TALKING NEW MUSIC AND TOURING WITH MOSS KENA 0 39

Having come to the attention of music fans around the world as well as the superstar that is Kendrick Lamar after he uploaded a cover of his track “These Walls” to SoundCloud back in 2016, Moss Kena has since continued to receive praise and support from some of the biggest names around, including Zane Lowe and Elton John. Currently on tour as support for Jess Glynne, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Moss backstage in Manchester to talk artistic inspiration, his upcoming EP and the one thing he’d most like to be remembered for.

TITL: Sum yourself up in a few words for me.

Moss Kena: Soulful, fresh and young.

TITL: With so many bands and artists around, what makes you different? If you had to sell yourself to a music fan, what would you say?

MK: I’d say that first of all, I write everything myself so it’s truthful. I make music that makes me feel good, you know?

TITL: I guess it makes a change from all the repetitive, bland pop ditties around that have no meaning or story behind them, right?

MK: It has its place but I think, if it’s gonna last a long time, then it kinda has to come from a good place, you know? Rather than just sitting in a room and making stuff up…

TITL: Music has been a part of your life since you were little as your Dad was a DJ and your mum owned a string of record shops. With that in mind, did you ever have any other career ambitions away from music?

MK: I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a singer, or at least a performer. I just had a great love of music so it was sort of just in my bones. I genuinely didn’t want to do anything else – music was always what I was going to do.

TITL: My Dad was a touring guitarist…

MK: No way!

TITL: Yeah, he played on the tour that Jerry Lee Lewis did over here, before he had to cancel it and go back to the states. He’s been in Abbey Road studios and recorded backing vocals for Shirley Bassey…

MK: That’s amazing…

TITL: Overall, which bands and artists are you most inspired or influenced by?

MK: I would say I’m mostly influenced by Amy Winehouse, but I really love people like J Cole. He’s an amazing hip-hop artist. I’m young, you know, so I like people like Travis Scott and Drake, but I think I really appreciate the lyrical aspect of people like J Cole.

TITL: Your career hit the stratosphere thanks to your incredible cover of Kendrick Lamar’s “These Walls”. What was and is it about that song that made you choose to cover it and did you ever expect the reaction it’s had?

MK: It’s one of my favourite songs from the album To Pimp A Butterfly which is…I don’t want to say it’s my favourite Kendrick Lamar album, but it’s definitely up there. I hadn’t released anything before and I didn’t want to put any original music out, so I decided that I wanted to do a cover. I decided that maybe instead of just covering a song, like a pop song or whatever, I wanted to do something different, and so I decided that we were going to make a rap song – that I would take one of my favourite rap songs and turn it into a “singing” song.

I basically started putting melody to his rap, especially the second verse, and it just turned out really well.  We uploaded it to SoundCloud and then from there, it just went crazy. It went viral and led to so many great things for me. I got to meet Kendrick after that, because he heard it and he liked it, so yeah, it’s really cool.

TITL: Your new EP came out on Friday. Without giving too much away, and for those who haven’t heard it yet, myself included, what can you tell me about it?

MK: It’s actually out on the 23rd

TITL: Evidently the press release I got sent was wrong then!

MK: You’re okay, you’ve got time! (laughs) What to expect…well first of all it’s an EP that’s based on the relationship between two people – it’s all different relationships – it doesn’t have to be a love interest – it’s just situations that have happened between me and one other person. That’s what I’m writing about. It’s just going to be a really natural progression of my sound and I hope everyone’s gonna like it.

TITL: Do you have a favourite track?

I think my favourite track is called “Back Again” just because I really like the vibe of it, and I had a lot of fun writing it.

TITL: You’re currently on tour as support for Jess Glynne. How did the invitation come about and how are you enjoying the run so far?

MK: I don’t really know how the invitation came about. I just heard that Jess liked my music and she asked if I could do it. My manager rang me and asked me: “Do you want to go on tour with Jess Glynne?” My answer was obviously yes, because she’s great. The tour so far has been amazing. We’ve only done one show, and the first show always has the little teething problems, but it was just great. I’m so enjoying myself and so happy to be here. I’m really grateful to Jess for asking me to be here.

