Twenty-year-old Denai Moore’s music has the intimate, confessional feel of fellow Londoner Lianne La Havas: a bare-bones backdrop of piano and guitar set the scene for her world-weary tales of love and loss.
Like Lianne, too, there’s a soulful slant to her preternatural vocal prowess, one that comes more from the contemporary R&B world of Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill than traditional circles: “I admire the honesty in her writing, as she’s not afraid to show you everything in her music,” says Moore of the latter. “She’s just really raw.”
It’s fitting then that Plan B (AKA Ben Drew) produced the title track of her second EP, ‘The Lake’ – a forlorn ballad with waves of nostalgic lyrical reflection upon friends lost through time that hints towards Tom Odell’s emotiveness.
“I wrote the song on guitar, but Ben’s idea was to try it out on the piano and that was great,” remembers Moore. The hook-up came via her manager, who worked with Drew while he was on 679. Denai got the call when out with some friends and still remembers the “immediate burst of excitement” at hearing the news. “He gave me lots of great suggestions. He’s such a genius. I was truly lucky to have someone like him giving me advice early on in my career.”
The song was one of those moments where the pen hits the paper and ideas flow freely. “I wrote it after meeting an old friend that I hadn’t seen for ages, and when you meet old friends you end up talking about people you used to know. She said that some of these people were like ghosts of her past, and that’s what inspired the song. She may not still talk to them, but they stay with her through a memory or a photo.”
The rest of the EP was recorded with Renaud Letang, a producer whose CV includes work with Gonzales and Feist. “He’s very French,” Denai laughs. “He’s got some amazing instruments. I played his Fender Road Worn on most of the EP, and travelling to Paris for work is nice. Whenever I’m there I’m in the studio all day, and coming out at night. I’ve not really had a chance to look around yet.”
Right now Denai is writing her debut album, one that’ll no doubt see her propelled to many cities around the world.
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Where: Stratford, London
What: Soul-bearing folk
Get 3 Songs: ‘The Lake’ (video above), ‘Flaws’, ‘Everything’
Fact: Denai’s father was a Jamaican musician who travelled the coast, collaborating with other artists.
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Words: Simon Butcher
Photo: Neil Bedford (website)