Hive Five: Our Daily Listicle of Musical Musings
With equal affections for rap and '50s rock, which add up to some short high-energy songs, singer-songwriter Willy Moon has found a unique alchemical blend of genres. The 23-year-old's three original songs on his self-titled EP total a little over six minutes, yet tracks like "Yeah Yeah" and "Wanna Be Your Man" have a depth to them that longer songs by other artists aspire to; there's just something about the way the London-via-New Zealand singer sells his songs that makes it work (as the latest iPod commercial can attest). We recently interrupted his breakfast in Los Angeles to find out just what inspires such a mix. Even though he hadn't prepared his list in advance, he felt good about it when we were done talking. "At first I thought this would be absolutely excruciatingly painful to come up with five influences but I really enjoyed it," he said. "I get to have my orange juice and have a cigarette now. Things are good."
1. Moon's Mama
"She taught me to believe in possibilities," says the singer whose mother passed away of cancer when he was 12. "She taught me to believe that everybody else's point of view quite often was absolute bullshit and that you should follow your own path in life. She was a remarkable woman." But that wasn't the only way she influenced him. "She bought me my guitar when I was 8 or 9 years old," he says. "I begged for a really long time and finally got me a guitar. It was one of my first experiences with music, really, intertwined with my relationship with her."
2. Movies, movies, movies
"I probably watch about at least five movies a week," Moon declares. "It's the most captivating thing because it allows you to escape into another world. That's something that is very important to me: the ability to escape and to dream." Two films that stand out above the rest are the poetic 1964 drama Soy Cuba and Orson Welles'1958 film-noir masterpiece Touch of Evil. "I've spent lots of my life watching movies, probably far too much of my life," says the singer. "Whenever I'm not making music, I'm just watching movies. I feel that they've given me a sense of theater that I try and bring that when I perform. I try and bring to life something that's larger than reality and something that's more fantastical and more exciting and beautiful."
Stream "Yeah Yeah" below:
3. Buddy Holly
"Buddy Holly was for me the first punk songwriter," Moon says, declaring the early rock singer "a hero of mine." "If you listen to early punk songs, stuff like the Ramones' records, they all sound like Buddy Holly songs with really fuzzy guitars. He kind of had a beautiful simplicity to his songwriting that was so paired down, so lacking in anything that wasn't absolutely necessary." It's not just Holly's music that motivates Moon, though. "He wrote an incredible amount and he died in a plane crash at a younger age than I am now," he says, sounding amazed. "He wrote so many absolutely fantastic songs that people still love listening to today."
"I think hip-hop is very rock and roll," Moon says. "Listening to hip-hop records when I was a kid gave me the sort of excitement that I think kids probably used to get listening to rock-and-roll records in the '50s and '60s. It gave me a feeling of fun and danger." The singer's favorite groups span the whole of hip-hop history: Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy, "everything the Neptunes ever produced even if you don't like the rapping," and "mid-period" Timbaland, specifically his music with Missy Elliott. "Hip-hop has this fantastic ability to consume all other styles of music and regurgitate it in a really interesting way," he says of the genre's effect on his own music making. "I looked to hip-hop a lot in terms of the way I made my record. It might not sound like it, but that was the process."
Stream "She Loves Me" below:
5. Science Fiction
"When I was a kid, I didn't really get out much and I didn't have many friends," the singer says. "I used to spend my weekends down at the library and my evenings in my bedroom, reading science-fiction books." The singer's "Moon" name is actually a reference to his love of science fiction and some of his favorite authors are Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Hyland. "I used to just dream and dream of going to space, and I still do," he says. "I always wanted to go to the moon. But if I wasn't making music, I don't think I'd ever get accepted by NASA. I think I'm too weird. I don't think I'd pass the psychological evaluation tests. But my hope is that at some point in my life I get the opportunity to leave the planet. I would give away everything that I own to be able to do that. That wouldn't be much because I don't own very much." When Hive reminds Moon that *NSYNC's Lance Bass almost made it into space, he reflects on the state of music. "If we were still in the golden age of the music industry I could probably convince my record label to fund me to do a promotional tour in space, but unfortunately that's not the case," he deadpans. "If I asked probably all I'd get would be a tinfoil hat and some shiny boots."
Willy Moon's self-titled EP is out now on Cherrytree/Interscope.