TITL: For anyone coming to see a show on this tour, what can they expect from your set?

MK: A lot of high notes (laughs). And just energy. But also emotion…

TITL: A good combination…

MK: Yeah.

TITL: You mentioned earlier that you met Kendrick Lamar after he liked your cover and you’ve been championed by and received approval from the likes of Elton John among others, but what’s the nicest/kindest thing someone has said or written about you?

MK: Let me think…that’s a hard one. For me I think it was Kendrick. He just said, you know, you’re so unique and that’s kinda what works for you. He was very adamant that I should just keep doing what I’m doing because it clearly works for me … I thought that was such a nice thing to say – and also that he appreciated the fact that I sound different. It was just a nice little reminder that sounding different is the best thing that can possibly happen for you in a career, to make it work, because you don’t want to sound like anyone else.

TITL: Very much a play on that old saying “You were born an original, don’t die a copy…”

MK: Exactly, exactly…

TITL: How have you found social media to be a help or hindrance to your career so far? Would you agree it’s a vital tool for bands and artists these days or do you think there’s too much of a reliance on it?

MK: I think there’s definitely an argument for both sides of that. I genuinely really like social media. It’s just so fundamental in terms of PR and you know, in terms of profile raising – it’s just such a big deal. If you want to be a massive artist, you’ve GOT to be across social media and you’ve got to work really hard at it. I think there’s a big illusion that people just get big on social media by accident, or it just happens, and I think that’s a complete lie. They work really hard at building their following and connecting with people. But that’s what I really enjoy about it – I get to talk to everyone.

After the show the other night I got so many new followers and I got to speak to all of them. Lots of people sent me really nice messages and I was able to thank them and reply to everyone. It’s a really nice feeling when people want to connect with you on that level.

TITL: It closes that gap between fan and artist…

MK: Yeah, and I think there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s okay to be a little bit mysterious and have a bit of distance, but I think if people are going to be paying to come and see you, then you should be able to give back like that.

TITL: This year is quickly coming to an end, so have you started planning for 2019 yet?

MK: I have. I should be releasing another EP after this one drops on the 23rd, so there will definitely be lots of new music…lots of new performances and yeah, I’m kind of ready to keep building on what we’re doing.

TITL: Is there any one venue you’d particularly like to play? Is there any venue you maybe looked at or went to when you were younger and thought “One day, I’d love to play here”?

MK: You know what’s really funny? Doing this tour, I’ve been able to play venues I’ve only ever been able to dream of playing. I’m just grateful to be able to play arenas, and to audiences, this big. In a couple of days, we’re performing in London, where I’m from, at the 02, so that’s going to be a big deal – to play in such an iconic venue in my hometown. If I could tell myself last year where I’d be right now, I don’t think I would’ve believed it – it’s pretty great.

TITL: Aside from all the praise you’ve received for your music, what’s been the highlight of your year?

MK: The highlight has got to be aside from this tour, which is clearly going to be the highlight of my entire life right now, would be that I’ve been able to make music that I genuinely enjoy and love making. I’ve felt very free this year, to write, and I’ve had a lot of experiences that have enabled me to write more good music. I’m very humbled by that.

TITL: As someone who has been championed by many other artists, who are you championing right now and for the coming year?

MK: There’s a really great singer called Kara Marni, who is a friend of mine, and I think she’s really cool. She’s young and has got really great songs. I would say her.

TITL: Looking further ahead, what’s your ultimate ambition as an artist? Where do you want to be five, ten years from now and is there any particular artists’ career you’d like to emulate?

MK: I think in the next five to ten years, I’d have liked to have done a tour like this myself and I’d hope to have been able to hand the baton of support to another young artist like myself – that’d be a good feeling when I can get someone to support me doing an arena tour the way I’ve been able to do this. I’m one of those people who has a very insatiable appetite for being bigger, better, more. I just want to grow this to be as big as it possibly can be. I think there’s nothing wrong with having a bit of ambition, you know?

