TALKING NEW MUSIC AND TOURING WITH MOSS KENA 0 172

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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DOREEN TAYLOR TELLS ALL ABOUT HER OFF-BROADWAY SHOW “SINCERELY, OSCAR” & LOOKS TOWARDS A VERY BRIGHT FUTURE 0 176

Doreen Taylor is no stranger to dreaming big. With two music and performance related degrees under her belt, an array of theatre production credits to her name and a successful career as a solo artist, she’s ambitious and not afraid of people knowing it. After her production “Sincerely, Oscar”, which she created and produced herself, had a successful run in Philadelphia last year, the show has now moved to New York and is currently undertaking a 14 week run at Theatre Row, Off-Broadway. In between shows, Doreen kindly took the time to chat to ThisIsTheLatest about the creative process behind the show, her memories of opening night and where Sincerely, Oscar might go in the future.

TITL: First of all, for those unfamiliar with you and your background, can you just give a little insight into your music and performing career? 

Doreen Taylor: I’ve been performing for many years now, and having earned myself degrees in both opera and voice performance, I consider myself very fortunate to have been a part of some fantastic theatre productions including Robert Ward’s The Crucible, in which I played Abigail Williams, and Christine in Phantom Of The Opera. In terms of my music, I released my first album Magic back in 2012 while my latest album Happily Ever After has received great reviews and is to hopefully become an Off-Broadway musical in the next couple of years.

TITL: You’ve been pretty busy lately with your off Broadway show, Sincerely, Oscar, after a successful run in Philadelphia last year. How does it feel to know you’re working on the same streets and around the same venues as some of the biggest and most popular musicals and shows in the world? 

DT: It is pretty surreal. One of the very first musicals I starred in when I was just a kid was “42nd Street” and now here I am all these years later starring in my very first show I have written in an iconic theater on 42nd STREET! It is pretty amazing how life can just come around full circle and give affirmations that I have been on the right path all along. I guess the most amazing part is that the shows that we are honoring by the great Oscar Hammerstein all opened on Broadway within one mile of where we are performing “Sincerely, Oscar” now. That is a pretty humbling feeling!

TITL: You created and produced the show yourself – what is it about this particular show that made you want to bring it to life in the way that you have?

DT: It’s weird… I was busy working on my mainstream Adult Contemporary music career writing, producing and performing my own music and this opportunity came out of nowhere at a music video premiere that I was hosting. I was lucky enough to meet the grandson of Oscar Hammerstein and his lovely family at this event and we instantly hit it off. I felt a strong calling to use my talents to bring recognition to Oscar and help honor this iconic Broadway legend. I created the previous iteration of the show and debuted it in Philadelphia and we did so well that I wanted to bring it to the heart of Broadway. I worked for over a year and a half developing “Sincerely, Oscar” and am so proud at the finished product. It is truly like my child and I feel as though I have nurtured and loved it every step of the way.

TITL: Did you have any prior creative/production experience prior to this or was this project something you felt so passionately about you just had to give it a first time try? 

DT: I always have had a hand in producing my solo mainstream concerts that we have toured around the US, and even some of my music videos, but this is the first time I have written and produced something of this colossal size and importance on the theatrical stage. I feel so lucky that I have been given such a great opportunity right out of the gate!

TITL: Can you talk me through the creative process for the show? Where did your first ideas come from and how did you expand them over time to the point you realised you could make your thoughts and ideas a reality? 

DT: I think the most incredible achievement in the creative process of this show was the way we created the role of “Oscar Hammerstein” himself. Early on, I got it stuck in my mind that I wanted to do something unique and totally “out of the box” for his character. I had just visited Las Vegas and caught a Michael Jackson tribute show at Mandalay Bay where they had created Michael as a hologram and he interacted with the other performers. It blew me away and never quite left me. I wanted to be the very first to bring this technology to the NY stage and I never really let go of that idea – even when others said I was crazy! And now, here we are, being the very first production ON or OFF Broadway that has used this 3d holographic technology in a theatrical production. It is really quite stunning and impressive and I am so honored to be the one to pave the way for this new technology. Sure, there has been some blow back from purist critics who don’t believe in bringing this kind of technology to the theatrical stage- but I have news from them—like it or not, it’s coming and “Sincerely, Oscar” is living proof of it. You can’t stop progress.

