Having just released his debut solo EP Sputnik, (read our review here) Seattle-based singer/songwriter/classically-trained cellist and illustrator Jeremiah Moon took some time out to answer our questions to find out who he is, what inspires him and what the future holds.
Give us a potted history of your project
This project, my songs under my own name, has been active and growing since about 2017, and steadily growing more active and intentional throughout the last couple years. I’m currently in the midst of wrestling together pieces for an album — it’s still fairly diffuse, but getting clearer! Honing my live show as well — I’ve been performing mostly around Seattle, at the Fremont Abbey and other venues, but that’s happening in fits and starts at this point in the pandemic so still honing my live sets and trying to decide what the best path forward will be. I really believe in the idea of a live show that feels different than just listening to the songs at home but still figuring out how to make the most of that opportunity!
Who inspired you to start making music
There are lots of good answers to this question! My mom started the ball rolling, and has been hugely supportive the whole way. She’s also a classically trained musician (a violinist) and started taking me to cello lessons when I was 7. I did some pretty rudimentary composing when I was young and had supportive responses from the musicians around me — I remember feeling a little suspicious of how easy it was, to be honest! As far as songwriting goes, I took my first stab at it when I was 18 or so. I was listening to bands like The National, Radiohead, Shearwater, The Clientele, and just feeling endlessly inspired and moved by how powerful a good song can be. Nothing else really hits quite as deep.
What records inspired you artistically
I’ve gone back and listened to Boxer (The National) probably hundreds of times. I don’t think anything they’ve done since, or before, is nearly as powerful (for my taste, anyway.) It’s one of the times that I started out really disliking an album (I still remember where and when I listened to it) and eventually doing a complete 180 — the sound of that album is so potent, somehow both very raw/punchy but also very rigorous, almost militant feeling. It’s like you can feel the tension in play the whole time but it never fully releases. The lyrics are opaque but also weirdly intimate, distant and very specific. I love the idea of making an album that feels like a specific place and time, something that the listener can live inside while it’s playing and carry with them when it’s done. Real, courageous art finds names for feelings that haven’t been named yet; for 17-year-old Jeremiah, that’s exactly what Boxer did. I’ll also say that I was listening to a lot of Nick Cave while I was writing this EP – especially Push the Sky Away.
If you’re trying to explain who you sound like to someone that’s never heard you, what do you say
Usually fumble this question! I usually pitch myself somewhere in the sonic landscape near Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, James Blake, maybe Grizzly Bear? I think technically Chamber Pop is accurate, but it sounds too much like chamber pot. Art Pop, maybe, although that comes across pretty snooty. Indie works well as a catch-all, although it’s a very nebulous term! Let’s just say it’s cello-based pop/folk music.
Tell us about your new EP Sputnik
Sputnik is my first release! I recorded with my producer/friend Adam Black out in a little beach cabin in Florence, OR. No cell service, no wifi, just his gear and my cello. We patched in some other pieces later, synths and drums (played by Trevor Church, the only other musician on the album,) but most of it was recorded that weekend. The next couple years were a big lesson in momentum for me – lost sight of the forest for the trees a few times, had some crises of faith re: whether the project was worth finishing, and had some moments of deep pride for the work we did and the music we made.
Where can we get hold of it
The usual suspects! It’s streaming on Apple Music / Spotify / Amazon, and purchasable via iTunes / Amazon.
Tell us how you write
Usually I’ll start with a cello part / synth hook and build from there. I’ll find a line or two that I like, then try to find those lines some friends. My big challenge right now is drafting whole songs; I’ve been digging deeper into sound design / drum programming etc and honestly that’s the fun part so it’s easy to get derailed and lose momentum. Writing lyrics doesn’t give me nearly that same level of instant gratification but you have to eat your veggies too. And man, the payoff is so satisfying when you finish writing lyrics that click! Studying helps a lot, if I’m feeling uninspired I’ll take a song I like and write it out by hand while listening. Usually I find one or two tricks that I can take back to my own writing.
Tell us about your live show, and how much have you been missing it recently
It’s a one-man show for now – I incorporate lots of looping, and some sequenced/programmed accompaniment. I like to have parts that I can manipulate while performing, though, so it doesn’t feel like a karaoke performance. Missing it a ton – every time I perform I learn something new!
What can we expect from you in the near future
Looking forward to seeing where this release goes. I have a couple more videos in the pipeline that I’m excited to finish and share – I’m working with some really talented collaborators! Then after that it’s a full-length album — again, still pretty early in the process but I’m starting to feel the shape and I think it’s going to be very special if I do it right.
Tell us your favourite records
What I’ve been listening to recently:
Harold Budd “The Pavilion of Dreams”
Laurie Spiegel “The Expanding Universe”
Sam Gendel & Shin Sasakubo (Self-titled)
Natalie Schepman “Fresh Water in an Empty Vase”
Lionel Richie (Self-titled)
Check out the track Sugarbrain, below