Moses Sumney Creates Off-The-Grid Music

Moses Sumney Creates Off-The-Grid Music

Singer-songwriter Moses Sumney is a soulful standout and is only getting bigger in 2018.

Singer-songwriter Moses Sumney is a soulful standout and is only getting bigger in 2018.

Photography: Mat + Kat

Styling: Cece Liu

Text: Alexandra Ilyashov

This article appears in the pages of VMAN39, available on newsstands now. Order your copy now at

Singer-songwriter Moses Sumney crafts his soulful, wistful tracks in precisely the sort of environs his sound portends: as off-the-grid and remote as possible. “I’m most inspired by being in nature, [like] the mountains in North Carolina or Big Bear outside L.A.—those are the places where I wrote most of my album,” he says of his debut LP, Aromanticism, which dropped in September. “I like to live in a little cabin as often as possible, and just delve deep into solitude.” Raised in Southern California and Ghana, Sumney has been writing songs since age 12. He’s been in L.A. for the past seven years, first as a student at UCLA, then as an opening act for local band King. His solo career took off five years ago. “I put two songs on the Internet and buzz just started to build,” he recounts.

Of his signature sound, Moses says, “Emotional songs just resonate with me on a deeper level; they’re cathartic and satisfying. I’ve made some upbeat songs, but none of them made the record because the more melancholic stuff just resonated deeper. Experiencing the depth of human emotion is something I’m obsessed with.” Sumney culls inspiration from India.Arie, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, the Smashing Pumpkins, and Stevie Wonder, and while he can’t single out a specific mentor, Sumney’s work (and music industry know-how) evolves thanks to “being on tour with musicians I respect, like Sufjan Stevens and James Blake.” A track recorded with the latter could roll out eventually, Sumney hints: “There might be something in a vault somewhere, it could see daylight at some point. He’s phenomenal, really talented.” Sumney’s past collaborations have been equally impressive, including a song on Solange Knowles’s last album. “We met on Instagram: I just commented on her photo and she was like, ‘Hey, I like your music,’ and that was it—it’s really weird, a very modern story,” he says.

For the past nine months, Sumney has been nomadic, due to touring and a desire to leave L.A. “Now I don’t really live anywhere. I travel nonstop,” Sumney says. “I’m learning how to wear the same thing every day!”

Credits: Grooming: Lauren Citera, Set Design: Marilou Chabert, Location: Face Studios


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