interview by Michael McCarthy
In a perfect world, Molly Moore would need no introduction. Her elegant pop songs are a perfect mix of both catchy, mainstream and pensive, artsy pop. At her core, Molly is a singer/songwriter. It just so happens that her songs are exquisitely produced pop. Well, most of them. Her latest offering, “Free Spirit,” is more of a trip-hop gem. Her cover of the Sinatra classic “Come Fly With Me,” which she simply calls “Come Fly,” is equally trippy, totally turning the song upside down and re-arranging it. So fine it’ll have you wishing she’d do a whole album of covers. Fortunately, her original songs are just as enchanting. Even in this imperfect world, she’s likely headed for super stardom, so you might as well be an early adopter and become a fan now.
Q: I read that you’ve been writing songs since you were seven. Do you remember the title of the first song you wrote?
A: Yes, it’s “Anarchy Girl.” [Both laugh] It’s about my sister.
Q: Do you remember any other titles of songs you wrote as a kid?
A: Oh, man. Yes. One of the first songs I ever wrote on guitar was called “Rested.” I wrote a lot in my diary. I wouldn’t say most of those ideas ended up turning into full-fledged songs, but there were always melodies in my head. [Laughs]
Q: Do you play piano and guitar?
A: I really don’t play too much piano. I’m trying to expand my piano skills. Because I was taught by my father when I was younger but I mainly write on guitar. On acoustic guitar. But when I perform I actually don’t play any instruments and that’s been a great change for me because I was never really confident enough with the guitar to perform and kind of dance and get into it. So, it’s been awesome to drop the instrument and focus on singing.
Q: I don’t know how people can do both at the same time.
A: Oh, it’s amazing when they do. Like admirable.
Q: Totally. So, did you take guitar lessons when you were a kid?
A: Yeah, my father taught me guitar and piano when I was like six or seven.
Q: Is he a musician?
A: Yeah, he’s a working musician and he’s always written songs and performed and played. He plays every instrument. He’s always been a lot of my musical inspiration.
Q: I came to know of your music via Brandyn Burnette, who said he was doing some producing for you. What did he produce?
A: He actually produced a lot of the first EP that I put out and co-wrote it as well. This one, he’s producing every track except for the one that’s out now, “Free Spirit.”
Q: Who did “Free Spirit”?
A: This guy named Craig Dawes. He’s amazing. He’s from the UK and he did a lot of work with Massive Attack. He’s incredible. I hooked up with him recently and we just collaborated on that song and it kind of came together pretty quickly.
Q: Will you be doing any other songs in the trip-hop vein?
A: Yeah, I think so. I’m definitely gonna work with him when he comes back to L.A. I really love working with him.
Q: Have you and Brandyn ever considered doing a duet?
A: Yeah, we actually do have a project together called Cosmos and Creature. The first song is coming out in the next month or so. We’re really excited about that. It’s called “Young.” We have a couple of features out there in the EDM world right now and we did a cover of a song that’s on Soundcloud but we haven’t had an official single release yet so that’ll be our first song out there.
Q: Are you working on an EP or an album with that project?
A: We’re working on our first EP. We have I’d say like four or five songs done right now. Well, that we’re wrapping up. So, it’s really exciting. We love to work together.
Q: Somebody repeatedly shouts “hey” during “Blood, Sweat, Tears.” Who is that, or is that a random vocal sample?
A: That’s Brandyn. He sings on a lot of my records. I really love our voices together. I pretty much get him to sing on anything that I can. Harmonies. Because I just like the sound of a different voice doing that. Sometimes I’ll layer my harmonies with him. There are tracks that I just sing solo on, but I just love bringing both of our voices together.
Q: I like it better when there’s multiple voices singing the background vocals rather than like 80 tracks of Katy Perry singing the chorus.
A: Exactly. I think it just gives life and it feels like a more universal perspective when you have a male and a female, too.
Q: What was the black stuff they poured over you in the “Blood, Sweat, Tears” video? Was it paint?
A: Black paint, yeah. Black paint.
Q: Was it difficult to wash off after?
