DC SETLIST: Q&A with Inyang Bassey (Moby's Singer)
Q: You started out as a medical student at Columbia University with no musical aspirations whatsoever. Tell us the amazing journey that led you to where you are today, singing with MOBY.
A: Thinking about how clueless I was really blows my mind sometimes. The truth is I’ve always loved and expressed myself through music. I grew up playing violin from age 8 and liked to sing along with Michael and Madonna, but certainly never imagined doing it for real. The only people, including my family, who knew I sang were my HS friends from car singing and my college roommates from my secret shower solos. I was very shy about it, didn’t sing around people often at all. Ironically, it was though my shower singing that I stumbled into all of this! A roommate of mine sophomore year was in a student production and asked if I would audition. I reluctantly agreed, having never done a singing audition in my life. I chose a Bob Marley song, which makes absolutely no sense for an audition! But they liked it, so I asked what kind of songs were in the production, and they handed me a poem. Puzzled, I sat with it and wound up writing a melody in 10-15 minutes. They proceeded to hire me as the singer and I wound up as Musical Director as well, because I kept putting the poems to music. So that was my realization that I could write songs and it was my first time singing in public, acapella no less! I was scared s**tless! But clearly God was trying to tell me something, so I decided to change my major from pre-med to music. During my last two years a voice teacher there wound up singling me out and really tried to beat it into me that I had a very special instrument, but I didn’t get it. I had no relationship with my voice, so it was hard to comprehend someone who taught Broadway leads putting me on a pedestal. He also wanted to send me to conservatory and make me an opera singer, which didn’t help matters. So I basically let the music go after graduation. I got straight jobs, Citibank, Pfizer, etc. I continued to write, only ever playing my songs for very close friends and family. Didn’t perform publicly again, and for the first time with a band until 2004. Your next question kinda gets into that chapter and the Moby happening :)
Q: You mentioned that you discovered your stage presence and style literally all on stage while singing with Moby on stages in HUGE venues. Talk about baptism by fire! What was that like?
A: It was utterly life changing! When Moby came along I was neck deep in my day job at Carnegie Hall, working 6-7 days a week often enough to kill anyone’s creativity. My music had totally gone by the wayside. I hadn’t been on stage in almost a year, and was drifting farther and farther away from doing what I knew inside I should be doing. But the desire never left. I would stow away in Carnegie Hall’s backstage dressing rooms and even bathrooms on lunch breaks to sing and free myself a little from my creative stagnation. I was trying to get back out there but had never had a band of my own and honestly didn’t know any musicians. I had been a desk job person as long as I’ve been paying rent, who sang in a band recreationally from 2004-2008. During that time having performed only 27 times!!! I actually counted after getting off the road with Moby :) Cut to August 2009, I’m in the middle of an epically bad stress bomb at work and I get a call (on my birthday!) from Moby’s assistant that he’s looking to audition me for a tour beginning in mid September. It was incredible! And it happened through the remotest word-of-mouth thread. I had to gamble my job (which I ended up losing) and face an army of fears, but I discovered my calling in return. I found myself performing around 35 times in five weeks! It was my first tour. But as green and inexperienced as I was, I nailed it, realizing I was truly born to do this.
Q: DC Setlist met you at an acoustic set you & Moby did together in October. The event was a book signing for Moby's book, Destroyed, and was hosted by Irvine Contemporary Gallery here in DC at Montserrat House. We were blown away by your voice. Now that the tour with Moby is finished what would you say was the memory you'll never forget?
A: I had a moment in Toronto. It was the second show of the tour and I had not performed with Moby with the full on tour regalia in a while. So it was like a flashback of my awakening in 2009, but from a place of actually feeling like I had a clue what I was doing. Something in me just let go completely and I gave everything I had to give to the point of quad fatigue lol, cause I dance a lot. It was wonderful! But the magic moment was when Moby introduced the band before the last song. When he got to my name it was beyond my awareness of how much an audience can feed you back the love. They just roared tirelessly, until I actually had to encourage them to stop! I will never forget it as long as I live. It was the first time it happened on tour. Then it kept happening, and my mom and sis got to see it at the Fillmore in Maryland. That was just icing on the cake :)
Q: You currently live in Brooklyn; where do you perform in NYC and how can fans find out when your next gig will be? Do have a website people can go to?
A: I love Darby, Rockwood, Mercury Lounge, Southpaw. Wish I could say I have a solo NYC show coming up, but I am deep in “get a friggin’ album out girl!” mode. So shows with my band are taking a backseat to getting a recording together at the moment. But check my website where you can join my mailing list and especially Facebook so I can keep you posted for upcoming dates! CLICK HERE FOR DATES
Q: Tell us about the projects your currently working on like the one with Binky Griptite of the Dap Kings & your KICKSTARTER!
