NAPA — After Molly Moore first moved from New York to Los Angeles to pursue a full-time music career, besides the more typical work waiting tables, she’d pick up numerous odd jobs in the promo modeling field. One year, she worked in the Heineken tent at Coachella. Another time, she appeared at an “Orange is the New Black” pop-up, dressed as one of the characters, handing out freebies to passersby in Venice.
Moore, who has written songs for the likes of Jesse McCartney, K-pop act EXO and actress Lea Michele, and acted as a child, also picked some background acting gigs on a slew of TV shows.
“It wasn’t glamorous, but the paychecks were good, and I enjoyed it more than cleaning up other people’s burgers,” the 29-year-old said at BottleRock Napa, where she performed songs from her most recent album, 2020’s Voice on the Internet, for one of the first times after a pandemic blackout.
That album was her first as a solo artist after the dissolution of her duo Cosmos & Creature with her then-boyfriend, the end of their relationship and the passing of her father in 2018. It delves into the state of her psyche, heartache, her view of herself and finding her own voice. Moore, who had already started making her own music on the side while still in the duo, has stayed busy. She’s already preparing to release her next project, Escapism, in two parts beginning later this month.
The first taste came last month with “Do They,” which offers up details about her new non-traditional relationship and a new more positive outlook on life. The following “Marco Polo,” featuring NoMBe, about meeting someone with whom you can escape reality.
“It’s a new wave for me,” Molly Moore said of her new music. “It’s a bit more soulful, funky, upbeat. It’s more optimistic. … I have found myself falling in love again, and even though I’m not in a relationship with that person, we share a lot of amazing things together. I feel a sense of relief that I’ve been able to experience this type of love freely without being committed to someone. We can explore getting to know each other and all the aspects of what it means to be close without having the labels or the expectations packed into it. That’s kind of what I made this next album about. It’s a two-part EP thing that comes together as an album.”
RIFF: Is there a certain vibe that’s going to permeate this next phase of your career?
Molly Moore: Optimism and hope. And it sounds corny, but love. Love for myself, love for other people. … I feel like I’ve learned to trust in my own voice and trust in my songwriting ability. The ability to executive-produce a project. To have a vision for a body of work that’s cohesive. It’s a lot of independence and feeling confident in who I am and who I’m becoming.
Is this your first real chance playing songs from the 2020 album? Are you learning anything about any of the songs that you didn’t anticipate?
Molly Moore: One of my favorite songs to play in my set is called “Be Here Now.” I really get to rev it and scream and use my voice in a way that I don’t often use it. It was always a very grounding, exciting song for me to play, but especially after the two years that everybody’s been through, it feels very relevant. You don’t know what tomorrow brings—ever. … I’ve had to deal with major loss in my life, and grief. On a wider scale, I feel other people can relate to that, now. It feels like an important sentiment to play. I released that song in 2018, but I still put it on the album because it was so important to me. It feels very good to be able to be in a moment with other people. … I feel people’s presence when I am in that.
The album also addressed mental health struggles and the ways you’d approach them. Will that continue to be a theme in new music?
Molly Moore: A lot of it is about giving up control in relationships. I’ve found that I can be codependent when I love somebody. I don’t know that that’s necessarily the best way to be in a partnership with someone else. It’s made me able to look at myself with a very honest lens and made me [see] there’s no one else for me to point a finger at than myself, when I feel a certain way, except me. That’s very special, and I don’t want to lose that ever again, even if I am in any more of a traditional or committed relationship. I want to take accountability for who I am and how I feel—always.
It’s really nice to share your life experience with somebody else, but to not let it dictate certain parts of your trajectory, or to maintain a sense of autonomy, emotionally, is really important, I think. We can find people we love, or we can find people we want to spend our time with, but at the end of the day—not to be morbid—but when we pass away, you’re alone. … It’s incredible to share the experience with like-minded people, but that shouldn’t become [the main goal].
In order to show up in a partnership, you need to be able to show up for yourself. I think a lot of people have lost sight of that, and I had lost sight of that. That’s something that I work on every day. I go to therapy. I started in November of last year. It’s changed my life. … I’ve seen so many benefits. I struggled with eating … from anxiety, my dad passed away three years ago. There were so many changes in my life I didn’t realize were really deeply affecting me. Now I love eating, I make healthier choices for my body, my mind and my soul. I understand myself better.
Do you still write for other artists?
Molly Moore: I do. My best friend Matty Noyes just put out her first album, and I cowrote four songs on that album. I’m so honored to be a part of her music. She’s such a dear person in my life. We have a collab called “Handsomer” together. We actually have lived together. It’s been this amazing friendship that we’ve cultivated. I crashed on her couch for a while before we moved in together, and I was going through so many transitions. She’s been there for me through so much.
At what point did music become No. 1 for you?
Molly Moore: I’m still really passionate about acting. I’m getting back into it now, but I’ve definitely taken a long break from it. When I came out here at 19, I really felt as though I had to choose what I was going to focus on in order to not be spread too thin or not give the time and energy and effort necessary to really thrive in a space. Acting has been such an incredible outlet for me. I’m interested in writing, producing, directing and starring in something, but I never really got the chance to explore that when I was younger. With music, I felt I could tell my own story, write my own lyrics.
With acting, I always felt like I was getting ready to do what I loved, with all the auditions. There was this moment when I was about to do it, and then I never go the real opportunity to do it. With music, I could just go to a session with someone and make a song, and that song existed. Whether that song was good or not was beside the point. I needed the therapeutic release of having a safe space to say how I felt because communication hasn’t always been the easiest thing for me, and music has allowed me that ability to communicate honestly and freely.