Mexican-American Christian recording artist MŌRIAH (Smallbone) is set to release a new EP and visual album on Dec. 3, titled Live from the Quarry. Passionate about expanding women's roles and creativity behind the scenes, MŌRIAH not only wrote andproduced the entire record, she also produced and choreographed the accompanying visual album(recorded live at Graystone Quarry in Nashville, TN) and hired women of diverse cultural backgrounds towork alongside her on the project.
We are honored to be able to catch up with MORIAH for this exclusive interview.
Q: MORIAH, thanks for doing this interview with us. Congratulations on the upcoming release of your new live EP. Is this your first live record? Where and when was the EP recorded?
Yes, this is my first LIVE EP, I actually didn't realize that until you asked the question, so thanks! Since it was all so new to me, I was a bit nervous. I love to sing but tend to get a bit nervous on stages with big lights--it can be scary! So I was really vulnerable with my team and started explaining environments that are so settling to me. Mostly outdoor spaces where there's water. I suppose that's the California girl in me. We recorded at Graystone Quarry right here in Tennessee and I felt right at home the whole day.
Q: What do you enjoy most about making a live album?
Probably being surrounded by my friends. I've been living in Nashville for long enough to have built a really strong creative community. So it's rare that I'm working with strangers. Our vocalists were led by one of my closest friends, Bethany Cruz. And our music director, Todd Locke, is actually my neighbor. Our producer Andrea Royer grew up in my same hometown in Southern California and our director Ben Smallbone is my brother-in-law. After being on lockdown, it felt like a small reunion of some of my favorite people.
Q: I notice that your husband Joel Smallbone also contributed the vocals on one of the songs. Do you guys write together often? What is it like writing and recording with your own husband?
He's an angel. Truly. I'm a fan. Not just of his music but his character. We did an instagram live this week where I thanked him for featuring on "Worth" and surprisingly got a bit emotional because I'm just so grateful to call him my best friend and closest collaborator. We've written together in the past, in fact, that's how we got to know one another, by writing a song. But he really encouraged me to write and produce on my own for this project. Sometimes, I borrow his belief in me to accomplish things I'm not sure I'm capable of.
Q: I believe you also produced the record. It's not very common for women to be sitting in the producer's chair. Talk about your experience in producing this EP.
Historically, the production world has been a male dominated space but that's really changing as advancements in DAW systems allow for all artists to have more autonomy over their sound. You cannot be what you cannot see. When I watched friends like Julie Odnorlaov, Carrie Karpinen and Tori Kelly craft their own demos, I started to run out of reasons why I couldn't do the same.
Q: Do you see yourself producing for other artists in the future?
A resounding "yes." I've already agreed to produce for an artist I'm a huge fan of out of the UK called Paul The Messenger. I would happily serve someone else's vision but more importantly, encourage them to produce just like some of my favorite producers have done for me. Like Matt Hales (Aqualung) who called me a producer before I even created my first demo. That's some powerful manifestation.
Q: One of the EP's highlights is the single "Worth." What's the story behind this song?
It's hard to tell the full backstory of what initially sparked this song idea. It still feels too sacred to speak aloud. Maybe one day, I'll get here. For now, I can tell you that I wrote and produced 4-5 different versions of the song before we landed on the one we've released. I played the first version for my husband in a Kroger parking lot and he got a bit teary. From then on, he spoke into the shaping of this song more than any of the others because he felt so connected to it. I like how the lyric stays in the tension of desperation. That feeling of so deeply wanting to be validated by something bigger than any individual person. No matter how confidently I come across, I still wonder deep down if I've earned the space I take on this planet. Sitting in the calm and gentleness of this song and its lyrics reminds me that nothing I do or don't do can devalue this life I've been given.
Q: How do you hope these new songs will speak to the lives and faith of your listeners?
I hope people feel known, seen and loved when they listen to these songs. Maybe the questions I've asked and the frustrations I've confessed in these lyrics will help a listener heal through their own pain. I believe we all have God given healing abilities when we share our stories with others.
Q: With only 4 songs on the EP, does this mean that you have more music coming out after the EP?
Yes. Yes. Yes. So much more to come. It's been so life giving sharing this project with beautiful friends and family both at home and online. I've never been more convinced of the importance of serving people with honest, thought provoking, heart reaching sounds and words. It's how Jesus lived, created and gave. I hope to do the same.