TITL: Looking many years into the future, when all is said and done, what would you most like to be remembered for in terms of your music and career?

MK: That’s a great question. I think I’d like to be remembered for…that’s a really good question. Let me think about that because I want to give you a good answer. I think I’d just like to be remembered for honesty and being able to relay my personal experiences to other people and to let them know that it’s okay to feel certain emotions. I think mostly for young men – I think for men especially…I can only talk about what I know and what I experience and so if I’m able to help other young men through my music and by writing and singing about everything I’ve ever been through, that’d be nice just to know I’ve touched someone like that.

Check out the video for Moss Kena’s latest track “Silhouette” below. His EP One + One is out on Friday and to keep up to date with him, give him a follow on Twitter and Instagram or like his page on Facebook.

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CHRIS STILLS TELLS ALL ABOUT HIS NEW ALBUM & THE IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA 0 19

Having just released his first album in 10 years titled ‘Don’t Be Afraid’, it’s safe to say the last few months of 2018 in particular have been pretty big for Chris Stills. With the collection already championed by the likes of Mojo among others, while playing a few shows here in the UK, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Chris to find out more about his artistic influences, the one venue he’d most like to play and how it felt to have his work featured in two Oscar winning films.

TITL: For those unfamiliar with you and your music, how would you sum yourself and your sound up in a few words?

Chris Stills: I grew up with the fundamentals. A folk, blues and rock foundation. Dylan, Stones, Beatles, Pink Floyd, CSN, Neil Young, The Police, U2, AC/DC, Motown… all of it. Depending on my mood and what I’m trying to achieve with a song, I reach to the music I love for inspiration. That also includes my contemporaries like Rufus Wainwright, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley etc…What you get is a nice mixed bag of songs… kind of like a mixed tape you’d make a friend.

TITL: With so many other bands and artists around, what makes you stand out? If you had to sell yourself to a music fan, what would you tell them? 

CS: I write songs, then I work hard to record, mix and master them. I play them in various venues large and small with different formations. I’ll sell you at the show. And maybe over dinner.

TITL: To what extent have your musical influences changed over the course of your life and how do and have those influences impact the music you’ve made and make now?

CS: Music has a funny way of influencing you at different times for different reasons. I hate to admit it, but I’ve only recently discovered the Harry Nilsson record Pussy Cats which is at this very moment affecting me profoundly.

TITL: Which one band or artist might you say you sound most similar to? 

CS: Only the best ones.

TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing? 

CS: It’s a funny thing that one… you don’t wanna look too high otherwise you get cold feet and wanna give up because your heroes can make you feel like you just pale in comparison. I think my biggest inspiration is making the time, then actually taking it, and not taking myself too seriously. Things tend to get better and better as you go.

TITL: Your new album has been praised by the likes of Mojo and Classic Rock among others, but do you actually care much about what critics think or are you more concerned with the thoughts of your fans? 

CS: It’s always nice to get a nod here and there but if I was here for it I might as well be selling yogurt. My favorite place to know whether people are into what I’m doing is on stage. It’s immediate and clear. No filters.

TITL: The album features co-writes/collaborations with Ryan Adams and Zac Rae of Death Cab For Cutie. How did those collaborations come about and what did each bring to the writing/creative process for the album?

CS: I met Ryan when we were just kids. We were guys in the 3rd room at the time of The Rolling Stones who were working on Bridges to Babylon. We were just a couple of kids back then but really became close when he and Ethan Johns asked me to come play on Gold. At some point later Ryan had built his studio, PaxAm and invited me to come be creative there. With him… without him. He was ever so supportive. He ended up helping me finish Criminal Mind.

Zac Rea is force of nature in his own right. If you want that X-Factor in your music he will deliver every time. He’s one of my favorite people to work with and like Ryan and really everyone else really helped me make this record.

TITL: If you had to pick your favourite song on the album, which would it be and why? 

CS: They all hold a very special place. I guess some of the more fun sessions were the ones that were recorded with the most folks playing at the same time. “Lonely Nights”, “Don’t be Afraid”… those were some exciting times in the studio.

