Get To Know Elliot Moss [Interview]

Kieran Kohorst
Credit: Jeff Vespa

The irony isn’t lost on Elliot Moss: some of his best music is a product of personal struggle or excruciatingly low points in his life. For Moss, a New York musician immersed in music since a child, there seems no better response than to write a song, no matter the circumstances. His latest single, “Magic,” is fit to serve as Moss’s magnum opus. An intensely vulnerable song with a palpable emotional investment is only made more powerful by its context: Moss’s father was diagnosed with cancer and recommended treatment that could result in hearing loss, a devastating blow to the two’s special relationship. His father was a professional audio engineer, and the two owed some of their most prized memories to music. The development understandably shook Moss, a threat to his relationship not only with his father but with music. Fortunately, his father has fully recovered, and more music lies ahead for the both of them. 

“Magic” was written as a release of sorts from the heavy emotional burden, accompanied by a stirring music video littered with symbolism, most prominently in the form of an 8 ball. The grueling process of grieving is explored in the video, with somewhat of a victorious resolution found in the song’s dominant guitars and evocative chanting. Moss graciously shared more about the song below, as well as his relationship with past music, memories shared with his father, balancing freedom with intention in his music, and more. 

We’ll start with the new single, “Magic,” a song that tells a lot of your story as an artist if not explicitly then in the song’s subtext. While a lot of thought and intention went into writing and crafting the song, I want to know how you were able to start, knowing the story that you would be telling. 

Elliot Moss: Writing "Magic" was more of an instinctual process, a response to everything that was happening at the time. The song then put itself together pretty naturally/quickly. Writing helps me gain some headspace; it can put something that’s out of my control on a sort of timeline that I’m more comfortable with. I feel better having claimed whatever the source is, in a way, and building something from it. The process changes my relationship with whatever I’m dealing with a little bit.


The music video holds its own power, with a Magic 8 Ball symbolizing the mentality of not trying to engineer fate but rather embracing it. As the director, when did the direction for the video start to take shape?

As for the Magic 8 Ball in the video, it's a symbol that reflects a shift in my perspective about life and control. It's easy to fall into a pattern of leaving things to chance, akin to shaking an 8 ball, but I've found that I crave more agency. I want to invest my efforts into areas where I can see growth and change. The seed inside the 8 ball in the video, to me, signifies this idea of actively nurturing something, rather than passively awaiting fate's decision.


“Magic” is the third single you’ve released in what has become the most personal music of your career. How do you reflect on your past music having reached a new height in your artistry?

Thank you. When I look back at my earlier songs, some resonate with me more than others. The interesting thing is that the tunes which feel more "timeless" were often created during my lowest moments. It's not the most cheerful realization, but it makes me wonder if the moments I try so hard to avoid don't lead to art that endures the best over time.


That song ends on a triumphant note, one that is especially reverent knowing that your father was able to make a recovery. What kind of emotions were you feeling in that moment of the song?

The louder and bigger the music gets, the more it mirrors a sort of inner chaos. It's my way of battling all the external noise and replacing it with something that I'm creating. There's a bit of a frantic mantra chanting, "It's all in my head," even though I know that's not entirely true.

Your recent music has turned the focus to guitar, bringing a different dynamic but still a driving force on “Magic”. You’ve mentioned guitar as the first instrument you were obsessed with, getting your start playing bass in your father’s sessions. Was this a conscious decision, or did your love for guitar become more pronounced inadvertently in correspondence with your music’s vulnerability?

Playing guitar feels like home to me; it's where I feel most comfortable. I find it easier to let my guard down and be more vulnerable when I'm not musically confined by something like a keyboard. Even if guitar doesn't always sound right for every song, it's still my go-to instrument for writing and coming up with ideas. For “Magic”, it definitely had a place. It’s the only instrument that feels connected to my childhood, and that connection was really important to show here.


Growing up going on tour with your father, there are surely some important memories shared in those experiences. Is there a memory in particular that you are able to reflect on and cherish?

Absolutely, there's a whole movie reel of memories. One of the standouts would be when we were setting up for our first big gig at the Ogden Theater in Denver. The thrill of hearing Devin’s drums through a real sound system for the first time, that's something we’ll never forget. Even the hard work of packing up in the snow afterward felt fantastic. We were buzzing for days.


You worked with Damian Taylor to help shape some of the sounds you’ve been making lately. You both have incredible experience in music and your own strengths - how did your collaboration inform the music you’re making now?

Damian’s ability to simultaneously view a song from a birds-eye perspective while also understanding its core was invaluable. He helped me avoid rabbit holes and kept the songs true to their beginnings. Additionally, Damian has a massive mental library past work, and his experience allowed him to quickly determine if something would work or if it was best to focus our energy elsewhere. He was very sensitive to maintaining perspective and protecting our "clean energy" before we heard something too many times or worked too long on it. When I work alone, I tend to do more fruitless exploring.


There’s a video on your Instagram of you explaining your lyrics to viewers from your song “Lazy”. The song holds deep meaning, which you express incredibly well in your post. Music is always interpreted in different ways, and while the purpose of this song was pretty explicit, your video definitely gave a clear answer to the meaning behind the words. How do you choose to balance a listener’s freedom to interpret and your own intentions in writing a song? Is it any different now that the music has taken on a more personal mission?

 I've found that maintaining a small degree of separation between myself and the music I'm creating is really useful. It's within this space that I find the greatest potential for healing and a better understanding of why I’m compelled to write about one thing or another.

 If I stay too ground-level and caught up in the immediacy, it can actually make it more challenging to follow a thread all the way to the end. The rawness is important, but there's another layer that comes from taking a step back, like looking through a wide-angle lens. For me, some peripheral detail is what lets people in, too (if it’s pointing back to the right place.)


Thank you again so much for your time, “Magic” is a very special song and I’m glad to hear more about it!

 Thank you!

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