A: Honestly, it was so hard. I did not expect it. I was in the shower for an hour trying to scrub it off and I still had stuff to scrub off the next day.
Q: You do a cover of the Sinatra classic “Come Fly With Me,” which I think is brilliant. What made you decide to cover that song and did it take a long time to re-arrange it the way you did?
A: That’s a great question. It’s funny we actually got a brief from my publisher who I signed with a year ago for a version because they own the publishing for that song. I was like that’s awesome, and I always loved Frank Sinatra, and I’d always thought about doing a cover, but I never considered doing “Come Fly.” But when we had the idea to do a dark, kind of trippy, like slowed down version it just kind of happened. Brandyn produced the basis of the track and then we took it to our friend who’s an amazing producer and he co-produced the track and tracked the vocals with me and it just came together over the course of a couple weeks.
Q: Are you planning to do any other covers?
A: I have a couple that I’m thinking about doing. I haven’t started yet, but there are definitely a few covers that I plan on releasing at some point.
Q: Are you going to re-arrange them like “Come Fly”?
A: Yeah, I think I’ll definitely do my own version. I like to give songs a different perspective when I cover them. I think it’s cool to be able to do that.
Q: Yeah. I don’t like paint-by-numbers covers where it’s like…
A: The exact same song?
Q: Yeah. I was wondering if you’re a fan of jazz where you did “Come Fly”?
A: I love jazz music. I’m a big fan of jazz. I think that comes through kind of unintentionally in my music. It’s funny, the one scale that I’ve never forgotten on piano is the blues scale and I feel like that kind of influenced my writing, just growing up with my Dad, who’s really into blues and soul and rock and jazz. He’s an incredible musician in all facets. So, I think that definitely comes through for sure.
Q: Who are some of your favorite jazz artists?
A: Honestly, I don’t know if I have a favorite. I just love to listen to the jazz station on the radio. I don’t have like one specific artist that I’ve gotten super into but I should. I should definitely start doing some jazz hunting on Spotify.
Q: I understand your music has appeared in several TV shows and movies. How do they discover your music? Is it through your publisher? How’s that work?
A: To be honest a lot of the sync placements that I got were early on when I was younger. I just always loved to make music and I was always coming up with demos and songs and things that I would just throw out there online, growing up in the internet generation. So, I was like sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, just recording all this music and not really having a complete plan for it. I was independent and still seriously developing my writing and the whole concept and sound. I got connected through a friend with a company called Bunim Murray and they do all of the MTV shows and E shows and so I got really lucky with placements on the Kardashians at first and other TV shows picked it up and a couple other things that happened were kind of just flukey. I just reached out and I sent the music and they ended up using it. Now I’m trying to get syncs with the new music and all that stuff.
Q: Were any of those songs released at all? Or did they just appear on the shows?
A: They were released at one point. I ended up taking a lot of it down because it was so old. Everything that is pretty much on Youtube. I had a lot of old stuff taken down recently but I left a couple, so if you search really hard… But they’re sort of a younger phase of music that wasn’t planned out very well. I wanted to just like re-brand.
Q: Like you didn’t have a focus yet at that point?
A: Yeah. I was still finding the elements that I liked in the tracks and it was just like under developed for it to be kind of living on the internet. Although there are some people that liked it. [Laughs] A few.
Q: You said you use the guitar when you write. Do you ever start with loops or beats or the computer?
A: Yeah. Brandon produces a ton and will write that way. And I work with producers all the time where I’ll write with tracks. I usually prefer writing from scratch on an instrument just because I find that it’s more organic and you can really focus on whether or not the song is good and then everything else is kind of additional to that. That’s important to me, but I’ve kind of learned to be a chameleon and find inspiration whether it’s with tracks or someone playing guitar chords or wherever it comes from.
Q: Do you write anything aside from songs now? Do you still journal or write poetry or anything?
A: I don’t journal. I should. I write poetry but a lot of times it ends up becoming music. That’s how a lot of my lyrics started. I’ll just write in my phone in my notes like little stanzas or something that inspires. Yeah, I started incorporating some spoken word, too, for words that I want to say that aren’t necessarily made for a melody. And I like to draw in my downtime sometimes. A little.
