A songwriter based out of York, Elanor Moss caught my ear at the end of last month when she released the sublime single, Soundings. The track, which also drew attention from the likes of Guy Garvey and Gideon Coe, was the first taste of Elanor’s debut EP, Citrus, which Elanor self-released earlier this month. Discussing the inspiration behind Citrus, Elanor has suggested it is a record, “that addresses the tension that arises within yourself when you need to muster the courage to will yourself well again“, a five-song musing on knowing what’s bad for you and throwing yourself head-first into it anyway.
Citrus opens with the fabulous recent single, Sober, a song about the difficulty in kicking the habit of a toxic relationship, the track begins with the gentle warmth of an acoustic guitar contrasted in the unashamed longing of Elanor’s words, “I’m sober and I don’t want to be, ’cause I want to drink until I’m too drunk to think, stay up too late ’til I’m too tired to sleep, ’cause I know you’re somewhere not thinking of me, I know you’re somewhere not thinking of me”. It’s a song like a fine Whisky, coating your ears with rich complexity, even as it sends you spiralling into nostalgic bad habits. From there EP slides into the luxurious Marissa Nadler-like tones of Lunar, the reflective morning after to Sober’s night before. Particularly brilliant is the title track, the hypnotic guitar patterns, nodding to Iron & Wine and Bert Jansch in equal measure, is the perfect accompaniment to Elanor’s vocal, which has a touch of Martha Wainwright, as she somehow keeps her poise throughout a tale of abusive behaviour, “his breath was like a heart attack the whisky stung me like a slap, his hands found my form, divine, holy storm”. While it would be easy to see Citrus as a record of the darkness, there’s a greater nuance to Elanor’s stories of past woes, as she explains, “this is not a hopeless record, not at all. They’re reflections from the other side, and recorded from a place of empathy, strength and kindness towards a bruised past self“. Maybe we can all take something from that, to accept the past without letting it define the future, a future which for Elanor Moss looks very bright indeed.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Elanor Moss?
I, Elanor Moss, am a songwriter from York, UK who writes confessional vignettes about my life. I’m interested in the knife-edge of light and dark in human nature and relationships and like to reflect on that in my writing. Sonically, I take a lot of influence from American bands and artists – my mom is from the States and I grew up in the UK, so I’ve always felt a real affinity with American artists. I play the guitar in a lot of open tunings; my Dad used to leave the family guitar in open D around the house, so when I picked it up it was always in that tuning. Open tunings feel really natural to me because of that. Other than music, I like breakfast food and cats, and if I had it my way I’d live in a little cottage and eat breakfast foods all the time.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
Uhhh… I think it was really terrible. I can’t remember it that well because I was drinking wine out of a plastic bottle backstage to fight the nerves! This must’ve been about five years ago now. I only had about three original songs and I was shaking like a leaf. But, y’know, it’s how you learn! I’m grateful people were willing to take a chance on me to help me get more experience and grow in confidence.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I’ve always been a storyteller; when I was a kid I loved painting and drawing, and I’ve loved to sing my whole life. I used to write whole-ass short stories as a kid, too, and get my Dad to edit them. For me, though, songwriting, and putting chords together, and creating sounds feels impulsive. Personally, as a storyteller, songwriting is the easiest channel to the “other side”: it’s the easiest way to lift the veil and connect with something bigger than myself. As far as I understand it, every art form offers a way to connect with the commonality of human experience, and in that common experience I think we experience something larger than all of us together, too. If dancing, or painting, or sculpting came to me as naturally as singing and composing and writing did, then I’d do that! But it doesn’t. The combination of writing and music composition together creates something that both forms can’t achieve in isolation of one another. For me, it’s the most effective storytelling tool.
FTR: What can people expect from the Elanor Moss live show?
At the moment, they can expect just me and a guitar, my songs, and some stories from my life that I hope speak to something we have all experienced. Between songs I talk a lot of rubbish and crack a lot of bad jokes. It’s still really early days for me, and in the future I’m looking forward to workshopping a bigger live set-up with some band members.
FTR: What’s next for Elanor Moss?
Well, I’m incredibly lucky to be heading back to New York to finish a record that I started with my friend (and musical genius) Oli Deakin. They’re some of my favourite songs I’ve ever written, and it follows a year of intense writing and collaboration. After that, I’m headed out on a tour of the UK and Europe with Christian Lee Hutson. He’s a brilliant songwriter and I can’t wait to cry at every show.
They Listen To…
Big Thief – Mary
The thing that really gets to me about this song, and most of Adrianne’s songs, is that all that cosmic wonder and wondering is punctuated with these moments of grounded human-ness. The chorus poses one of the ultimate human questions – “will you love me?” We’re all asking that of people in different ways, and Lenker’s songs get that. She does a similar thing in the song Rock and Sing, the refrain ends with “cry with me, cry with me.” As songwriters I think that’s ultimately what we’re all doing – inviting people into an experience and feeling.
Andrew Sarlo’s production on their records was a big inspiration on the Citrus EP, too. Lots of detailed, creaky organic sounds in there.
Katy Kirby – Peppermint
Katy Kirby is my musical hero of 2021. Cool Dry Place was maybe my favourite album – the songs are like beautiful sonic fruit salads of intelligent, fun storytelling and lyricism with punchy hooks and playful, characterful instrumentation and production. Really really awesome. My other favourite from the album is “eyelids”: a little prayer of protection and yearning over someone she loves.
Christian Lee Hutson – Northsiders
I remember hearing this song for the first time – I was on a train from Leeds to York to see my partner at the time. I listened to it three times in a row and cried my eyes out. Christian and I are out on tour together during May in Europe and the UK! Come say hi.
Judee Sill – The Kiss
This is a song that I come back to time and time again. I think it’s a lyrical and musical masterpiece. Judee is a somewhat lost gem of the seventies – she never reached the heights of people like Joni Mitchell, but she was every bit as good. This song The Kiss demonstrates her ability to contextualise human impulses in a cosmic and transcendent scale, much like Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker, who I mentioned earlier. Judee lived quite a tragic life, and is worth looking up if you have a spare half hour!
Madi Diaz – Think Of Me
Madi dropped one of the hottest albums of the year last year. I listened to it repeatedly for weeks. This song completely stopped me dead from the first line and when that chorus hits it’s a jaw-to-the-floor moment. She communicates complex emotions with intelligence and wit, and it’s absolutely devastating. Other favourites on the album include Man in Me, Nervous, and opener Rage.
Rosie Carney – Awake Me
When I was studying at University, I used to play at open mics every week. From the moment Rosie released her song Better Man, I was hooked! I used to cover her songs at those nights. She has such a unique perspective and the gift of being able to communicate it so artfully in her songwriting. We’ve worked together since, which has been so lovely! She also made the iconic move to cover the entirety of The Bends by Radiohead, which was amazing. Rosie has new music on the way, so definitely check her out.
Citrus EP is out now. For more information on Elanor Moss visit https://www.elanormoss.com/.