It’s not uncommon for some of our NoiseTrade team members to also create some incredible music on their own and that’s certainly the case with our very own Monica Moser and her forthcoming album your absence, a closeness. For our newest NoiseTrade One-on-One, we talked to Moser about the conceptual thread running through her new album, her growth as a songwriter over the last few years, her not-so-secret love affair with The Office, and much more!
NoiseTrade: Your forthcoming album your absence, a closeness (out 10/5) is your first official release since 2013. Catch us up – what all has been going on in your career leading up to this new release?
Monica Moser: I put out Human Heart in 2013 when I was a sophomore in college. They were all songs I wrote in my freshman dorm room! Corey Kilgannon introduced me to Will Smith (a producer who has worked on his projects from the very beginning) and Will tracked, engineered, mixed, and mastered that entire EP. He’s incredibly talented and I learned so much from that process. I will always be so grateful for how those songs turned out and the opportunities it led to! The opening track “Come to You” was the first song I ever had played on the radio – Lightning 100 here in Nashville. It actually got put on regular rotation for several months. Another opportunity it lead to was showcasing “Come to You” and “Back It On Up” at Belmont University’s Urban Pop Showcase in 2014, which was my first full band show ever. You know, just a casual stadium that holds 5,000 people. That experience was not only unforgettable and so special but it made me really step up my game! After playing that showcase I had more confidence to play more full band shows around Nashville and as with any artist-songwriter experiences, my sound and writing style kept evolving.
Over the next few years after Human Heart, I released an all acoustic sessions EP, a bunch of singles that varied in genre, and a group of remixes. So in that interim five years I was doing a lot of growing and experimenting and I wanted to wait until I felt like I had a cohesive group of songs before putting out another official release. With these songs I was able to incorporate the various styles I was playing with in that in-between stage of my career which was always the goal. I didn’t want to be boxed in to one genre specifically, but I also wanted the album to sound homogenous and to sound like
NT: From a songwriting perspective, your absence, a closeness isn’t so much a group of standalone songs as it is a concept album of sorts. Can you explain what is meant by the description “a 6-part journey in letting someone go”?
Moser: What’s cool about this project is that it includes words I wrote this year and words I wrote when I was 14 years old. I think it took me those ten years to not only learn the process of letting someone go but to also let go of the blame we put on ourselves and the lies we begin to believe that rewrite our past and our story. The songs stay personal and emotional throughout, but they move from a bit of a bitter, subjective view to a hopeful, objective perspective. I’ve had a Florence + The Machine lyric hanging up in my room for a long time that says “You can’t choose what stays and what fades away.” I remember hearing those words and finding such freedom in that, and that’s the message I wanted to convey at the end of the record. The songs take you through a lot of experiences and revelations and even though the last track “Immortalize” still questions why I/we do things, because we always will, it provides hope in the fact that we don’t have control over other people, whether they stay or go, and even though that can be painful, it’s ultimately such a blessing. No one is meant to be our savior because I believe there’s only one who’s love and grace I will never be able to comprehend. The times I spent in darkness was when I forgot that.
NT: You’ve also included a remix of one of your previous songs, right? What made you decide to remix the song and what was the process like revisiting one of your songs from
a different angle and reworking into something new?
Moser: Yes! So April of last year I put out four remixes of my song “Feeling For You.” I had four of my producer friends take a crack at it and they each created such a unique and cool version of the song. I feel like remixes used to be kind of cheesy and always a worse version of the original, but in the last 5 years or so with production in general getting so much cleaner and more polished, sometimes I prefer a remixed version if it really improves upon the original and adds something to the song. I had always wanted to do a series of remixes and “Feeling For You” felt like the perfect choice as it was the most remixable/poppy song of mine at the time. I really love all of them and they’re each so distinct, but as Dylan was one of my main producers on the record and became a true sonic capturer of my overall sound, it was a no-brainer to include his remix at the end of the album. Plus, I conducted a vote on my Instagram and he won!. He was really inspired by The Chainsmokers and Zedd and I absolutely love his version. It’s cool too because it really conveys that emotional, bittersweet hope I wanted to be felt throughout.
NT: It’s easy to hear that your songwriting, both lyrically and musically, has been evolving throughout your various studio and live releases that you’ve put on NoiseTrade. Are you able to see that progression yourself and what other artists and songwriters do you think have inspirationally contributed to that over the years?
Moser: I think that I do and then I listen to something from a few years back and I really do. It’s easy for me, and I think a lot of artists/creatives in general, to always be forward-thinking and to be really self-critical and think “Okay this is good, but the next think I write is going to be really good.” The other day I already thought of a name for my next record and what songs I’d include/finish for that and then I had to tell myself to chill out. I think that attitude can be good at times because it makes you work harder and keep pushing, but I think what I’ve been trying to do is to find a healthy balance between thinking ahead and being grateful for what I’ve created here in the present. Also, to listen to old songs and see how far I’ve come and celebrate that!
Some of my early inspirations are still mine today: Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, Sara Bareilles, Carole King, and Matthew Theissen of Relient K… an eclectic group I know. But recently I’ve been really influenced by the newest Lorde album, both by Ella’s lyrics and Jack Antonoff’s production, an up and coming artist named Dermot Kennedy who combines raw vocals and instrumentation with heavy hip-hop beats, and moody pop artists like Maggie Rogers and Birdy. I really love how all of these artists create intricate arrangements and interesting, polished production without compromising the quality of their lyrics and the raw, vulnerability in their vocals.
NT: Finally, not to tell tales out of school, but you have a bit of a not-so-secret obsessive fandom for The Office. First off, what is it about the show that keeps you coming back so often? Second, for anyone who hasn’t watched The Office, what are two “must see” episodes that would hook them in?
Moser: I love that you know that about me! So I’ve been watching this show for over ten years now. I won’t tell you how many times I’ve watched the series because I’m not entirely sure and also because a guesstimate would be embarrassing. So just assume many times! I still catch new things each time: a one liner, a look from one of the characters. It’s unreal! Beyond it being so hilarious and surprisingly emotional and raw, I can even relate it to more now being in the workplace! I think Steve Carell is one of the most talented actors we had then and have now, both comedically and dramatically. You just feel like you know him. I read an article recently on the psychological reasons behind “rebinging” and there’s something just so comforting about it and it really bonds you with other fans of the show in a special way.
As far as recommendations, that’s such a tough question! Season One is hilarious but Michael is practically unbearable and the show was still figuring itself out. I think the show really hits its stride at the very top of Season Two and that continues through Season Four, with the show going through peaks and valleys from then on. It’s hard to pick two isolated episodes since the humor and characterization really builds on itself but I’m going to go with “The Convict” from Season Three and “Fun Run” from Season 4. Both of these just have so much energy and never fail to make me laugh out loud, no matter how many times I’ve seen them. Plus, it would give a new viewer a good taste of the characters and style of humor!