TITL: Were there ever any days or times that you questioned or doubted what you were doing, or were you 100% committed to?

DT: Every. Single. Day. It would be weird if I didn’t occasionally doubt my creative choices- especially when you have to deal with ridiculous opinions from people who are afraid of the technology or of the advancement. But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have changed anything and I am so proud at what has been created. I sometimes sit back while I am performing in the show and absorb the incredible audience response and feel a huge sense of pride that I am here and I am able to live out this incredible dream!

TITL: How did you bring the production’s cast/crew together? Were/are they friends of yours or did you put out a casting call? When did you know you’d found the right people for each part of the show? 

DT: A little of column A, a little of column B. In the case of my gifted director, Dugg McDonough, we had worked together years ago in several productions at Temple University as well as Des Moines Metro Opera Company. I immediately thought of him when I was creating this show and asked him to return to collaborate on this project. As for the rest of the cast and crew, most were hired from referrals and casting. One of the hardest parts of creating any new production is finding the right people to work on it. I can honestly say that in all my years of performing professionally, I have never worked on a show where I truly like and respect every person that is there. This is the first time I can say that. We have become like a family and we all look out and protect each other. It is a really wonderful thing.

TITL: What can you recall of the infamous opening night? Were you nervous or just buzzing and raring to go? 

DT: It went by SO fast! I can say that I am a little nervous before every show I do. That never really goes away and I am actually glad that those butterflies are there. I never get complacent or “phone in” a performance. Every show is like opening night to me. The party was a blast and we really had one amazing night celebrating this great success together!

TITL: Given that Broadway is typically considered to be more of a man’s world, how proud does it make you feel to know you’re proving yourself to be just as good as your male counterparts when it comes to putting on a successful production? 

DT: To be honest, I still feel there is a lack of support and respect for women creators/producers in this industry. While it is admittedly a lot better, there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done. I am really honored to be a strong woman voice out there creating good, commercial theater in an otherwise male dominated industry. It is so sad that in this #metoo era we don’t embrace more female voices attempting to create on the theatrical stage but I think there are more of us out there that will brave the storm and keep pushing the boundaries, regardless if we are always embraced or not while we do it! However, that being said- women need to start supporting women colleagues in theater more. Sad to say that some of the harshest critical voices out there are from other women. That has always baffled me. Trying to blow out the candle of another does not make theirs burn any brighter.

TITL: What advice would you give to anyone out there who has an idea that they’d love to see brought to life on a stage such as one on or off Broadway? What traits might you say they need in order to keep pursuing that idea/dream until it becomes reality?

DT: I would say that dreams can come true and I am living proof of that. However, set your sights with reasonable goals. Start small. Test the waters. People don’t usually wake up one morning and decide to have a show open on Broadway next week. It takes a long time of work, dedication, financial support and most of all- thick skin, to navigate this industry. There will be enormous sacrifices that will need to be made and there will be a lot more tears than laughs at times. But after all that is said and done, there is no greater joy than to see your creation brought to life by fabulously talented people each and every day and I truly feel blessed to have this opportunity.

TITL: Finally then, now that Sincerely, Oscar is proving to be a hit, have you thought about any other productions you might like to work on, or is all your time and energy focused on this for the time being? 

DT: Right now I am focusing on this limited engagement run at Theatre Row in NYC, but I would be lying if I said I am not looking to the future for what is next. I believe we have even bigger and better things in store for “Sincerely, Oscar” coming in the near future. Maybe it will be a national tour, maybe an international tour, or maybe a residency in Vegas? There has been a lot of buzz as to where this should go next… and right now the sky is the limit! I am just excited to see where this remarkable journey will go!

For more information on Sincerely, Oscar visit the official website. You can also keep up to date with Doreen via doreentaylormusic.com, or by following her on Twitter and liking her page on Facebook. Her latest album Happily Ever After is available now. Header photo credit: James Jackson.

