Lily Moore can sing. Soulful and expressive, she’s got the kind of voice that makes you feel every word.
Brighton-born Lily spent the best part of her teens busking in the city, and after moving to London aged 19, the singer-songwriter established a space where she could perform on her own terms, setting up club night “More Moore” (get it?) at West London’s music den Mau Mau.
In April, she dropped her debut EP “Not That Special”, a neo-soul, four-track reflection on romance and adolescence. Her smoky vocals lead heavy, lurching melodies in a style reminiscent of Amy Winehouse, who – at still just 19 years old – she’s been compared to before.
After stints supporting heavyweights Tom Grennan, George Ezra, Vance Joy and James Bay, Lily’s embarking on her own UK headline tour in October, where she’ll be performing a new EP set for release this Autumn.
We chatted about moving to London, her new single “I Will Never Be” and why she loves being on stage.
So let’s start from the beginning – you grew up in Brighton, where you started out busking on the streets. Have you always had that impulse to be performing and doing music?
It’s always been something I’ve done, and I’ve always been writing songs. Busking started as my way of getting to perform without actually being old enough to perform anywhere else, I felt like I needed to do it.
Did it teach you a lot about performing and connecting with an audience?
It’s a really safe way to experiment… it’s very anonymous. It’s also a right of passage I think for performers.
Since then you’ve supported artists like Tom Grennan, Vance Joy, George Ezra and, most recently, James Bay. How did you find the touring experience?
I really love it. I think once you’ve started, you have a real thirst for it. Coming home can feel like a bit of an anti-climax; there’s not really anything better than being on stage every night.
You’ve got your own tour coming up in Autumn – how does it feel to be at that point in your career now? Are you excited for it?
Yes – I can’t really believe it. It’s kind of scary, it’s such a different feeling when it’s your name and people are there to watch you.
Do you write your music from personal experience?
Yes, I do. Everything I write about is stuff that I’ve been through myself – I think that’s the most important thing. Otherwise, when I’m singing I wouldn’t really care about it. Every time I sing, it reminds me of exactly when I wrote the song, what was going on or who I was with at the time. It’s like a calendar.
Is it hard being so honest in your lyrics and then putting them out into the world?
Emotionally it can be quite draining. Singing every night, there’s some songs where I don’t want to go back to that place when I sing them. But equally, it’s a really empowering thing to be able to do. I think I’m lucky that I have this way of expressing myself, to get to go out on stage and sing my heart out.
So your new single “I Will Never Be” is fab – congratulations! Can you tell us what it’s about?
I went in the studio with Eg White, who I wrote [debut single] “Not That Special” with, and who I also wrote another song on the EP called “Do This For Me” with. I went in there wanting to write a song about not being good enough for someone, when you’d do anything to be good enough for them. I think everyone’s had that feeling.
What made you choose to include the organ sounds and gospel vocals?
I’m actually a huge George Michael fan. I listen to him a lot. At the start I thought about “Faith” and thought oh my god, we have to do it. I think it’s such an amazing instrument.
You’ve mentioned before that you grew up listening to soul singers like Amy Winehouse, Aretha Franklin and Etta James. What is it about these women that inspires you?
They’re just honest. They’ve all been through a lot and you can hear in their voices that they’ve been through something. You can put on one of their songs and think: “I know what they’re feeling, I’ve been there”.
And you’ve also got an EP coming out in Autumn – is it going to be a similar sound to your last EP or do you think you’ve evolved a lot as an artist?
It’s a bit of both. I feel like it’s a step up in terms of me growing up, some of the songs are a bit more mature. “Do This For Me” is very stripped back, on stage it’s my moment where it’s just me and my keys and I just sing my heart out. It’s very acoustic, just the piano and me. But then there’s a couple of happy ones on there, and those ones I wanted to go a bit more – not hip-hop – but just have a bit more of a beat behind it. I love Lauryn Hill at the same time as loving Sam Cooke, so I wanted that sound to be in there.
The video for your debut single “Not That Special” was shot in Brighton. It feels quite nostalgic, why did you want to shoot it where you grew up?
It’s kind of an ode to that, it was where I was when I wrote the song. When I sing it, the way I feel takes me back to how I felt when I was walking around Brighton and thinking all of those things, so it seemed like the perfect place to film it, really. The next video is a similar vibe but it’s filmed in London, a new chapter in my life.
How was moving to London? You’ve got a residency called “More Moore” at music venue Mau Mau in West London, what was the idea behind that?
When I first moved to London I was really missing the vibrant open mic scene that Brighton has. I sort of found my feet doing things like that, as well as busking and playing at pubs and gigs. I thought, where can I do this now that isn’t so industry-centred? I was really keen to start something up where me and my friends could go and sing as many songs as we wanted.
And finally, at festivals this summer – is performing to a huge crowd quite nerve-wracking or freeing?
I’d say it’s quite freeing. I like the idea that people could just be walking past and come in and listen. I think that’s what its all about, similar to busking. It’s really exciting singing to people who don’t know who you are. You go out there with this blank canvas and get to do what you feel like doing.