Ahead of the release of her debut album next spring, we talk to singer Denai about her ambitions, open mic nights and touring with SBTRKT.
Born in Jamaica and raised in Stratford, Denai Moore is a name you need to know. Not only has Denai toured with SBTRKT and featured on one of his songs, she’s also collaborated with James Vincent McMorrow and is set to release her debut album in early 2015. Her chilling soulful sound is a definite ‘shivers-down-your-spine’ trigger.
Denai’s 4 track EP ‘I Swore’, produced by Rodaidh McDonald (who’s worked with dark and expertly moody breakthrough artists King Krule and The xx) is her last offering of 2014 and a perfect showcase of her capabilities of power and restraint in her vocals, which take centre stage, and rightly so, on the songs.
Just as the limelight is beginning to creep in above Denai, we take a moment to get to know the artist a little better, gaining an understand her songwriting from all angles.
When did you realise you wanted to become a singer?
I think I realised how much I wanted to be a singer when I was doing my A-Levels and I completely lost interest in my education. I just wanted it a lot more when there was a lot of pressure on me to get into a good university and do well in my exams. I spent a lot of school nights playing at open mic nights and small gigs just trying to get my music out there.
When did you write your first song and what was it about?
My first song was called “Changes”. When I look back on it now, I don’t know why as a 12 year old I was writing such serious music. It was about someone running away from home.
Which is your favourite of the songs on the EP? Perhaps to perform or to have written?
I think I’m really proud of “Loom” because of the lyrics but I’d probably say “Something Out There” because I wrote it with James Vincent McMorrow and he’s one of my favourite artists.
How was it to work with Rodaidh McDonald knowing he’s worked with some of the best received alternative artists in recent years?
It was really amazing, I thought he was the perfect producer for this record. I am a fan of The xx and King Krule so it was quite cool to work with him.
Who are your personal music greats and why?
I consider Bon Iver, Lauryn Hill, Kanye West and Feist as my favourite artists of all time. I think I appreciate artists that are uncompromising and aren’t afraid to take risks.
Did you learn anything from SBTRKT on tour? Did you get any advice?
Being on the SBTRKT tour taught me that being great live is just as much of a visual experience than just sounding good live. Aaron is so ambitious with what he is doing live, it really is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.
Who would you say has inspired you the most musically?
I think Bon Iver because his career is something I aspire to so much. I was lucky enough to meet Justin a year ago and he passed on some good advice to me.
What is your musical goal? (e.g. To one day have released ten albums? To headline Glastonbury? To collaborate with someone specific?)
To be honest I think I’m quite unambitious. I really just want to be able to continue to make music and I’d also love to collaborate with other artists and learn a bit more about production. It’s also always been a dream of mine to play at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
How do you go about the songwriting process?
My songwriting process is different every time, I find that I write in my head in public and I often have to go into restrooms and record something quiet on my phone so that I don’t forget it. For the album I wrote a lot without an instrument and taught myself how to play the song after I wrote it.
If you weren’t a singer, what would you be doing?
I’m really into cooking, last year my mother went to Jamaica during Christmas and I made Christmas dinner for the first time for my family. Ever since then I’ve been obsessed!
Denai’s EP ‘I Swore’ is available to download now