In good form: An interview with Alison Moyet

Long before there was Adele, there was Alison. Moyet, that is. A British singer in possession of powerful and expressive vocal abilities that could make Whitney and Mariah blend into the background. As one-half of the early 1980s British synth-pop duo Yaz (featuring Vince Clarke of Depeche Mode and Erasure), Moyet’s distinctive voice made songs such as “Don’t Go,” “Situation,” “Only You” and “Nobody’s Diary” indelible. A solo artist for longer than she was a member of Yaz, Moyet continued to record wonderful albums, some of which yielded modest stateside hit singles. Her marvelous new disc “Other” (Modest!) brings all of her performance elements together in one place. There are dance numbers, ballads and even a spoken-word track, all of which perfectly illustrate her versatility as singer and songwriter. I spoke with Alison during the summer of 2017.

Gregg Shapiro: Alison, you worked with Guy Sigsworth on your new album “Other,” as well as its predecessor “The Minutes.” What makes him a good collaborator from your perspective?

Alison Moyet: That he trusts in me as an artist. He trusts my sensibilities and likes what I do. Sometimes you can work with producers and it’s just a monetary thing for them. Or they think that what you’re looking for is the one big hit to catapult you into stardom. The thing that gets me with Guy is that we speak the same language. He knows I want to approach the process from an artistic point of view, so we make no concessions to the industry. We just make the record we want to make. I just trust him.

GS: In “I Germinate,” the opening track on “Other,” you sing that you “gestate” and “germinate.” Is that what you’ve been doing in the interim since 2013’s “The Minutes?”

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AM: My life has changed extraordinarily since “The Minutes.” I used to live in the country where I didn’t know anyone. I just moved to Brighton, to a city where I live in a terrace, I’ve got no off-street parking, I’m a part of the community, I go to college full-time. I suppose I have been gestating, there’s no two ways about that.

GS: The edgy and electric “Beautiful Gun” sounds like it would fit well on a Nine Inch Nails album.

AM: [Laughs]

GS: What can you tell me about that song?

AM: That’s one of the ones influenced by social media. I get very involved in Twitter. I enjoy my Twitter spats and sparring with people. One thing I’ve found quite interesting about a certain group of the Twitter population who seem to have no care for anyone else other than who they are. They’re completely without compassion for any other stars of life, and yet, you suggest they should be without their gun, and they’re apoplectic. It’s like you fitted their mother with a sharp nail. It’s just me being my usual sardonic self with that. I’m just being derisive. I’m pretty good at doing that [laughs].

GS: The gays are going to love the dance-oriented “Happy Giddy,” which also sounds like a good description of the song itself.

AM: Talking about the LGBTQ community, “The Rarest Birds” is actually about Brighton, which is like the gay hub of England. It’s a brilliant place to be. There’s so much diversity there. “The Rarest Birds” is about the joy of seeing the trans and gay communities being completely open with as much freedom to be who they want to be. It’s about coming to this town and seeing that growth and the togetherness. In terms of “Happy Giddy,” again it’s me being utterly sardonic. “Happy, giddy, yeah, yeah, yeah” [laughs]. It’s rare that you’ll find me doing anything that is just sheer unadulterated joy.

GS: Well, you bring joy. That’s what you do.

AM: I can find joy in darkness. This whole thing about me feeling “other,” and when you’re younger that feels like an uncomfortable place to be. I’m in this place in my life where I celebrate being other. I like the fact that I don’t fit in entirely with the mainstream. That suits me perfectly well.

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GS: The spoken word track “April 10th” really stands out on the disc as something that is out of the mainstream.

AM: This is, again, talking about me and Brighton and the way that my thinking is kind of stream of consciousness. It discusses how our days, even though we’re experiencing the same day, can have a completely different hue to it. My life is feeling bright on the same day that a girlfriend of mine loses her wife. It’s how we live under the same sky, but the light depends on which particular cloud is above us.

GS: The title track is a piano and vocal ballad towards the end of the album. Why did you choose to present the song in this arrangement, without the electronic flourishes of the other songs?

AM: Because it was written that way. I don’t change things unless they need to be changed. I like the bare, rawness of it. “Other” is a significant concept for me. That’s why it’s the title of the album. I also didn’t want to dismiss it, to tuck it away somewhere, which is why it’s firmly in the middle in its otherness. It makes sense when you’re making an album about otherness that you should have a song that is other.

GS: As someone who doesn’t perform in the States very often, Alison, what are you most looking forward to about your upcoming U.S. concert dates?

AM: What I like about playing in America is that I’ve never been a mainstream act. In England, for example, where I’ve been the biggest-selling female for a few years in my career, it’s a big job to pull people away from your commercial material into your more thoughtful stuff. Having always been on the fringe in America, that has never been a problem. Whilst my audiences have never been massive, they’ve been informed. What I love about playing in America is that my audience there is happy to be challenged. Consequently, I feel freer playing there in lots of ways than I do in Europe. Touring is my best thing and I’m so excited about this.

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