Meet Mo Etc., the Soulful Artist Bringing Her Sound to Wellington [Q&A]

Moana, better known as Mo Etc., takes the idea of a triple-threat to the next level. The Wellington-based musician has mastered the art of separation, working on her music as Mo Etc. while bustling through contracts, meetings, filming, writing and a whole lot of caretaking.

A lovely persona by nature, Moana's first-hand experience came from a young age. Growing up in a Samoan and Maori family, Moana was exposed to music through her Church choir, which then sparked her interest to pursue this creative avenue. Though not formally trained, Mo Etc. absorbed all technicalities and nuances like a sponge, from harmonies to finding notes and to now writing and producing her own music and videos. She's a force not to take lightly.

Her recent album Oceanbed is a sonic journey of love, loss, and self-discovery, parading flawless arrangements that will leave you in a state of soul-searching.

Taking us into her own world, we spoke with Mo Etc. to get an inside look into who she is and what she's all about. Diving deep into her musical and creative background, as well as her soul-rooted sound, Mo Etc. represents a character heavily defined by a DIY ethos and expressions of curiosity.

Ones To Watch: Tell us about yourself!

Mo Etc.: I'm Mo, Mo Etc., Moana, and I'm a multi-disciplinary act from Wellington. I've trained in theatre and as an actor at the New Zealand Drama School and have been working as an actor, director, writer, performer really. Pretty much even whatever show I'm on, if it has a dance piece in it - then I'm a dancer too, hey?

You've got a lot under your belt. How'd you get into music?

Music and songwriting has always also been sort of a through-line as well. Even though I'm not formally trained, what pulls me in is the storytelling, the writing, and the music. That's pretty much what keeps me interested in music and keeps it totally relevant to what I do outside of music too. But just recently I realised that it's okay for those things to be separate. You know - keep the day job, the day job.

You've spoken about the Rock Quest competition you competed in. Tell me more about that.

Rock Quest is kind of like the national high school music competition in New Zealand, where you'd submit, then go to regional, and then eventually to national. When I was in my last year of high school, I entered, went to nationals, and came third overall! Having that under my belt kind of gave me confidence, because it showed me that I had potential, and it was something that I wanted to do in the future and keep coming back to if I ever had the time, the energy, or the opportunity to.

What influenced you throughout your journey?

Growing up in Wellington with a strong Samoan side is what heavily influenced me. I was brought up with my Samoan dad here in Wellington and my mum is Maori, so we were super strong, musically. On my Samoan side, we went to church, so it was built into me through choir singing. It was pretty much just being in that environment, where you just had to jump into the deep end and just learn by ear. By copying what everyone else was doing, it showed me the basics of how to sing a melody or a harmony, or even how to find a harmony. I really learnt all the basics through there.

How would you describe your music?

I produce a lot of beats that are sort of soul-electronica, but its soul hyphenated anything, meaning it could be neo-soul, soul-acoustic, soul-indie, pretty much everything. But the basic root of it is soul music. I don't know, I mean I would describe my music as 'creating a vibe that people want to be in.' You know? It's cosy, comfy, and enough to make it feel like its special.

Sort of like breaking that fourth wall.

Yeah! It's so special, and I've had so many of those moments. So, for me that's something that I keep in mind when I'm creating a live show. I want people to feel like they can't believe what they're seeing and that I'm here with her.

Out of your whole discography, which song represents you the most? Or what song would you recommend to someone who doesn't know Mo Etc.?

There's a song called "Stay Awake," which is acoustic-soul, and I would say this one is kind of it. It's like love songs that have a bit of a question mark - like ''I Love You?" It was like helping me figure it out what love is. Like it doesn't feel conventional, it doesn't look like what it is in the movies, it's just a little bit different.

Give us a little rundown of what your process is like behind the scenes.

The process is pretty much bore yourself ha-ha. I just get bored or purposely get bored. It was a lot of meditation, getting deep quickly, self-restriction and even getting quiet. Of course, through that creativity will thrive and it's like practicing good self-talk, which hasn't always been natural to me or society wise. We grew up in a time where it was cool to take the piss out of yourself most of the time, and eventually you started to believe it.

What has challenged you recently within your music?

Especially this past year, really being kind to myself and super pedantic, and no self-bad talk ha-ha.

Who has influenced you in your music career?

Oh heaps! Heaps, heaps, heaps! Where do I begin? So, I grew up on Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu, you know those real mothers of neo-soul. Amy Winehouse also came along and blew my mind with her storytelling, and she was a huge influence for me. I also like multi-disciplined artist like Childish Gambino, like how he shapes his career.

What are you up to right now musically?

Well, Mo Etc. and the album I made called Oceanbed, I did that by myself on GarageBand at home. Now I'm looking to re-release it as a deluxe studio version. You know making it properly ha-ha. So, that's pretty much what I'm up to musically now.

Everything from here on is only up!

Yeah, I know! I can feel it!

Anything else you want to say to your audience?

A warm welcome into my world of Kiwi, Wellington, Newtown. I hope to see you soon or as soon as possible. I hope that we can meet and have a genuine see you later ha-ha!

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