LX MASON TALKS “DRINK ME GOODBYE” AND FUTURE ASPIRATIONS 0 99

Having earned considerable attention and a strong following on the back of his debut single “I Don’t”, which to date has been streamed more than 35,000 times on Spotify alone, the latest song by Florida born artist Jon Davis, AKA LX Mason, addresses the desperate attempts so many people make to forget long-term relationships. With plans for an EP in the pipeline, LX Mason chatted to ThisIsTheLatest about song-writing inspiration, his thoughts on social media and his long term artistic goals.

TITL: What makes LX Mason different from all the other acts out there? What’s your unique selling point?

LX Mason: I think I’m unique in the sense that I’m an African American pop artist who isn’t doing R’n’B or rap, but I don’t think that defines me. I think we’re all just out here trying to make what’s true to us. So my unique selling point is, I’m me. Get to know me a little.

TITL: Is there a particular story behind your new single “Drink Me Goodbye”?

LXM: Of course! My songs are a way of coping with things that happen in my world, so you can always count on there being some type of story. I had a falling out with a really close friend of mine years back, and it wrecked me for a little bit until I bounced back. However, I saw from a distance how that person was trying so hard to forget me and I’d say that was the part that hurt the most. We eventually mended things but if we’re being honest, a lot happened during that time and it hasn’t been the same. 

TITL: How did you come up with the concept for the video and is being creative in that way something you enjoy? 

LXM: I LOVE directing. For some reason I always have. And since I was a little kid, I’ve always loved music videos. I bounced some ideas off of my mates, and my co-director Jason Denison. We wanted to portray a story of the depths that someone has to go to in order to forget someone and actually recreate these happy memories but without the other person being there. 

TITL: In terms of your lyrics and general song-writing from who or from where do you find most of your inspiration?

LXM: Real life situations inspire me. There are some pop artists whose writing I definitely appreciate – Julia Michaels, Lauv, Lennon Stella to name a few – but I try not to let that influence my writing because I want to be as authentic to the story, and the emotion, as possible. 

TITL: How easy or hard do you find the song-writing process? Can it depend on the subject you’re wanting to write about or your frame of mind at the time? 

LXM: Yeah definitely depends on what song I’m writing. And if my head isn’t in the right place for it, I have to really push past everything that I’m feeling to get a song out. 

TITL: Is there an EP or album in the works?

LXM: I’m working towards an EP! But definitely a couple more singles out first. 

TITL: Do you have any performance or tour plans you can tell me about?

LXM: At the moment, it’s all about the writing and recording. But things could definitely change, and I’m always keen to perform.

TITL: If you could put together your dream show with four bands or artists, living or dead, who would you choose and where would you play? 

LXM: WHOA. Uhm. I would completely disregard genre and just have a really selfish line-up of people I love. 

TITL: Given that your debut single has already achieved in excess of 35,000 streams, what are your thoughts on social media? Are you someone who believes it to be a powerful and necessary tool in your business, and society in general, or can there be/are there downsides to being so “online” all the time? 

LXM: There’s no question that the abuse of social media has had an effect on mental health. We’ve seen it, and Instagram/Facebook has done a little bit of work to improve it for the user, but I don’t think it’s there just yet. I think there is an aspect of it where it is effective for business, and societally it does increase your world a bit – I’ve met some wonderful people through social media. But if -or when – it crashes, it wouldn’t bother me. Half the time whenever I post something I think about my caption for half a second, post it, and throw my phone across the room because I don’t care. 

TITL: What does the rest of the year have in store for you? 

LXM: More music! Releasing some more of my own, as well as writing for other people’s projects and potentially featuring on some tracks as well. 

TITL: Finally then, given how “full” the music industry is now with both new and established talent, how do you plan to make yourself stay current in the years ahead? What are your long-term aspirations as an artist and where do you see the music industry going/ being in terms of its shape and longevity, as time goes on?

LXM: I think, more importantly, I want to stay true to myself. If that’s current, then great. What’s “current” changes so frequently that if I were to base my artistic identity in that, I wouldn’t know who I am anymore. My long term aspirations is to get where I want to go making the music I want to make whenever I want to make it. I think for the music industry, there’s more of an inclination towards independence and honesty in music that can bring people the music they want to connect to. 

Check out the video for “Drink Me Goodbye” below and for more information on LX Mason, visit his website, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.