Some singers dream of pursuing a career in the big city – Indra did the opposite.
Despite growing up in New York City, being the daughter of a successful jazz musician and being highly trained in voice – Indra Rios-Moore never considered pursuing a singing career.
Singing was a hobby … until she moved away from New York to a much smaller city.
In 2006, she followed her heart – in the form of a handsome saxophone player – to a country half way around the world (we’ll reveal the name of the country at the end of the article).
Indra started a new life and unexpectedly found herself in an environment that fostered her career in a way that NYC couldn’t do. During her six years overseas, her fans grew, she was nominated for the country’s best vocal jazz album of the year, and ultimately strengthened her identity as a vocalist.
Indra is now touring Europe and has a record deal with Universal International. VoiceCouncil caught up with her in the town that helped her spread her musical wings. We asked what made that city so great for her career.
5 Ways a Small Town Can Work for YOU
1. Away From Competition
There is not a whole lot of competition here. I was doing some singing work in New York, but I didn’t think I had a chance there. It is always a little intimidating. People are nice to each other, but there is always this conversation: ‘What gig did you play last night? Oh. You played there. Who called you for that?’ I hate the constant comparing. I hate it, hate it, hate it. Some people use that competitive energy to help them move forward, but I just respond by moving backward, or running away, so it was not for me.
2. A Supportive Place
There was a lot of support from the musical community. This is a place where the local people support each other. That constant competition in New York doesn’t exist here. People compete with each other more quietly – it’s more subterranean. I’m oblivious to subterranean!
3. Foreigner Detachment
If I get too hung up on things, I get too involved and my brain starts to work in ways that I don’t like. As someone who is separate from the culture, I’m protected from all the psychological s**t. I didn’t have to worry about mind games – they didn’t affect me like they would in the States.
4 .Standing Out
There must be an advantage being a black singer singing in a pretty black genre. I was a black woman, singing jazz [in a city with a low proportion of ethnic minorities.] I don’t sweat it. I guess this is just the way the universe planned it all out.
5. Arts-supportive Government
It was a more arts-supportive country than the US without a doubt. We would not exist as a band without government grants. Period. The grants we received from this country let us make two albums. Without those calling cards, you can’t do anything. In the US, it is fight, fight, fight, struggle, struggle, struggle. The amount of money we spent on those first two albums would be something you would have to save over a long period of time, which lengthens your career.
Someone on the Inside
My husband (the aforementioned sax player and the one who put the band together) was a part of the culture and knew how things worked in his country. He applied for grants and understood the inner workings of politics in music. He is incredibly good at being strategic. He is the one to ask about how we got here!
Time to Reach Out to a Bigger Audience
After our second album, we decided that if we wanted to take this to another level, we would have to collaborate with someone who could bring our music to a broader public.
Larry Klein (producer for Joni Mitchel, Tracy Chapman, Herbie Hancock) had romanced me through the records I listened to growing up – like Turbulent Indigo. I love that album.
I emailed Larry, and a month later he wrote back saying he was interested in producing our next album.
The Right Partner
We needed to work with someone who appreciated what we had and could amplify it.
In the music business, it is a competition of attention. Our band is quiet – the kind of music you listen to with a glass of wine. We can’t compete with something that looks really flashy.
Larry Klein recognized that our music had a certain “sparcity,” which was a signature part of what we do. We didn’t want to mess with that – neither did he.
We moved to L.A. to work on the album, lived there for a year and got our record deal. We now live in Vermont.
City Name Revealed
The far-away land where Indra grew her singing hobby into a career was none other than Aarhus, Denmark. It is a seaside town in Northern Europe with a population of about 320,000.
VoiceCouncil wishes to thank the Gammel Egå Jazzklub for facilitating this interview.
Indra Rios-Moore grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, but moved to Denmark in 2006 to be with Danish Saxophone player, Benjamin Traerup. After winning Best Vocal Jazz album at the Danish Music Awards in 2012, they moved to LA to complete their third album, “Heartland.” They recently signed a record deal with Universal International and completed a European tour. See her Website.