RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW AMERICAN DUO GRACE AND MOJI
Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
What made you decide that music is a thing for you?
Martin (Moji): I’ve always been making music. Thanks to my dad and overall musical family, we had recording equipment in our home when I was a child, and I got interested in production at a very early age. So music is very deeply ingrained in my identity and how I navigate the world.
Grace: The interest was always there. I was always obsessed with the piano, sang in choirs, and I had a pretty isolating childhood in many ways and immersed myself in music. That was my world. I wanted to pursue it but lacked the confidence and had a lot of challenging things going on in my home life, so I went down a more practical and responsible path and worked in international development and the corporate world as an executive before coming back to music and creativity later in life.
Introduce us to all of the members and your musical history.
Martin: I grew up listening to a very broad range of musical styles, and because I was so into music production, I also experimented with all those different styles. I was listening to – and making – dance music, death metal, indie pop, electronic beats, and orchestral music all at the same time. That has now all morphed together into the person I am today and I think it has helped me understand different aspects of music making, especially how music is experienced on an emotional level. And that goes really well together with what Grace & Moji is all about.
Grace: While I played instruments and sang in choirs growing up, I don’t think I ever really identified as a “musician,” which is funny. I loved singing and ended up getting into a prestigious program at the Tanglewood Institute for classical voice in high school. It was both one of the highlights of my life and one of the more challenging experiences. I had never taken a voice lesson, and I was among world class singers who would go on to Julliard and other top schools. I wish I could have enjoyed the experience and focused on developing rather than feeling like a fraud and “less than” at the time. I gave up singing for 18 years after that–I wouldn’t even sing in the shower. It wasn’t a healthy mindset or approach.
I went to Columbia University and went down a completely different path in life, holding leadership roles in a number of industries, consulting for former heads of state, and working on Wall Street and as a corporate executive at a large conglomerate… I did all the things, and it wasn’t fulfilling, so I had to stop. I navigated through a long period of feeling lost before I recovered and reconnected to my true self, the person who loves to create and do good in the world. While I was in a nomadic period, I started to sing and eventually started writing songs and producing. I started releasing songs for my solo project Nolo Grace in 2021, and I’m excited to have this new project Grace & Moji with Martin too. It’s brought us closer together and helped us develop in so many ways.
I think music saved my life during childhood, and it gave me back life later in my life. That’s a bigger story for another time…
What was life like for you before music?
Martin: I was pretty much a little child. 🙂
Grace: Well….it was different. I used to wear a suit every day and traveled pretty much nonstop for work. I had some incredible experiences and opportunities that I’m grateful for, including working with world leaders, brilliant people in the corporate world, building and managing businesses, and working on meaningful projects in the area of democracy, transparency, and accountability. I lived in a world of problem-solving, analysis, managing organizations, and building products and structures. It’s been a shift for me to be creative and operate in the realm of fluidity and space, where there aren’t necessarily “right answers” and ways of doing things. I’m learning to trust my intuition more and hone my skills in a different way, and it’s exciting to tap into this new approach to looking at the world.
What was the first song you heard that steered you into a music path?
Martin: It’s hard to say exactly but I remember two musical experiences from around 12 years of age. One is Darude – Sandstorm (I know, I know, it’s a meme now) and the other being Boomfunk MCs – Freestyler. I remember they filled me with an excitement about music that I just couldn’t explain and it definitely kickstarted my love for trying to put that feeling into my own music.
Grace: I’m not sure, but I think my first CD was Aaliyah’s Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number, and then I got pretty obsessed with collecting and listening to music from there.
Where do you feel you currently sit within the music industry?
Martin: I have a pretty diverse career in music and entertainment. I’ve been lucky to work on some really cool projects like making albums for artists, huge global campaigns for movies, games and brands, and also scored projects in the gaming world. I never felt like I needed to put all my money in one corner and I’m grateful for having representation allowing for that. But of course, it’s a constant journey and I’m always growing. The main thing is to always follow what feels exciting and build on that.
Grace: I feel pretty separate from the music industry. I on the board of directors of the nonprofit Save the Music with other music industry executives, but as a creative, I’ve been pretty private in a way and haven’t engaged so much in the business side of music. Martin and I started an organization, a creator community called PARASOL, and we host mini-festivals based on art, music, mindfulness, and workshops that help creatives. One of the causes I care deeply about is mental health as well as mental health in the music industry.
What’s the biggest thing you have learned from someone else in the industry?
Martin: I’ve learned a lot about business from my manager but also from Grace! She’s taught me more than anyone to be honest, and I’m very grateful that we’re life partners!
Grace: I’ve learned a lot from Martin too. I resonate a lot with Rick Rubin’s philosophy on creativity, overcoming self-doubt, and succeeding through doing, without the accolades and numbers as a benchmark. Just as a general rule of life, relationships are everything. I’ve made my share of blunders in that regard, but building good relationships–non-transactional relationships that are not based on an agenda, but rather on shared values and trust–that is meaningful to life progression and overall happiness.
