At The Brink With Denai Moore

Denai Moore is the British soul artist rightfully taking her seat at the table as her music feels like a warm hug.

British soul artist Denai Moore’s third album heralds a new era of music for the 26-year-old artist. The upcoming album, which follows on from 2017’s ‘We Used To Bloom’, sees the singer presenting a more grown-up version of herself. The album seamlessly explores themes of hopelessness, dread, and concern for the future. The songs are bold and in your face and cover a lot of ground. Punctuated with sassy and confident songs along too, along with new territory for the singer: love songs.
Denai divulges that she’s “very much in love, and there are a few love songs which I’ve never done. I don’t think I’ve ever actually written about love in a place where I’m not heartbroken”. Not only is this love inspiring her sonically, but it’s also driving her visually as she collaborated with her partner, director Nadira Amrani, on the video for her bold new single ‘To The Brink’. The video is a powerful ode to a bleak future. Visually arresting, it perfectly encapsulates the sense of dread and the unknown. 

 

And her talent doesn’t just end there. The soulful songstress is also a culinary maven. She runs her own Jamaican vegan supper club, Dee’s Table that is largely inspired by memories of her childhood, the scents and smells and places she’s travelled to. We caught up with the accomplished star to find out just how she does it. 

Is writing a cathartic release for you?

Yeah, it’s really interesting especially because a lot of the time when I look back on songs that I’ve written or records from the past, they kind of develop a different meaning to me as well. So, it’s interesting how I look back on songs that I wrote and it’s just a big headspace, and maybe I feel a different way, maybe it’s about someone else, it’s interesting to have that perspective from it, almost like you’re reading a journal or something that you wrote when you were a teenager. Yeah, I think music is quite cathartic for me, I think that’s why it’s so translatable to so many different people because I think it’s crazy to me that I can write something and someone can see themselves in it. I get that same sense of feeling when I listen to other people’s songs and I kind of feel less alone in a sense. Almost like you’re not the only one experiencing whatever it is. Even though when you do experience things it’s kind of like, why is this happening to me (laughs).

Does the upcoming album have a similar narrative as ‘To The Brink’ – is that just kind of headspace that you’re in at the moment when it came to crafting the album?

I think it definitely explores a lot of those kinds of themes, and sonically some of the songs feel quite intense and quite bold and in your face. But I think that’s also the nature of how Alex and I work together. That the songs kind of like naturally came out like that. There’s a lot of themes on the album of anxiousness and dread about the future, and also with myself. There’s a lot of mental challenges that I’ve faced for so long and I always write about that as well. But then it’s also interesting as well because I’m very much like in love, and there are a few love songs which I’ve never done. I don’t think I’ve ever actually written about love in a place where I’m not heartbroken.

 

There’s a lot of parts of me that haven’t necessarily been present before. But, there are also a few sassy songs, really confident and sassy songs. Which I’ve also never really written. I think it’s a very grown-up version of myself because I’m older as well. Which I think is important. I love an album that’s based around a theme but when you’re writing something, a lot of the time it takes years to write an album. Alex and I started this record a good two years ago, and in the space of time he had a kid, I moved to the seaside with my girlfriend, I started a food business, a lot of things happened in between. So I feel like it would show different kinds of emotions as well. 

What was it like working with your partner, directing the visuals for ‘To The Brink’? How was that creative process with you guys?

Our creative process is very natural and special because I think she sees me in a way that a lot of people wouldn’t necessarily see on surface value. A lot of the time you work with directors, you kind of write a brief and then they send the treatment and then you read it and you work with them in this short interim. But it’s interesting when you live with someone because she really knows me. She knows all the parts of me, the very emotional side but also the very silly side. She was able to basically pick out a lot of those parts of me and it felt very comfortable with her discussing my ideas. Also she really genuinely pushed me, there’s a shot in the film where she’s wearing a head rig, a camera on her head, and she pushes me through a door. I think a lot of directors probably wouldn’t do that. It was such an amazing experience, and I love being pushed. You need someone to push you. And you need someone to encourage you to explore that natural curiosity in you. I’ve always had the curiosity to do a lot of things in music videos but have been too nervous and have backed away from it. So there’s a lot of me just stepping out into the unknown and letting it happen in a very organic way. 

That’s when the best things happen for sure. When someone you trust can let you do that and I’m sure you’d do the same for her in other ways as well. It’s really intimate, it’s really special.

I mean, we just validate each other. And I think that’s what has been a transformative thing for me. It’s that validation that you need. I felt validated by Alex in the studio to be able to voice my opinion about music and there’s no ego battle. And I think that’s also really important. Just allowing yourself to actually explore something that could potentially just be completely wrong. And not correct for the music or the visual or whatever it is. That’s kind of what I look for when I try and work with people. For them to see me and actually, for me to then feel comfortable and reach that space where I’m not hinged in any way. I’m not thinking, I’m not consciously thinking about if I look like an idiot or I look crazy. It’s really magical when that connection happens with someone, in the creative process.

How do you keep yourself so inspired?

I let myself experience it. I’m not a machine. I think you have to realise that and come to terms with it and allow yourself to do nothing. It’s interesting because a couple of years ago on tour, I don’t know where we were driving to, but we passed a giant field of wind turbines and none of them were spinning. I just thought it was so interesting that this entire field of wind turbines not spinning, but that’s the only thing they’re made to do. It’s so symbolic, I’m just a human being on top of being a songwriter. It’s really important for me to not spin around, and not do anything. And just be able to be a sane human, and be able to experience life in the way that it presents itself to me.

 

I thrive on that, that innate source of inspiration when it happens. I allow myself to not write. Sometimes you feel when you want to say something, and it’s really amazing and magical. But sometimes you just don’t. I try to be in a very forgiving place. I remember when I first started out in this industry, and I used to see posts from other artists being like ‘Oh I’ve written 50 songs this week’ and I’d be like ‘Shit! What am I doing, I’m not writing that many songs!’. You just have to allow yourself to not doing anything or else you just fall short of your own expectations sometimes. Otherwise you’re just chasing this unattainable version of yourself that’s not even real. 

Do you have any mantras that you tell yourself?

The one thing that I tell myself is that I’m constantly trying to be the best version of myself in the projects that I do. I think that for me is a better concept of trying to reach this one destination. As your growing in your art, the things that I wanted when I was 15 is very different from what I want now. I’m trying to learn more and trying to be a better version of myself. I just want to learn more, information is amazing, There’s an infinite amount of it – so many things that I will probably never learn. It’s really important to keep having that curiosity for something new.

What’s been one of the main things that you have learned about yourself through all these different processes?

Nothing is too big for me. I’m a strong believer in manifestation. Nothing is unattainable. I really believe if I set out to do something I can make it happen. Especially with Dee’s Table, I had this idea two years ago before I had the courage to make it a business and do the first supper club. But it’s just that action of doing something. Even though I didn’t necessarily have a lot of experience.

What are you most looking forward to right now?

To rediscovering myself in this new era of my music. I’m really excited about this new album, it’s really special. A lot of it makes me nervous, which is an important feeling when putting out music. If I don’t feel nervous about anything sonically, then maybe I didn’t actually push myself. I’m really excited to put something out next year that I think is really special.