Tea + a Chat with Moira Smiley

Moira Smiley chats to us about underground former water reservoirs, the virtuosity of the voice and tips us off about three must-listen artists ahead of her Tea + a Gig show coming up at The Old Church this Tuesday 7th February. Book in advance here to see the vocal shapeshifter perform in London’s only remaining Elizabethan church.

Tell us about yourself

I’m a singer and composer, nomad, lover of surprise and adventure - in life and music.

You studied Early Music Vocal Performance – what drew you to early and traditional music?

I grew up on a small Vermont farm in the northeastern U.S. (near Canada & Boston), and there were lots of people playing and singing folk music.  I also went to conservatory for piano performance, and there, at conservatory, fell in love with the sense of discovery and invention in the study and performance of early music.  I also love that so much of the vocal music makes the voice feel very instrument-like.

Is there a difference between using your voice as an instrument and as a singer in the more popular sense using words and stories?

Hmmm…great question!  I see the music that uses the voice ‘instrumentally’ as embracing the physicality, the range of timbres, the virtuosity of the voice rather than focusing JUST on that voice’s ability to convey text and float on top of an instrumental texture.

Your recordings and musical interests are are very global. How do you find your next musical obsession? Do you travel a lot?

The next projects come from a combo of meeting people that compel me, and following musical paths that challenge me and make me feel at home/useful as an artist. 

You’re playing with us solo, and you also play frequently with your vocal group VOCO. How different are the experiences?

I get to be more spontaneous and wild when performing solo, so that dynamic fills the space that more harmony and instrumentation does when I’m with VOCO.

We imagine the acoustics of a church will be a good match with your sound and look forward to hearing you sing. What’s the strangest place you have ever performed?

There’ve been many strange and wonderful venues!  A completely underground former water reservoir in Berlin made of brick. That was the dampest one - with the longest (16 seconds?) echo.

How did you come to know about SoundsCreative Projects?

I met Tara Franks by recording Hildegard with her sister Clemmie years ago!

What do you think of the Tea + a Gig concept?

I think it’s a beautiful idea - and brave, and experimental!  Brava!

At SCP we believe in connections. Can you connect us to 3 great artists we should know about?

Sam Amidon, Vivien Ellis, The Greeners!