Tell us Two truths and a lie about you.
Martin: I’m from Sweden. I like Swedish food. Grace likes Swedish food.
Grace: I love eating. I love sleeping. I love drinking water.
If you could wish for one thing to aid your career what would it be?
Martin: I think growing our own music (rather than my career as a producer etc) would unlock a lot of interesting opportunities, so the one thing would maybe be to have one of our songs take off or for it to be in a movie or show.
Grace: It can be lonely to pursue a venture, whether it’s as a musician, consultant, entrepreneur, etc. I feel lucky to have Martin as a partner, but I’d love to have some more support and build out our team.
Do you ever worry about people taking things the wrong way or cancel culture? Discuss….
Martin: I think that’s something that is always present when you put yourself out there nowadays, but at the same time we’re not very politically oriented or feel that we need to make big statements all the time, and rather what we talk and write about is personal growth, how to exist in a relationship and overcoming those challenges, and that’s probably something that most people would unite on.
Grace: I don’t worry much about cancel culture, but I think it’s a pretty devastating phenomenon. I do care about how others feel and would never want to inadvertently offend someone.
Do you sign up for any conspiracy theories? If not, why not?
Martin: Apart from the pyramids being 100,000 years old and that humans were biologically engineered by aliens, no, not really.
Grace: Our government has a long history of lying to its citizens, so there’s good reason to be suspicious. I don’t subscribe to any conspiracy theories, but I try to apply critical thinking and a healthy sense of skepticism. Most situations are far more complicated than the way they’re portrayed by the media or any particular group or perspective.
What was the worst experience on stage?
Martin: Having mad computer glitches on a filmed set for Sofar Sound many years ago with a different band felt very stressful at the moment (it luckily worked on the one song that was published) and made me hate performing with computers. But being on stable and just playing can be a great experience.
Grace: I have so many… I used to black out regularly, like at a Carnegie Hall audition when I was in elementary school. Once I went to an open mic, and I was so nervous. I started singing, but it sounded so bad that I literally started crying. It was quite a scene. It’s all part of the process. Allowing yourself to be seen by others is one of the scariest things you can do.
Tell us something about each member that you think people would be surprised about.
Martin: Before I started my professional music journey I was a photographer and MySpace designer. I pretty much was the go-to guy for many metal bands in Sweden for designing and coding their MySpace layouts. Also I couldn’t burp for my entire life until I went through a medical procedure just a year ago, and now I can burp and it has changed my life.
Grace: I started making music in my late 30s, and I’m 41 now. I truly believe it’s never too late to follow and develop your passions.
What makes you stand out as a band/artist?
Martin: I think it’s a combination of not following trends and just being very authentic with our music. We’re not trying to act cool, we’re just having fun and let our personalities really shine through in the lyrics. All the songs come from an inspired place and we try to not force it. We also don’t do co-writes with songwriters so naturally it’ll be more left field and weird.
Grace: Our story, the epic production, the offbeat and honest lyrics, breaking the rules of song structure, and the unique meld of people we are.
I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it.
Martin: Yes! We have a new song coming out August 3rd called “Monster”! It’s more upbeat than our first release and is all about acknowledging our inner demons and kind of making a serious topic more fun and quirky. We all have a monster inside that comes out from time to time. We’re excited to share it!
Grace: It’s important to be able to laugh at your flaws and imperfections. It makes it bearable.
What was the recording process like?
Martin: We often write and record at the same time and it’s usually very fun. Musically, this song was born from a guitar riff voice note on my phone. We literally used the voice note as the main guitar track in the song which gives it a cool texture. Lyrically this song was inspired by some drunken rage where the monster came out…
Grace: Yep, I sometimes have a drinking problem. I’m working on it and have come a long way.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?
Martin: For me, it has been more of an “unlearning curve” where I had to let go of my professional songwriter mind that is so concerned about it being cool and it being this and not that. And instead of truly writing from the heart, let fun ideas become the song. And then use those songwriter and production skills acquired in my career to turn them into solid records.
Grace: Being open to serendipity, trusting Martin’s genius, and letting it all flow without over-controlling the process.
Would you change anything now it’s finished?
Martin: Nah, we’re excited to just be working on many more songs. Life is a never-ending well of inspiration if you allow yourself to express it. Time to let go of the old and bring on the new!
Grace: No. I can be very self-critical about my vocals, but I think the songs are amazing.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
Martin: We’re just getting starteeeed 😎😎😎👊👊👊 Honestly we have so much music that we can’t wait to share! This project has already transformed us as people and as a couple. We can’t wait to put it all out!
Grace: Just want to say thanks to everyone for checking out the music and being interested in the process. This whole musical journey for me has been about pushing past my limiting beliefs and self-doubt, and I hope it inspires others to do the same – to do the things they really want to do, to share more openly and vulnerably about who they are.