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Singer-songwriter, Karla Moheno, is releasing her first new material almost one exact calendar year after releasing her debut album Gone to Town. She’s generously decided to premiere her new single ‘Stand Back’ here on Pancakes & Whiskey. If you listen to her material you’ll quickly hear her love and foundation of traditional pop and vocal jazz of the 40s into modern sounding tunes. Karla was kind enough to meet up at the classy LES establishment Sons of Essex for a few drinks and talk music for a little bit. After a few Beefeater gimlets and comparing ideas on how us meeting up tonight must be like what meeting up on a Tinder date is like, we began talking about how ‘Stand Back’ compares and contrasts to anything she’s musically done in the past.
P&W: ‘Stand Back’ is coming out a year after Gone to Town came out. Is there a difference in the musical storytelling between this song and the songs that were on the album?
Karla: Yeah, I think it’s much more optimistic and positive of a song. When I write I usually get in these dark vibes and I’m trying to get out of it. There are still some fictional elements, but it was just a bit more personal and optimistic. I wanted to get out of that dark tunnel that is the theme I’m usually going with. This all started when a friend told me to try writing a song in just one key, kind of as an exercise. I was just playing A over and over again, and eventually just went to where I wanted it to go.
P&W: It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to pick up on the more melancholy theme of the album.
Karla: It’s a weird thing about the album. I didn’t know anyone was going to be hearing those songs (laughs). I wrote them for myself, and my friend who’s a producer said I needed to record them just for fun. We kept doing a few more recordings until it became ‘well it looks like we’re doing an album’. A lot of them were from those experiences of going through a hard time and they became the outlet. This song was somewhat coming from the same place, but with less despair. It was written in the winter and it’s kind of about coming out of that metaphorical/literal winter. The chorus is a reminder that the darkness doesn’t last forever. You’ll be back on your game at some point!
P&W: Do you always go for the same songwriting styles?
Karla: No, sometimes I’ll surprise myself and write a country tune! There’s a country-esque song on the album. Sometimes it gets filtered out too for whatever mood I’m in. I just really enjoy playing that darker kind of song. I love jazz and those singers from the 40s. Those singers had those almost painful themes that were coming from the blues at its core. I think I add an element of cheekiness to somewhat make fun of it all.
P&W: Is that the kind of music you listened to a lot growing up?
Karla: I listened to a lot of oldies. My dad liked The Stones and my mom dug the girl groups.
P&W: There’s a really catchy, pop-like vibe to this song, was the goal for this song to have it be a bit more FM-friendly?
Karla: A little. If you go see a band at Rockwood, people want to hear more positive music that they can dance to. I was thinking maybe people are getting sick of me singing about darker subjects. I really wanted to challenge myself to see if I could writing something different and not be cheesy at the same time. To me when you play darker music and you’re in an ass-kicking mood it can be REALLY fun. It’s like an alter ego. It’s great to feel happy, but it’s great to hear something that makes you sad or uneasy, because that’s still feeling SOMETHING. It makes you feel alive.
P&W: Do you ever sit down and just not have a songwriting game plan, but just starting working with any kind of idea, just musically doodle and see what comes out? Karla: Yeah! Well I’m still so new to it that I don’t really have a process. Sometimes I’ll just be bored or drunk and I work on something. If I have an idea though I’ll record it on my phone and maybe a few days later when I’m in a songwriting scenario I’ll pull those recordings out and build off that idea.
Be sure to catch Karla on 11-18 at Rockwood Music Hall – Stage 2 at 9:15pm!
Article by: Tom Shackleford
Cover Photo: Shervin Lainez