A: Yes! Binky was my first real band mate! We met almost two years ago and had an immediate bond. We have really similar tastes in music and since he’d had great experiences performing duo with Amy Winehouse, he suggested we start there to get things going without the logistical challenges of a full band. I had done a lot of duo acoustic stuff with Moby as well, so it felt really natural. Binky’s a great guitarist and songwriter. So we’re working on a soul project together of his and my original music and maybe a cover or two. I’m also working on getting an album of my original music out with a full band. My stuff has threads of soul, pop and electronic energies, so it’s gonna be amazing to bring it to fruition! I’ve got an amazing sax player/guitarist Tony Jarvis (Fela!, HBO’s Treme) in my core group and am hoping to loop in Jallel Bunton (TV on the Radio) who played with me on my last solo show. And you never know who else may make an appearance….really looking forward to the process. Actually just returned from a beautiful trip to L.A. for a couple performances with Moby and some sessions. He’s very spontaneous and has a way of bringing out the best in everyone he works with, so I’m really excited to hear where his vision will take him this time around. It’s been a gift to sing his songs. I’ve also recently launched a KICKSTARTER account to help raise funds for my solo project, so please have a look :) KICKSTARTER FOR SOLO PROJECT
Q: Now, we have to ask.....what exactly happened at that gig at Arlene's Grocery in NYC that led to ITALIAN VOGUE doing a video piece on you???!!! Did it also have a hand in the recent mention you got in ROLLING STONE?!?!? Man the word is getting out Inyang! :)
A: This year really has been a trip! The Italian Vogue piece happened through a stranger who really dug the tracks I sang on Moby’s new album. He joined my website mailing list unbeknownst to me, and when he saw that I had a solo show this past June he invited a friend. Well, the friend happened to be a Vogue journalist, who was taken enough by what she found on my website to approach me about covering the show and telling my story. I jumped out of my chair screaming when I saw an email in my inbox from Vogue…crazy! It was an incredible experience and challenge, as what was supposed to be a low-key first show for my band wound up getting covered by Italian Vogue! The Rolling Stone nod was a gigantic surprise as well. Moby got booked for a Live at Rolling Stone Session. I performed with him and someone over there decided to call me out! I’m still trying to figure out who was responsible for it. Somebody over there’s got my back!
Q: Tell us what it was like shooting MOBY's newest video featuring primarily YOU! CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE NEW MOBY VIDEO
A: Moby is such a good guy. I’m so lucky to have had my fist industry experience be with him. He’s very generous in that he genuinely likes to see people shine. So when he decided to release Right Thing as a single he wanted there to be a video, and he wanted me to be in it. The original video has a whole storyline with other actors and me interspersed. It’s very cool! But we shot so much great footage around the LES that they decided to do an alternate version of the video featuring just me singing the song, which was yet another awesome surprise! It was such a great day with the videographers. Everything went so smooth and easy. Then I got to celebrate my birthday the following day and pig out after trying to keep it tight for the shoot…perfect timing haha!
Q: Looking to the future, any goals you're aiming to check off your list in terms of your musical career? Anything specific you're shooting for?
A: I just want to succeed at making a life of this. It’s not easy to have financial security in this business. But I pray that my commitment to staying true to my calling will pay off and ultimately allow me to make a living through creative avenues alone. I want to fully realize my musical vision and tour the world with it. I want to continue to move people with my voice and to collaborate with brilliant people! Finally doing what I was meant to do has been the most inspiring and fulfilling time of my life. I hope that by example I might inspire others to have respect for that one thing inside them that brings them joy. I honestly almost missed mine trying to pay the rent! So I plan to continue on this path to happiness with the utmost gratitude.
Q: Now tell us who you listen to! Who are the 5 songs & artists that have been looping on your iPod this week?
A: It’s so weird, when I’m in a writing place I don’t listen to music too much, but here are some newsies and oldies:
Fink “Honesty” – Discovered him on a trip to the UK this summer. He’s such an amazing lyricist with badass originality.
Eli Lieb “Place Of Paradise” – Another amazing new artist and friend with the giantest heart!
TV on the Radio “New Cannonball Blues” – Need I say more?
PJ Harvey “Working for The Man” – This track’s so sexy, dark, and zone out relaxin’…she’s a staple.
Kavinsky “Nightcall” (from Drive soundtrack) – I’ve been utterly spellbound by this song for weeks…might have something to do with Ryan Gosling, but I really do love the song lol!
Frank Zappa “Uncle Remus” – He’s like Dr. Seuss for grown-ups :)
Youtube honorable mentions: Santigold, Bat for Lashes and Little Dragon…sort of in the same strain, but each so singular and authentic. Ok, so I went way over the five song limit…so much to love!
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