Anna Moss and the Nightshades bring Amnesty to The Belfry

 

Last updated 4/30/2024 at 10:26am

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Anna Moss.

On May 10, Anna Moss will grace The Belfry stage with The Nightshades.

"What separates me from my shadow?" the singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist asks on her new album. Whimsical, bluesy melodies find a sensual groove on Moss' solo debut.

Moss spoke to The Nugget from her home in New Orleans, where she was preparing to play several gigs at JazzFest (New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival) before heading to Seattle for her West Coast tour.

A seasoned performer with a magnetic stage presence, Moss has recorded and toured extensively with Handmade Moments. The memorable duo played Sisters Folk Festival last year, filling the tent with energetic songs and wild tuba.

Now Moss has brought forth her first solo album.

"I just dropped a record called Amnesty, hot and fresh off the press, baby," she said playfully.

She wrote the songs during deep COVID. The early pandemic era, with its shutdowns and lockdowns, had a particularly somber effect on performers - folks whose livelihood and sense of connection depend on in-person gatherings.

"I was very depressed when I wrote them," Moss said of the songs.

Far from depressing, the music has a welcoming, vibrant feel. Sailing on the smoky seas of Moss' voice, the songs gently unfold a courageous sense of emotional intimacy.

She described the music as "existential bedroom pop," though listeners can hear plenty of rhythm & blues and singer-songwriter influences. Sultry and dreamy, this is music to slow dance to, underneath a gibbous summer moon.

"These songs were simple, in some ways like meditations, to get me to push through and push forward," she explained. "It's interesting. Now I find myself, if I'm in a dark moment or something - the songs don't take me back to COVID time. They kind of push me forward."

Themes of compassion and forgiveness weave throughout "Amnesty," "dealing with complex human things. Instead of looking at them through a lens of trauma and deflection, just taking them head-on, moving through them," she explained.

Moss said she experienced serious trauma, from adverse childhood events to the horrific vehicle accident that derailed a tour, seriously injured band members, smashed up their bus, and inspired a documentary called "Busking."

"Depending on how I frame it in my mind, I could see myself as a victim and push that on other people too," Moss explained. "Every day we have a choice on how we are going to go out into the world... you can take that trauma and use it to make you stronger, to make you more compassionate."

Writing on her own during the pandemic, picking up a guitar, Moss developed "this very particular style, kind of like slow jams, but I was envisioning heavy bass, traps, a lot of female harmony. I knew, these songs can't be for Handmade Moments. I need an R&B band."

Assembling her group The Nightshades happened "very organically," according to Moss, who didn't realize she was writing what would become an album.

"It all came together on its own," she said. She still plays with the duo as well.

Moss is excited to perform in Sisters again.

"The tour features my band from New Orleans and also Laurie Shook from the Shook Twins," she said. At some shows, locals will also provide harmonies. "I like to have a pretty choir heavy vibes," she explained. "And Ian George is an awesome opener."

Moss' unusually strong stage presence is also unusually chill: comfortable, connected, and relaxed. At a scheduled Handmade Moments show at Oregon Country Fair last summer, her bandmate Joel Ludford couldn't make it. Gently joking and storytelling, Moss started playing on her own to a spellbound audience.

"Onstage? That's my favorite place to be," she told The Nugget. There she experiences the feeling of, "I can do this."

Speaking of places: Moss loves New Orleans deeply. She also gets "a very strong vibe from Oregon. I love Oregon. I think it's the most beautiful state, you guys have the most incredible rivers and incredible people."

The music and festivals are close to her heart, too. "Sisters Folk Festival we played last year; I give them five stars," Moss enthused. "No; if five stars was the maximum, I'd give them six stars."

Playing shows in person feeds her soul, she said.

"That's the part I want to do all the time. I want to play music for people. The rest of the stuff - spreading the word, traveling - can be hard. The business end can be a drag...

"We trudge through all the BS just to play for the people and to be with them, just to get that moment," she concluded. "It's worth it."

A good audience is especially inspiring to Moss, who appreciates it when "people are really listening." Locals can listen to Moss in person for $18 on Friday, May 10; tickets are available in advance at http://www.belfryevents.com.

 

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