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Moses Sumney Travels (And Produces Music) At His Own Pace

Though everyone wants a piece of the Californian soul-folk singer, his ascent has been measured.

​From an uninspiring US Presidential race, to the growing European refugee crisis and the destruction of Hurricane Matthew, there's been much to lament in 2016.

For Moses Sumney,things have been looking real good. The Los Angeles singer-songwriter may have called his most recent EP Lamentations,but he's riding a wave of praise for his hushed recordings and stunning live performances. An appearance on Solange's new album, an opening spot on James Blake's recent tour, and a forthcoming debut LP, means that the twenty-six-year-old has become a person of interest in music circles. ​


So it's with a measure of facetiousness that Sumney says that his greatest lamentation in 2016 comes from restaurant service. "I hate when you go to a restaurant and you ask for water and they put ice in without asking if you wanted ice. That's my lamentation for 2016," he says jokingly over the phone.

Sumney grew up in San Bernardino, 90-minutes east of Los Angeles, before his family moved to Accra, Ghana, where he spent his pubescent years getting teased by classmates for his American accent. Back in California he developed his electro-soul sound while studying at UCLA. Sincehis debut EP Mid-City Island and 2015's 7" 'Seeds/Pleas" on Terrible Records,his stakes have slowly been rising as he's worked alongside Beck, Karen O, Sufjan Stevens, James Blake and Solange.

With a new album due soon and an upcoming Australian tour that will include appearances early at Sugar Mountain​ and Hobart's MOFO​, we got on the phone with Moses to find out how he's been handling the rise.

Noisey: How were the shows with James Blake?
Moses Sumney: Really good actually. Our music isn't the most similar although there are connecting points. Crowd wise we probably have the most similar audience of all the people I've played with. So it's been really good.

You've been spending time in Canada? 
Yeah, because the producer [Matthew Otto] I've been working with lives in Montreal and I wanted to work outside of LA. So it made more sense to go and live there for a little bit.


What's your French like? 
My French is bordering on mediocre. Ha!

How's your Spanish? 
My Spanish is non-existent basically.

I thought that if you lived in Southern California you needed some kind of Spanish? 
You don't need to speak Spanish but a lot of people do because they're smart and considerate. But I'm not one of them.

What about when you were living in Accra?
There's a lot of languages there. English is quite prevalent because it's a Commonwealth country but the most popular language is called Twi and I speak that.

You've said that the songs on Lamentations don't fit in conceptually or sonically with the LP. In what way? 
Well, topically these songs are a little more introspective and the songs on the album are a little more outward looking.

Were they recorded at the same time? 
Basically. They were all recorded in the last two years. They were all written at the same time but most of the songs on Lamentations were recorded in the last month or two.

At what point did you realise that these particular tracks weren't going to gel with the LP? 
It became obvious with time. I really wanted to put something out before the end of the year and I wanted to put out a project that wasn't just a single. A few months ago I just went through my batch of songs and tried to decide what I didn't think would make the album.

Would record each song with different members? Or was it more cohesive, recording a bunch of tracks with the same people? 
I've been working with the same rotating group of four people with the album so I also had those four people involved with the EP.


Are they people involved with your live show now too?
Only one of them is but typically when I travel I play alone. When I do festivals or home shows I play with one other person. His name's Josh and he plays guitar in the live show.
Did you learn much from Solange outside of music? 
I don't know actually. That's a really interesting question. I've never really thought about it. Maybe I haven't directly but I think that although we have very different careers and career paths, we're similar people. I probably think about things already in a very similar way to her and the way that she approaches things. I think we're probably drawn to each other because we're already on the same wavelength. If I've learnt anything from her then it's probably been indirectly.

You've been getting a lot of attention and people want to hear more from you. Do you feel any pressure from the way that things are progressing? 
The pressure I feel is more internal. Like, I want to make good music for myself. I hope people can connect with it but I think that if i'm happy with it then other people will be happy with it. Otherwise I think it's up to the artist to determine what the story is and what the pace is. I don't feel like I need to bend too much toward what other people want or what other people's expectations are.

Frank Ocean set the pace. When everybody wants everything immediately he came out and said, "You'll get it but in my own time." 
I think the best artists do that.

Like do things in their own time? 
Just doing things as they want to. Not necessarily taking a long time but working at a pace that feels comfortable.

'Lamentations' is available now.
Moses Sumney appears:

Catch Moses at these shows:
Jan 20 - Hobart at MOFO
Jan 21 - Melbourne at Sugar Mountain