Maurice Moore On His EP 'Destination Unknown,' Writing For EXO & How Living in LA Gave Him 'Thicker Skin'
On-the-rise Canadian R&B/Soul artist Maurice Moore became a cross-genre force when he began penning records for Kehlani, H.E.R., EXO and Wiley. After becoming a successful songwriter, he veered into a solo path of his own. With viral breakthroughs such as, "The Loudest Silence," and "C'est la vie," Moore took his independent label, STXRY Sound, to Los Angeles for the production and release of his sophomore project, Destination Unknown.
The endearing-yet-edgy duality of Moore's musicianship is amplified over the seven-song EP and through Destination Unknown's title-track music video. Correspondingly, the soloist visually integrates his Ottawa roots in California, with his singing and rapping abilities. Destination Unknown encapsulates the falsettos of heartbreak on earworms like, "Cut Me Loose," and owns hip-hop cadences which inspire the bop "Slide On Me."
Withal, Moore's offerings continue to strengthen his notoriety alongside building mainstream cosigns. Billboard sat down with the newcomer at our Times Square office to learn what The Amber Room debut propelled, the meaning of the hit sample enlisted on "The Loudest Silence," and how K-Pop collabs are in touch with traditional R&B. Get acquainted with Maurice Moore now.
With the recent release of your EP Destination Unknown, you said the project is a stream of the consciousness moment. Please elaborate.
Okay, so, with Destination Unknown, there was not a lot of overthinking being done while creating this project. It was just really a natural, and in-the-moment creation. I did not spend too much time in the studio going back to songs and trying to edit or refine them.
I just wanted to feel like it was coming from me, spontaneously. The music is all built around that stream of consciousness flowing from one idea to the next. Naturally, I touch on a lot of different topics on the album. I believe in order for me to do that, I needed to let myself go wherever it took me.
There is a juxtaposition placed on your title-track, "Destination Unknown," and the new music video. At first, viewers see you angry and disoriented, then sort of blissfully hiking. What brought about this storyboard?
Yes. [Laughs] I guess during the process of Destination Unknown it was me moving to LA, it was for the first time. At [the age of] 21, I was simultaneously going through a very tough breakup with my girlfriend of five years. It kind of caught me off guard.
I, in a way, had to relearn how to be myself again, which is an experience that a lot of people can relate to. After a relationship [is over], you have that feeling like, "Geez! What do I do? What is next?" So, really who I was, was almost unknown.
I didn't know who I was outside of that relationship, and outside my hometown. Also, I did not know who I was out of those identities that everyone prescribed to me. This project and the video sort of documented me enjoying the process of unraveling all of these traumas, things that I did, maybe even negative behaviors that I allowed myself to fall into.
I had to kind of make peace with them. I just had to learn to enjoy the journey. I did not know where I was going. However, I knew it felt right. So, that is Destination Unknown.
Visually what can your fans look forward to with this project?
Well, I dropped the "Destination Unknown" video. The visual, like you said, is a little majestic. You see me hiking and going through that [emotional] journey. What I wanted to highlight was the fact I think the journey is the most beautiful part. Even though, again, you do not necessarily know where you are going.
You are walking through [the process], not necessarily mindlessly, but through an unfamiliar place. I feel that is really where growth happens -- when you are stepping into the areas that are uncomfortable, and beyond your weakness. That was me. So, I decided to put the visual in the forest, because I felt like it was symbolic of who I am.
Okay, in what way?
Oh, I am a vegan. Also, I grew up in Ottawa, Canada, where we have a lot of greenery. It just reminded me of home. I had one foot in chaos, which is the unknown, and one in order, which is that familiarity of home. So, I wanted to capture that visually and bring people on that journey with me.
Your debut LP, The Amber Room, boasts your California breakthrough visual, "Little More." Given that you're Canadian, how has your time in LA propelled your career?
It is insane. LA is a magical place. I am grateful to be able to live there because music has taken me there. In LA, you have this proximity to so much talent. There are so many opportunities that I did not have before in Canada. Also, with being the underdog, there are a lot of times that people overlook you.
Being in LA gave me thicker skin. It made me believe in myself even more. So, I found that walking into new rooms I have a confidence I did not have before. This was rooted, and not in how other people perceived me, but in who I am. That feeling is me now being okay and walking in and capitalizing on every opportunity.
Apart from being a singer, songwriter, and producer for your music, you have penned for Kehlani, H.E.R, Justine Skye, and producers such as The Underdogs. How did your time behind the scenes best prepare you to run your independent label STXRY Sound?
Well, when I write music, I find my music is [contingent upon my] stream of consciousness. When I am writing for others, it kind of taught me how to narrow my focus on particular topics. That was helpful when I am working with other artists that I am developing. [This is how I] convey their vision and their artistic merits to put it into a way that represents them. So, I think, for me, learning how to tell other people's stories, was really the key to be able to help start developing the talent in my city, and build my company, STXRY Tellers.
In addition, you've worked closely with EXO. They're best known as a K-Pop sensation. What was your studio experience like together? Some fans might consider that the opposite of your sound.
Well, actually, funny enough, I don't think it is the polar opposite. [Laughs] They actually pull a lot of their inspiration from American music. In a sense, I think they are even more in touch with the roots of where R&B started, [in comparison to] where we are here in North America. They love the vocal arrangements, the harmonies, the runs, all the cool stuff that you got from traditional R&B.
So, being in the studio with them was fun. I got to play with all the amazing things that I fell in love with R&B for. Here it is a little more cutting-edge. We want to do something a little different. It felt nice to go back to the roots when I am in Korea and tap into that early energy.
Will your fans hear you rap more in the future?
Yes, I am really happy you asked that. Rapping is how I got into music. I would argue that it is the most natural process for me. Even more than singing. For whatever reason, what lead me to Destination Unknown is that I felt I was putting myself in boxes almost. Like, I am a singer, other people see me as a singer, so I have to be that.
I think what I realized throughout the process of making this project was, you know, I do not need any boxes to define who I am. So, in the future, I think you are going to see me do a lot more things, and not just rapping. Also, there will be more producing [records], and more everything. Still, rapping is definitely going to be one of those things that you see more of.
Your virally praised single, "The Loudest Silence" helped establish your footing and has a sentimental sample. Can you detail your inspiration behind it?
I was a big fan, at the time, of [the sitcom,] How I Met Your Mother. I remember that day I just finished the entire series. I binged watched the whole show. The second I heard that scene, and it was one of the final scenes of the show, I knew, instantly [that I wanted to sample it]. The scene connected with me in a way that I thought, "I need to use this."
At the time, I was going through something with my then-girlfriend, but I wasn't thinking about the audience. I was thinking about trying to get this off my chest. I did not expect the reaction the sample was going to receive. So, seeing the way people reacted to that song was totally surprising.
In a sense, it made me realize the most authentic music I am going to make is probably going to be what connects the most to listeners. That is exciting as an artist. There are so many times people tell us, "You have to sound like this or make a song like this for radio and the club." However, to see a song that is that sentimental and personal connect is nice as an artist.
Throughout the independent circuit, you've established several facets in a short period. What are you building towards ultimately?
Ultimately, I want to be able to give back to the world. I think there are many talents that God has blessed me with. I am going to be able to use [those] to put out this message that I want. Yeah, ultimately, I want to be known as a great human.
I want to be known as a great guy who lived a good life and gave back to people. I think a lot of times people get caught up in the glory. It is great. I love being recognized for my craft, but I think I mostly want to make a difference in people's lives. That is the ultimate goal for me! The more people I can help, the better.