Q: What software do you use for your music when it comes time to produce the beats and all that?
A: Brandyn works on Logic.
Q: Do you do any producing or tinkering around with that?
A: Yeah, I’ve been co-producing. I’m not really an engineer or like a hands on producer yet. I really want to get there at some point, but I’ve been really vocal in how I want the record to sound and the elements and style of the playing and all that. I’m so, so lucky to work with incredible musicians for this next EP that’s coming out. I feel like that’s a huge part of the evolution of where my music is going. I want it to have more organic elements and kind of strip it back. A little like less produced sound.
Q: How did you meet Brandyn?
A: Oh, it’s a funny story. We actually met at Hotel Cafe. He invited me out to a show. We had mutual friends and I thought he was playing. So, it’s a totally ridiculous, awkward story. I was standing alone at the bar and I was looking for him on stage, thinking he invited me to a show he was playing. He tapped me on the shoulder and he was like hey, what’s going on? I didn’t know who he was because he had reached out on Facebook and I didn’t really look at many of his pictures. I was just like, I have mutual friends with this person, sure, I’ll go out to his show. And, so, I was like, I’m just here to see my friend Brandyn play. I didn’t recognize him. He was like, oh, that’s funny ’cause I’m Brandyn and I’m not performing tonight. I was so mortified. He always mentions that I left within 20 minutes of that moment, but we got connected and we became friends from there and it kind of just grew into a relationship and then creating together. It all happened really organically. But that’s our awkward meeting story. [Both laugh]
Q: Do you ever experience writer’s block?
A: Oh yeah, definitely. The next song I’m putting out, actually – it’s called “Just A Dream” – I wrote it when I was going through the worst writer’s block. I just didn’t have any ideas that I was excited enough about to work on. I didn’t feel like I knew what I wanted to finish or what I wanted to write or needed to write. And I got sent a track from somebody and I started singing these melodies over it and the whole song kind of just came out. I mean, save like a couple different places. And Brandyn helped me hone it in and made tweaks here and there and I wrote the lyric with Eric Leva and finished the second verse with him. He’s an awesome songwriter. So, that song really got me out of my writer’s block because I was dying from this like – I don’t know what it was – fear of writing, you know? I think sometimes you over-think. That’s a pretty ironic sentence. As a creator though. That’s something I’ve been trying to teach myself, to not do that. To follow what is inside. There’s a lot more there than we realize, I think, when we just follow our instincts and pay attention to those. So, anyway, the song is like “if it’s only just a dream, I don’t ever want to wake up.” It was like me writing a song to myself, you know? Like it’s only just a dream for me, like writing and performing and all of that? You spend so much [time] as an artist wondering if it’s gonna pay off, if you’re doing the right thing, making the right moves. I just wrote this song to myself. If it’s only just a dream, I don’t ever want to give it up. It helped me so much. I was like I have all this stuff I want to say but I’ve just been scared. So, that really helped me break out of my most recent writer’s block. Since then, I’ve felt so much more inspired and just able to freely create and not have too many limitations on myself. The death of a creative person is having pressure to get it done in a certain way or a certain amount of time, you know?
Q: I understand what you mean because I’ve been trying to make it writing books for over 20 years and now I’m trying to get an agent for my most recent novel. So, you definitely get this fear, if it’s ever gonna happen.
A: Totally. Totally. And I think as an independent the main thing I’ve learned is to forge your own path. Put one foot in front of the other and not to get too discouraged by those people who don’t get it. All you really need is one person who really, really gets it.
Q: Do you have any tour plans coming up?
A: We’re trying to get a tour right now. It’s to be determined. All the details. But hopefully in the fall we’ll be getting on the road.
Q: Have you done much performing live so far?
A: Yeah, we’ve been playing a bunch of shows in L.A. Mostly just one offs, locally, in some cool venues here. It’s been awesome. I just love performing so much. And that’s really the missing element for us, now getting out there and playing the music for people and connecting those dots.
Q: Have you played Hotel Cafe yet?
A: Yes, we have and it’s a crazy story, actually. Because we played – it was my first time ever playing there – and the room was starting to really fill out at the end of our show and we were like this is great, all of these people are here, and then we found out that John Mayer was playing after us. A secret show. And I’m a die-hard John Mayer fan. So, we kind of freaked out a little bit. It was so cool. We were like front row, watching him.
Q: If you could open for any artist, who would you open for?
A: I think I would open for Coldplay.
Q: I know your Soundcloud page indicates that you live in Los Angeles. I was wondering, as someone who lived in Glendale for a few years, do you live in L.A. itself or in one of the suburbs?
A: I’m in North Hollywood, actually. In Toluca Lake. It’s awesome. We’ve been here for the last year and we love it over here. It’s such an awesome neighborhood and just getting more popular now. It’s really quiet and it’s really close to everything but has that chilled out, suburban feel to it.
Q: What are your favorite places to go in the L.A. area?
A: My favorite places? Let me think. Well, I have a juice place that’s on Lankershim that I’m really obsessed with that I go to all the time. It’s called Ice Krave. There’s also a place where you can play arcade games in Sherman Oaks. It’s like a bar but there’s a bunch of free games in the back and it’s so much fun. So, that place is awesome. There’s also a bar where you walk into it and the door’s a fridge and that place is pretty cool, too. It’s called Davey Wayne’s. They call it Good Times at Davey Wayne’s. It’s a popular little nightclub in Hollywood. Oh, and, actually, there’s a place called No Name on Fairfax that opened up recently and that place is amazing. I played a show recently there. A benefit for Orlando and it has really, really good food and really good interior decorating. I like it a lot.
Q: Of all the fast food eateries in L.A. what is your favorite?
A: In-N-Out for sure. But I do the grilled cheese because I don’t eat meat anymore.
Q: Cool. I’m a vegetarian myself.
A: Cool. Save the planet.
Q: [Laughs] How long have you lived in L.A.?
A: Just over four years now. I moved here in March of 2012. So, it’s been like four and a half years or just shy of that.
Q: Do you prefer cities or the country?
A: I don’t know yet. Because I’ve only ever lived in cities and suburbs my whole life. I really love the cities. I think that I would love to spend some time in the country and live at a different pace of life for a minute. I would love to experience that. I can’t really say for sure because I haven’t gotten a chance to do that yet. I will let you know. [Both laugh]
Q: What are your thoughts about streaming? Do you think it’s a good thing or do you feel as an artist coming into popularity now the odds are against you because people stream instead of buy?
A: It’s so interesting you say that because, I mean, one of the main things that’s been awesome since I started releasing music has been support from Spotify. Just because those people would never hear the music otherwise and that, for an artist, is everything. Exposure and the opportunity to potentially make a fan of your music. That being said, the business model for Spotify, unfortunately, doesn’t benefit songwriters with major labels involved but as independent you do see more of the streaming money, so it’s not as horrendously bad. It’s honestly been a huge blessing for me. I can’t knock it at all. I definitely feel for the writers that don’t feel rightfully compensated. I’ve felt that way sometimes, too, seeing like certain rates of things like streams versus buying, but I’ve gotta say that the exposure has changed my life and given me a consistent base. There are people are listening to my music that I don’t think I ever would’ve been able to build up without that. I started releasing demos on Soundcloud initially and that was awesome. I have a loyal following on there, too, but Spotify has opened up the potential of what it could be because so many people listen to those playlists and people have told me that they heard remixes of my songs at a bar in St. Louis. That’s crazy to me. It’s not on the radio necessarily. Not top 40 radio, but there are people hearing it, which is really cool to me.
Q: That’s cool. Where are you the most popular? Have you seen any data on that?
A: Yeah. I’m actually listened to the most in Manhattan and Los Angeles. And San Francisco, Brooklyn, Chicago and Singapore. The ones I see on my top cities on Spotify. I’m really curious to get out to those cities and play shows. Meet those people.
Q: Does Soundcloud pay for streams or do they not pay at all?
A: There’s a monetazation through Soundcloud. They have a way of monetizing streams. It’s definitely like super low. Like Youtube rates. It’s almost not worth it unless you have millions of plays.
Q: What was the first album you ever bought with your own money?
A: Oh my goodness, with my own money? I’m pretty positive it was Britney Spears’ first album. I had to beg my parents. My sister told them it was inappropriate for me. And I was just hellbent on having them buy me the CD. I was seven. I must have been so young. And I got it. I got that CD and I became obsessed with Britney Spears and in love with her and I’ve gotta say I’m really grateful for that, that they let me get that CD because it sparked a mustard seed in my soul that grew ever since that moment. It was so cool at that time. The songwriters that were writing the music were onto something really catchy and universal.
Q: Are you still a fan of hers?
A: I’ve gotta say, not too much. I love Britney. I’ll always have love for Britney. But, for me, musically – I like her new single, it’s not bad, but it doesn’t hit me in the same place as the stuff I listened to when I was younger.
Q: I kind of feel like she peaked with In The Zone.
A: Yeah. Well said.
Q: What was the last song you listened to?
A: The very last one?
A: I think it was “Someone That Loves You” by Honne. Do you know them?
Q: No, I don’t.
A: They’re really good. I’m getting into them lately. I just started listening to them.
Q: Are they pop? How would you describe them?
A: They’re like UK soul pop with a little bit of electro in there. It’s really, really tasteful and kind of different sounding. I like it a lot.
Q: Name three artists from your parents record collection who you actually like?
A: OK, The Monkees. Cosby, Stills, Nash & Young. And Simon and Garfunkel.
Q: I have records by all of those.
A: Oh yeah, they’re legends.
Q: I’m especially a big fan of The Monkees.
A: Oh, they’re so good. “I Wanna Be Free.”
Q: Yeah. That’s one of my favorites. Name a favorite album, book, TV show and movie?
A: Favorite album is Gorilla Manor by Local Natives. Favorite book? That’s a tough one. I think The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts. And then you said…?
Q: TV show and movie.
A: TV show? Stranger Things on Netflix. Hands down, my favorite TV show right now. And movie. Favorite movie?
Q: Doesn’t have to be your absolute favorite. Just a favorite.
A: A favorite? OK. I really love Keeping the Faith. I love that movie.
Q: Have you ever done any acting or modeling?
A: Yes, actually. I grew up auditioning in New York City. From the time I was 10 I worked on commercials and I worked on a movie when I was around 13 and I did a bunch of auditioning for mainly TV and commercial work. And then I started focusing on music and then when I came out here I really, really just focused on music. I just actually had my first audition [in L.A.] recently. It’s definitely a serious passion of mine. I’ve always wanted to pursue both acting and music, but I kind of just dove into songwriting and music for the time being. But I’m really looking forward to doing acting as well.
Q: If you could no longer sing – like if you had a vocal injury and they botched the surgery – would you still make music?
A: That’s such a crazy thought. Wow. I think I would definitely always still make music in some capacity. It’s funny that you ask that ’cause I recently had that thought. If I wasn’t making music, what would I be doing. I honestly think I would be doing activist work. I really feel passionately about just helping people. Bringing people together. So, yeah, I think that’s what I would do.
Q: It’s funny you say that because my last question is if someone was giving you a million dollars to give to a charity or cause and you could only give it to one, what would you give it to?
A: Wow. Wow. There’s a charity that my friend and Brandyn’s friend from St. Louis, Darren, and his wife Danielle started called Loop and it’s basically a charity that’s creating opportunities for people in St. Louis and their goal is to create opportunities everywhere for children everywhere that don’t have them. There’s a gap all over the world of opportunities and what people are given and how they’re seen and what they want to do is change the way that needy people are seen as needy instead of being seen as people who are needed. Just going into places where those children don’t have the same opportunities and luxuries that we all kind of take for granted and setting a spark for change. So, I think that’s who I would give that to.
Extra special thanks to Molly for taking the time to have this long chat with me! A big thanks also to Brandyn Burnette for introducing me to her music!