TITL: Your music has been included in several films, including I, Tonya and American Hustle as well as in the US version of the hit show Shameless, in which you also appeared. What impact did having that happen have on your career in terms of audience/fan base interaction and interest? 

CS: Well, it doesn’t hurt to be a part of Academy Award winning film. Or working with David O’Russell, Mark Batson, John Wells or Sue Jacobs. I mean, they’re the best in their fields. If anything it’s a good confidence booster, isn’t it?

TITL: As a modern day artist, and given how long you’ve been in and around the industry, how are you finding social media’s impact on your career? Would you agree it’s a vital tool in today’s world or do you think we as a general society have become far too reliant on it?

CS: I think social media has leveled the playing field. Sadly it also seems to have sucked all the life out of any mystery in this world. But you really have to have lived when that still existed to know what I’m talking about. Is social media vital? Yes. It’s running everything and everyone into a big opaque blobby data mine.

TITL: You’ve got a final number of 2018 shows coming up. For anyone who hasn’t seen you before, what can people expect from your performances?

CS: For me, my shows are like a release… all the energy that goes into it… the work, the travel, the road, the life… it all culminates on stage.

TITL: If you could play one venue that you haven’t yet, which would it be and why? 

CS: I have always dreamed of playing the Royal Albert Hall. Do I really need to ex.plain that one?

TITL: Finally then, now that 2018 is almost over, have you started planning for 2019 yet? What can fans expect to see and hear from you in the near future? 

CS: Plan nothing. Be careless. Enjoy yourselves. And somewhere in 2019, another Chris Stills record will come rumbling in.

To keep up to date with Chris Stills, visit his website, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter and Instagram. His album ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ is available now. Photo credit: Dove Shore.

FOX & BONES CHAT ‘BETTER LAND’ AND LOOKING FORWARD TO 2019 0 24

Described by the duo themselves in their Twitter bio as “The Bonnie and Clyde of folk pop”, Fox and Bones, AKA Sarah and Scott, have had a busy time of things lately, culminating in the release of their album Better Land. But, with still a month to go before we all bid the year goodbye, the pair aren’t resting on their laurels and spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about their favourite tracks on their album, how they’re rounding out the year and what 2019 has in store.

TITL: Exactly who are Fox and Bones?

Fox and Bones: Fox and Bones are fictional characters we created so that we could be more imaginative with our songwriting. We didn’t want to limit ourselves to only writing about our own experiences, instead, we wanted some breathing room and the option to use our imaginations a little bit. That said, the adventures of the characters Fox and Bones closely mirror our own lives, and we use their story as a canvas on which to paint the picture of the life we want to live.

TITL: Given the success of duos such as The Civil Wars over the years, what makes Fox and Bones different? What’s your unique selling point?

F&B: I think we are a lot more lighthearted than many of the indie folk bands like the Civil Wars. Someone once told us at a show, “You guys sound just like The Civil Wars, except that listening to you doesn’t make me depressed.” We don’t write about love and heartbreak in the traditional sense, we write stories about traveling, unconventional modern love and what that really looks like, rather than just the intense puppy love of pop music or the depressing breakup vibes of indie folk. And we write about the world as we see it, and what we want to see come into the world. Our songwriting feels a lot more versatile, and the music is generally heartwarming and uplifting. If The Civil Wars represented the brokenness of a human being, Fox and Bones represents the cure.

TITL: Which bands and artists are you most inspired or influenced by, and how do those influences impact the music you make?

F&B: Lately we’ve been influenced by the new retro and neo-soul movements, like Nathaniel Rateliff, Lake Street Dive, the California Honeydrops, Mingo Fishtrap, and Paolo Nutini as well as artists who are true storytellers and have compelling lyrics like Brett Dennen and John Craigie. We also love older stuff, Scott was very influenced by the Beatles, The Band, and Dylan, and I’ve always loved Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Janis Joplin and CCR.

TITL: Which band or artist might you say you sound most similar, or are you most compared to? Do you mind such comparisons or do you take them as compliments?

F&B: We hear The Civil Wars a lot, I think mainly because they are one of the most famous male/female duos out there. But we also get Johnnyswim, Of Monsters and Men, and Johnny and June, which we definitely consider a compliment. And of course, everyone thinks Scott sounds just like Cat Stevens.

TITL: You released your album Better Land recently. How have you found the reaction to it to be so far?

F&B: I think we both feel it’s the best musical work either of us have ever put out and the sentiment from fans definitely reflects that. We’ve had a solid reaction from press as well. We knew when we were making it that we had something special, and it’s so nice to discover that we aren’t the only ones who feel that way.

TITL: Is there a song on the album you’re most proud of and if so, which is it and why?

F&B: I think we’d have different answers.

Sarah: Mine is “Roots.” I’d been on a songwriting dry spell for a while, and that song came to me just before we went into the studio to record. We put a gospel choir on that one and something about that song still gives me the shivers even though I’ve heard it and played it a million times by now.

Scott: Mine is “Better Land.” It is the song that I’ve been trying to shake out of me for a few years and finally, after staying up all night, it tumbled out in one sitting. We tried to keep the recording as true to the original demo as possible and I just love how it all came together.

TITL: Who or what is your biggest inspiration when it comes to music and song-writing and with that in mind, which song would you say is the greatest ever written and why?

Sarah: For me, it’s a hard choice, because I have so many. But I’m going to have to go with “A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell. The first time I ever heard that song I had all over goosebumps – the songwriting is so deep and so interesting, I don’t know what some of it even means but the way Joni puts words together is genius, and the melody of that song gets me too. She has these amazing high notes that she hits, and it’s just so real and vulnerable. Brett Dennen’s “Sydney” is also a brilliant song, and it always puts a smile on my face.

TITL: You’ve been championed by and featured in/on the likes of Glide Magazine and Pop Matters. How big of an impact are you finding coverage like that has on your career?

F&B: It seems vital these days to have major outlets backing up your music, it kind of legitimizes you in a way. Someone at that level telling people your music is good goes a lot further than the artist themselves going on about how their music is good. It’s just an extra layer of legitimacy.

TITL: As a modern day duo, to what extent are you finding social media to be a vital tool in getting your name and music out to people? Is it fair to say you might not have the fan base and support you do without it?

F&B: Social media is such an amazing tool if you learn how to use it! We’ve been growing our socials quite a bit over the last year and I don’t know how musicians ever promoted themselves without it. It’s amazing to have direct contact with our fans and I think they enjoy seeing what we are up to, especially when we are on tour. Plus, as a creative, I love coming up with fun content to post.

TITL: With the year coming to a close, do you have any performances coming up people can look forward to?

F&B: We have a bunch! We are spending the few days left in November and half of December on tour all over California – we’ve got 25 dates on that tour. Then we come home to Portland and have a number of shows in the area to close out the year. We like to stay busy.

TITL: Aside from your album release, what’s been your highlight of the year?

F&B: We just finished an incredibly successful, two month long European tour booked by ROLA music. We’ve been there three times now but this time blew the others out of the water. We are seeing a real following developing over there, and it’s really exciting.

Finally then, what does 2019 have in store for you? What can fans expect from the two of you in the coming year?

F&B: We plan on spending the majority of the year on the road. We embark on a US tour in February that will last through June, stay in Portland in July, then head back to Europe mid-August for festival season. We also hope to get back to songwriting and crafting our next record, although it’ll be a nice to ride the tails of Better Land for a while before we start that process again.

We are also hosting the 2019 Portland’s Folk Festival on Feb. 1st and 2nd, an event that Scott and I created and curate each year. We have 20 acts over two evenings at McMinamen’s Mission theater and are partnered with Breedlove Guitars, Iheart Radio, Jim Beam, Vortex Music Magazine, ROLA music and Royale Brewing.

For more information on Fox & Bones, visit their website, give their page a like on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. Their album ‘Better Land’ is available now. Header photo: Amandala Photography.