INTERVIEW: Jay Moussa-Mann | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

Reliably informed

Last year was big for Jay Moussa-Mann. Since picking up the guitar and a book of chords, the self-taught performer mixed in some Grade 6 piano lessons and emerged as a singer-songwriter with folk-tinged leanings. With a batch of music that was “safe and a voice that wouldn’t offend anybody” she hid in a relatively small circle, using the bible as inspiration lyrically, so as not to rock the boat within her Evangelical church upbringing. Last year all that changed.

Moussa-Mann needed to grow, needed to be true to the music she loved (“pop and soft rock” she states rather shyly), and this revelation came after an enforced period of reflection and ill health. Eureka. “No more holding myself back,” comes the exclamation. So, armed with this untethered excitement she began writing afresh. Winning plaudits from BBC Introducing’s Bob Fischer and Tom Robinson led eventually to being awarded the Do It Differently Fund through Help Musicians, and she basically decided pop was her salvation. “I thought, screw this! I’m going to go and make the music I’ve always wanted to. And I’m going to wear tiny, little gold shorts. Bye!”   

I thought, screw this! I’m going to go and make the music I’ve always wanted to. And I’m going to wear tiny, little gold shorts

That unashamedly pop music is released this month on her self-titled album, and the naming is a significant statement of rebirth and the deeply personal songs it contains about breaking up – with love, with constructs, cultures and ideas – primarily with the things she felt had held her back over the years.

She sought out producer Patrick Jordan and strengthened her own studio setup at home to work out arrangements. “When I set out to do this album I specifically decided on a particular style of pop that I wanted to follow and then I stayed true to that. Kind of writing lyrics the way I like to, but I’m very interested in the way pop’s written, how it’s quite repetitive, like nursery rhymes and with hooks on one or two notes or a chord. I actually find that quite challenging to try and get big messages into just like a few words. I think that’s a really exciting thing to be able to try and learn to do.”

All ten tracks on her album burst with exuberant pop hooks. I mention the influence of Taylor Swift in her sound, hoping not to offend with a trite comparison, but she’s overjoyed. “Yes that’s it, telling stories in a poppy way, and I think Shania Twain does that.” It’s a tough proposition making personal racial prejudice sound danceable, but on White Like You, with lyrics she says it took her five years to properly articulate in song, her honest account grounds the song while the music shimmers. Songwriting is an art she’s learned, aided by her producer and other songs here, particularly Seventeen and Greatest Escape Ever, which echo similar sentiments; lived experiences polished with shiny melodies and production. There’s a great sense of self and self-deprecating humour, making each track stand out and relatable to others experiencing similar things, which undoubtedly means this year could be her best yet as her audience grows.

Jay Moussa-Mann releases her album on 14th February. Watch her live performance recorded for NARC. TV premiering via YouTube on 2nd March.

Like this story? Share it!

Subscribe to our mailout