disco and soul. From my step-dad’s side I got Queen and The Beatles, so it’s an eccectic mix of influences.”
Are your parents musical at all?
“Er… no! My mum can kind of sing. She went to performing arts school for a little bit, but generally there isn’t anyone musical in my family whatsoever. I think I might be adopted!”
Can you remember the first song you wrote?
“Yes, I can…! Actually, I don’t think it was that bad. It was called a Perfect Way To Lie and the lyric went ‘A smile’s the perfect way to lie / To tell yourself that you’ll get by’.”
That’s not bad. Do you like collaborating or do you prefer to lock yourself away and come up with songs?
“I would always class myself as a topline and lyricist. I find that quite easy but, because I don’t play an instrument, collaborating is the way forward for me. It’s nice to be alone with your thoughts, but there’s only so much I can do on my own and I get frustrated.”
What tends to emerge first when you’re songwriting – a melody, a lyric, the title…?
“It’s always a melodic idea first, then lyrics second. The lyric is massively important, but it always comes that way. I know it sounds really weird, but I kind of see the song photographically in my head first and I map out where I think the notes go.”
What’s the first thing you do when you go into a writing session with a producer?
“If I already have an idea, then I’ll come in with a lyric or a hook and we’ll work it from there. But if I don’t have anything, the person I’m writng with will jam on the guitar, or piano, or play beats. I’ll hum a melody and feel how the song’s going, then the lyric will just form with the mood. It’s a real organic process which makes it much more exciting. I like the unknown – going in with a blank sheet of paper and you have no idea what you’re going to come out with at the end of the day.”
Do you collaborate with lots of different people?
“Yeah, I think it’s a good way of expanding your knowledge of songwriting. I wrote a lot of the album Lost & Found with David Blair-Oliphant. He’s a really great songwriter but I’ve become a little too set in my ways with him, so I need to start working with other people. Sometimes you can exhaust the possibilities with one person, so if you can take a break and come back, it’ll be fresh.”
Have you written for anyone else?
“No I haven’t, but it’s something I’m really interested in doing. It’s not only finding the time, but also finding the people who want to give me a chance.”[cc_blockquote_right] DON’T FORCE YOURSELF TO WRITE SONGS. SOMETIMES THE MOST IMPRESSIVE STORIES AND PHRASES COME OUT OF THIN AIR [/cc_blockquote_right] Tell us about how you’ve managed to get the Mick Hucknall and Rod Stewart gigs.
“I just have a fantastic booking agent with X-Ray Touring and Steve Strange who runs that. They’ve been very good to me and that’s pretty much it! I don’t think many artists can say they’ve played a club, a theatre and an arena tour in the space of six months, and I’m very bloody proud of it!”
What were you doing before this year?
“I was writing the album and doing a couple of one-off gigs and a few festivals, but I got thrown in at the deep end at the beginning of this year. I hadn’t really done any touring or played any substantial gigs at all. You just get pushed into these situations and you’ve just got to deal with it because that’s what you’re there to do.”
Although is it also about taking advantage of those opportunities?
“Yeah, and doing a good job. If you don’t, no-one’s going to invite you back. For two years into my career, I’m proud of myself.”
Who are your big heroes that you’d love to work with?
“That’s a very good question. I think Sam Smith has got the most insane voice – he’s the one who stands out at the moment. Beyonce’s always going to be up there. I wouldn’t say Emeli Sande because I think we’re too similar. I’d like to work with someone who’s a bit out of my comfort zone. If Stevie Wonder wanted to work with me I’d be happy.”
Do you have any tips for other emerging singer-songwriters out there?
“I think the main thing is to write a lot. Not just songs, but write whatever you feel. Don’t make it a stressful thing and force yourself to write songs. Sometimes the most impressive stories and phrases come out of thin air. If you don’t think it about it to much, you might find a gem.”
Interview: Alex Miles
Moya will be about to embark on her first headline tour across the UK through November and December of this year and you can find out more from her official website www.moyamusic.com. In the meantime, the single Come And Get It comes out on 23 September and you can watch the video below: