Moxie Raia is a singer-songwriter teetering on the brink of superstardom, a sparkling gem in an industry of pretty faces, but I found her to be so much more than that. Underneath her good looks and the songs that you just can't get out of your head there is a well of intelligence, deep feelings and determination. The girl has heart and puts her all into what she does, a definite reason for big industry names to have taken notice. I was intrigued to learn that aside from her upcoming tour with Steve Aoki, she is also a former jazz studies major who enjoys nerding out in the library as well as performing for hundreds of thousands.
EM: So you just released a huge collaboration with Steve Aoki. I heard that he was sent your original of “I Love It When You Cry,” and was really into working with you?
MR: I've always loved his work and we wanted to get some remixes done of the song, the original has more of an indie-pop feel to it. One of the producers Jason Evigan had a contact in Steve's team and reached out to him about doing a remix. At first we thought that he wouldn't have time but two days later we had a remix. He called and said, "You know I didn't think that I'd be able to do the remix but I just couldn't get the song out of my head. I loved it so much that I stayed up all night in Ibiza working on it and did the whole remix in one night."
EM: He must be a really hard worker; his level of output is really impressive.
MR: It's unbelievable. And he's also always on tour, he travels constantly. I went on a short two-week long tour this past fall and he played three shows a day. He gives his heart and soul on the stage every time, puts it all out there and then does it again. It's crazy.
EM: I'm sure; to get to that level it has to be constant. And he had a big hand in the whole EDM movement to begin with.
MR: Definitely. That whole world is so fascinating and is really changing the music industry right now.
EM: I loved that he labeled it Moxoki; it shows that he has respect for your artistry and as a collaborator.
MR: He's an awesome person. I just have so much respect for artists like him. We both had a part in making it but for someone that big to make an effort to credit me was really cool.
EM: Well he made an effort to credit you as the songwriter because it's essentially your song.
MR: Definitely, I really appreciated it. I wasn't heavy into the EDM world before this and so far it's been pretty fun!
EM: Is it true that you studied music at Columbia University –like the ultimate institution for the academic elite before you left for LA?
MR: I majored in Jazz Studies there but I left to pursue music on my own instead of study it. But I love jazz. I moved to New York when I was thirteen and growing up there it was my dream school to go to. I've always been obsessed with jazz and anytime that I could write a paper on someone like John Coltrane in high school I would. I knew that they had an awesome jazz program so I applied specifically for that. It's a great school and I loved being in New York for college because I could do my own music at the same time. I just found that I was spending all of my time in the library -like days- and I wanted to pursue my own music more. I can see myself going back someday though because I do like to nerd out.
EM: How do you think that the jazz training ties into your songwriting now?
MR: I think that what really drove me to study jazz was it's connection to society. I would read things about Coltrane composing rhythms from Martin Luther King speeches and could see how it was shaping culture. I like to see that in music and be socially aware, jazz music epitomizes that. I also relate to the freedom that you have when you play jazz and how deeply it makes you feel. I think the main point is that it's real and I relate to that. When I listen, I feel so much emotion and it speaks to me more than any other musical genre. It ties into my work because I want to make people feel strongly when they listen to my music.
EM: I read that you started young in the entertainment business, traveling the US in dance competitions at six and forming your own band at ten, how do you think that shaped your success?
MR: I started dancing when I was two and began traveling for competitions when I was six. I've always loved to be on stage and when I was growing up I would use the stairway of my house as a stage and put on shows.
EM: You really knew what you wanted early on.
MR: Yes! I remember that I was like an army sergeant and took it really, really seriously. My friends hated me! One time it was snowing heavily in New Jersey and I had us all do a photo shoot sitting in the snow. I was like "We will get this photo for the cover of our album!" (Laughs)
EM: Well that's definitely shaped your success, knowing that early.
MR: Yeah exactly. (Laughs) Work really doesn't feel like work to me, it just feels like something that I'm always doing. It's play!
EM: One of your first hits “Buffalo Bill” was also re-worked by dance music heavyweight Tiesto, how was that for you as a songwriter?
MR: He did a remix of "Buffalo Bill" right before I put out the song. He's so huge that it was shocking, and then I was invited to Ultra Music Festival in Miami.
EM: That's an intense one.
MR: It looked intense and like a lot of fun! I was mostly backstage with him and his crew but I felt it a little bit.
EM: How's that been for you as a songwriter? Having such big names in electronic music take an interest in your songs?
MR: It's cool! I came from a different background but I'm such a fan of music in general. My favorite thing is to collaborate and it means so much to me to work with other artists. To already have been able to do with that on such a large scale is amazing.
EM: Definitely a big part of being an artist! When you first moved to LA you were living in a big house with other members of The Brain Music?
MR: It actually came really easy, was a nice fit and we all got along so well. We respected each other as musicians and it was fun living together. We were all talking the other day and someone was like, "How were you able to live with six guys?" But I basically became their mother, they used to call me "Mama Mox." I'm about to go on tour with Steve and be on a bus with six guys again. They wondered if I was prepared for it but I'm like… "Oh yes." (Laughs)
EM: So what's the plan for the upcoming tour?
MR: It starts February 13th in Austin and will run for five weeks as a bus tour all over the US. I can't wait! It will be the first time that I've been on a tour bus and the first time that I will be playing that many shows so close together. As a performer I want to be playing out every night, that's my dream and it's the start of all that for me.
EM: How is the songwriting process going for your upcoming album?
MR: So far, I'm working with two producers –Freddy Wexler and Jason Evigan– who were with me on "I Love It When You Cry" and "Buffalo Bill" and they're both just amazing. Recently, I rented a piano for my apartment and I've been writing non-stop, just me. A lot of the new work I've been producing myself, I've worked with a ton of people in the past but this time I'm just starting with the basics.