Most Known Unknown: Teedra Moses

Sunday, 09 November 2008 20:01 Written by  Frances Moffett

She has one of the most undeniable voices in R&B, but chances are—you’ve never heard it. Since she released her debut album Complex Simplicity in 2004, Teedra Moses has been under the radar, out of the commercial eye; yet she has a following that keeps her shows packed and fans wondering when that sophomore album is finally going to drop. Despite drama at her former label, TVT Records, and minor setbacks, the 32-year-old New Orleans native is pressing on. Here she tells about her music, freeing herself and when we can hear the Young Lioness roar.

Teedra M

GMO: So you’ve been asked this a thousand times: When did you decide you wanted to become a singer?

TM: I decided I wanted to sing when I was in a situation where I felt like I had to find something that I could do that I enjoyed, and I knew that I enjoyed singing so I said, ‘Okay, let’s try to start singing and writing songs.’ That was probably about around 2000—2001.

But you started in the industry as a fashion stylist.

I used to assist my best friend who is a fashion stylist, Nonja McKenzie, after I was laid off from a job doing some marketing assistant stuff. She was like, ‘Come on, just work with me,’ and that’s kind of how I got a taste of the music industry. But really I wasn’t in the industry; I was just helping, and I ended up being around a lot of different stuff.

What made you decide to make that transition to music?

I met up with producer Paul Poli who produced the majority of my first album. He and I were friends through my children’s father. We just started recording and I signed with him and his partner for a production deal. We tried to shop it around and a couple of songs that we shopped, we ended up selling to other artists instead of getting a deal. Then [some time after that] we got the deal with TVT.

How long after pursuing your music career did you find a record label?
About seven months.

Now, you wrote all the songs on your first album Complex Simplicity. How do you think that was possible since most new artists don’t get that privilege?

I felt like I wasn’t going to do it any other way. I didn’t get into singing to just be a singer. I feel like if they wouldn’t have let me be a songwriter as well, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I just didn’t see it any other way. I didn’t even think I thought about how it felt. But I guess now looking back in retrospect, it was a privilege and I appreciate them for letting me do that. But then again, that’s the privilege with being on an independent label.

You wrote “Dip It Low” for Christina Milian and “Here We Go” for Trina. What are some of your other writing credits?
I’ve written with Mary J. Blige, Macy Gray, Raphael Saadiq. I’ve written with quite a few people. It’s so sporadic because it’s not something I set out to do, it just happens. I just want to work with people organically. I don’t want it to be like, ‘This many people are looking for songs.’ All that’s bullshit, I don’t have time for all of that. Music is fun. And I know it’s work and when it has to be work, that’s what it is. But the creative side of it has to be really something that you enjoy—at least for me—because if not then I’m not going to get the best out of myself.

A lot of people love your music and you have this huge following, but you’re not very much in the spotlight. Do you feel that one day you want to get to that point?
I don’t care to be everywhere. I care to be able to always create music and make this my way of making a living. And to touch people, for real. I want the opportunity for everybody to hear [my music]. Now if they take to it, I can’t do anything about that. But I want the opportunity for everyone in the world to hear it. If they choose it and that’s what it becomes, then that’s great, but that’s not my objective. My objective is to make cool music that I like and present it to other people and see if they like it. I don’t want to be forced on them. The fact that they chose me—that gives me a lot of confidence to just be myself and do me. If they like it, they like it and if they don’t, they don’t. But I can’t focus on that because I feel that I do it from my heart, and I just have to concentrate on that. Giving what’s in my heart to other people and hoping it catches on.

You put out a couple mixtapes, which is not a common practice for R&B singers. What made you do that and how did it help push your career?
I did it because I wanted to make music. I made all these songs on the Complex Simplicity album and no one had heard them yet. I had a single out, “You’ll Never Find,” but it took a long time before the next one came out, so I wanted to put out some more music for people because they hadn’t really heard anything from me. With the second one—I had been doing so many shows and I wanted people to hear me live because I really like that side of me. It’s different from what you get on the album. What people expect me to do from hearing the album and not knowing me is totally different from what I get on stage and do. Really I just wanted to keep letting people know that I’m making music.

What is your present situation now, with [record label] TVT filing for bankruptcy?
It turned out to be a huge blessing. I’m free, which makes for a world of possibilities. I haven’t figured out exactly what label I want to go to or if I want to go to a label or take another route or whatever. I just spent a lot of time trying to free myself because after a while you realize like, ‘This is not going to work. I love making music, but I don’t want to just hear it all myself. I want people to hear it. And I appreciate the opportunity that you’ve given me to make music, but we can’t just keep it all here for ourselves. We have to spread it around, and if you can’t be a vessel in spreading this around then I’m going to have to get away from you.’ It’s not me being mean or trying to be a crazy artist or anything, it’s just that after a while if things aren’t productive, you have to leave that situation no matter what it is—a man, a job, whatever. You have to free yourself and so I spent a little time trying to get myself free.

We’ve been waiting for the Young Lioness album for a while now. When can we expect that to drop?
I’m just trying to complete everything because it’s been so long since I first started work on it. I’m just looking through the album and thinking about what I want to keep and don’t want to keep. How I want to refresh it to present it currently. I’m taking what I want and adding a little bit more and that will be the album that comes out. I’ve been working on it for so long, so I’m not going to scrap it. I try to make classic timeless stuff so it doesn’t get caught up in a date.

What are some future plans for you?
Right now I’m looking at this opportunity to do some radio. And that’s really what I’m interested in, having a platform to expose some people to different kinds of music. People complain about what’s on the radio, and artists are this and that, but it’s not true. There are lot of people out here that are underground or in other countries who are making music that music lovers who complain about the radio appreciate. You just have to seek it.

Any last words?
I always want to say thank you to anyone who has been a supporter of what I’m doing. I really appreciate it more than you know. And if you ever meet me you’ll realize that I’m very appreciative of people rolling with me because you don’t have to.

Frances Moffett

Frances Moffett

GMO Editor-At-Large Frances Moffett is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism. She has worked with GMO since its inception. With a love for journalism and all things writing, she is currently pursuing her master’s degree in public relations and advertising from DePaul University. Frances is also an editor at the country’s largest association management company and has written for a variety of publications, including Jet magazine, The Chicago Defender and The Chicago Reporter.

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