Q&A: Tucson musician Charlie Moses’ self-titled album is an intimate delight

Are you a Velvet Underground fan who leans more towards the “Sunday Morning” and “After Hours” side of things? If so, chances are you’ll love Charlie Moses‘ new self-titled album, Out now on No Movement Records, it’s a record that both sounds clean and feels cleansing, and not just through its delicate guitar work, with notes going out like impossibly smooth stones across a lake, each ripple more satisfying than the last.

Key to this are Moses’ vocals. Truth through vulnerability is seldom as clear as it is when you hear Moses sing things like, “Make me a cake for the way, the way that I did us in.” It’s a voice made to resonate, and Moses’ insights frame them as someone worth listening to, whether through their music or speaking with over several cups of coffee.

Listening through the album, you could easily describe the sound as folk, but I hear a bit of jazz and soul singer influence. Am I correct in assuming those influences? Who are some of your favorite jazz singers, and singers in general?  

Ooo I really like this question! Thank you for asking it. There’s definitely jazz influence happening, though when I’m singing I’m not actively thinking about it or trying to sound a certain way — I think it’s just what my voice takes to. Growing up I liked singing along to Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, and Cab Calloway. When I was in high school choir I was placed in the tenor section because of my lower range. I don’t know if things are still this gendered, but at the time that was prescribed as a “boys” section and I was small and femme presenting and still figuring myself out. I remember asking a judge at a competition if I could audition for his college choir as a tenor and he said, “Do you want me to lose my job?” because of how strict those binaries were/still are. After that I just kept seeking out musicians whose vocal range I could relate to. Karen Carpenter is a big one for me. And her drumming too. Drums were my first instrument thanks to my dad playing and always having a kit around. As a youth, watching videos of Karen Carpenter ripping on drums and hearing her go into what she called her “basement” voice did something for me on some heavy level. RIP Karen. 

How has the past year affected this release? Are you coming into release day with a different mindset than when you started recording this album? How does it feel to be releasing this around the unofficially year anniversary of COVID? 

Haha I don’t know that I have the ability to reflect on pandemic anything at this point. We’re still in the weeds, a little less weedy, but definitely still bushwhacking our way up this hill. It took me exactly 1 year to write and record the album. I wrote the first song, “Dear Friend”, on Christmas Day 2019 and I finished recording the last song on Christmas Day 2020, which also happened to be “Dear Friend” but unintentionally. I think I was just saving the song I was most comfortable with for last because I knew I’d be tuckered out by that point haha. I’m not big on pushing releases or doing much for them aside from maybe making tapes or playing a show. I like writing and recording songs to process and reflect on things and I like putting songs out into the world for other people to make their own sense of them. I think with the timing of this release I just wonder if making sense of things is expecting a lot and if we’re all subjected to raw feeling until the left side of our brains can kick back on again.

This is a very intimate album, definitely a mood setter, something you can put on and get lost in. Is there a certain creative process or headspace that you approached when writing these, and how did that headspace change or evolve once these tracks made it to the studio? 

Ah, no studio for me. I tracked this thing in my living room on a 10-year-old laptop using GarageBand and a gifted interface + mic a friend loaned me. I like that recording can be as low-key or as epic as we want it to be these days. I was into this home setup and I really did want the album to feel intimate — it makes me happy you connected with it in that way! I think my headspace stays about the same through the writing-producing-recording process. It’s just me — just my cognitive-emotional mashup of reflection and feeling and trying to process it all haha. I like that you call it a mood setter. A friend recently told me it was a good makeout album and I took it as a solid compliment.

What should we keep an eye out for next? Is there anything else you’d like to add? 

You can always expect more songs from me in the future. This is something I’ll do until my physical body won’t allow me to. I don’t think I have anything more to add aside from saying thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview and write this piece. I really do appreciate it and I’m grateful for you listening to the album and talking with me. Thank you!! 

Follow Charlie Moses on Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.