Expat Willy Moon is making waves offshore with his unique music, writes Lydia Jenkin
Having saved to buy himself a one-way plane ticket for his 18th birthday five years ago, Willy Moon left his hometown of Wellington and moved to Britain.
Somehow, despite unemployment connected to a wayward excursion ("It was largely my fault. If you spend most of your time on the streets of Camden scoring heroin, you are naturally not going to be a very attractive prospect for a job," he told The Observer) he eventually found himself with a major label after signing with Universal Island Records.
The company obviously sees big potential in the young Kiwi's retro style and swingin' sound.
"I wanted to go to the big city and make something of myself," he says down the line from London.
"It's working out alright at the moment, I think. I made my music and amassed the details of everybody who I knew or knew of who worked in the music industry, and bombarded everybody with my music all the time. Going to record labels and waiting outside and talking to people and giving them demos and things like that.
"It was all about just trying to hustle really. I always thought that that was the only real way to get anything done."
Having travelled the world with his older sister and schoolteacher parents from a young age, a sense of individuality kicked in early, and when his mother passed away and his father had to move overseas for work, a 12-year-old Moon and his sister were independent enough to care for themselves.
That independence and tenacity has stuck with Moon all the way to the success he's now finding. Radio play and support in Britain for his three singles so far (I Wanna Be Your Man, She Loves Me and Yeah, Yeah) has been robust, and the YouTube views for his stylish videos (which are made by his fellow expatriate girlfriend Sasha Rainbow) are clocking up rapidly.
Moon and his all-female backing band have been clocking up miles on the road around Europe and Britain.
But despite his musical career moving up the gears, Moon, who produces his own work, still prefers to work with a simple set-up in his own flat.
"I like having my girlfriend around. I like being in control of my environment, feeling autonomous. Obviously I go out and do things like working with a mix engineer - but in terms of the purely creative part of it, I like being at home.
"[And it's straightforward because] I use ProTools on my laptop, and I have a guitar which I've had since I was 8 years old. I bought it at a car-boot sale in the Overseas Passenger Terminal on Wellington's waterfront."
And it was his early guitar teachers who instilled a fascination with an eclectic range of music - particularly jazz.
"I don't really remember listening to much music around the house with my parents, but I had a couple of wicked guitar teachers who taught me a lot. I learned Django Reinhardt, Thelonius Monk, and many other things besides.
"But it was never rock 'n' roll music, that wasn't something I really heard until I was about 19 actually."
Which may be some explanation as to why Moon's approach is so fresh. His blend of rock 'n' roll, blues, funk, jazz, and hip-hop is raw and bombastic, and his use of samples such as a Bo Diddley beat or some classic Wu-Tang Clan are ingenious.
"I guess I'm just going for different things and have different reference points. When I'm making a track the sounds I want to hear are very harsh, but also have of warmth as well. For me it's a discovery, I like to use whatever sounds I can find that do the job, it doesn't really matter, or I'm not too worried about what it is or where it comes from as long as it works. It is a collage of scraped-together things that I love, and I try and form a picture, but with all the things that I find special."
Moon's back-to-the-future approach extends to his dress style and dance moves which have a dapper, yet modern flair to them.
Well on his way to releasing his debut album, Moon is also very keen on keeping things refreshingly snappy - his singles so far have all hovered around the two-minute mark, and his live shows are often only half an hour or so in length. "I don't have a problem with brevity, I quite like it. Everybody's got a lot to do, why hang around? It's that simple. Maybe I've got a short attention span, but I think a lot of people of my generation do."
Who: Ex-Wellingtonian London-based musician Willy Moon
Singles: I Wanna Be Your Man and Yeah, Yeah
Check out the video clip for Yeah, Yeah here: