Every once in a while you hear a new record by an artist that you’ve not heard before and it just sends shivers down your spine. Indra Rios-Moore is the newest addition to this select group.
Indra, named by her mother after the Hindu warrior deity of the sky and the rain, was born to a Puerto Rican social worker, Elizabeth, and an African-American-Syrian jazz bassist, Donald Moore (his credits include, the New York Contemporary Five, Archie Shepp, Elvin Jones, Sonny Rollins, and Jackie McLean). Growing up in a tough neighborhood, Indra spent her formative years in an imaginary world with her mother’s extensive record collection of jazz, soul, and rock music for company.
13 year old Indra won a scholarship at Mannes College of Music where she developed her soprano voice and during the same year she attended the Village Harmony, summer camp in Northern Vermont. Her teenage years were spent in a musical parallel existence; one full of classical arias and vocalization practice and the other filled with traditional American folks tunes and old Balkan folk songs in the woods of Vermont.
While working as a waitress in a Brooklyn wine bar, she met Benjamin Traerup, a Danish jazz saxophonist; three weeks later they were living together and one year after that they were married and living in Denmark. Indra, her husband and his friend, bassist, Thomas Sejthen formed a trio in 2007 that soon built a strong following in Denmark and Scandinavia.
No sooner had Indra won the Danish Music Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2012 for ‘In Between’ her second album than her thoughts turned to making a follow up. Among her favorite recordings Indra counted Joni Mitchell’s 1994 album, Turbulent Indigo and so she thought she would reach out to its producer, Larry Klein, to see if he could create a similar kind of magic in the studio for her next project.
“We invested every penny we had, and more, to make this record, and given that neither Benjamin nor I are irresponsible people it came as a shock to both ourselves and people that know us well.”
The result is Heartland (released 13 April) and it is unique collection of songs, songs that represent Indra’s eclectic musical background including, jazz, folk, rock and classical music. But at its heart are songs that have their inspiration in her Mother’s record collection and events throughout her life. They run the gamut from Duke Ellington to Doc Watson and from Billie Holiday to David Bowie with a Spanish love song, a Yoruban song to the deity Oshun, with parts of a requiem thrown in for good measure.
According to Indra, “ ‘Hacia Donde’ is definitely my Mother’s influence as it was written by the Mexican singer Marta Valdes. Doc Watson’s ‘Your Long Journey’ and ‘Blue Railroad Train’ date from my time with Village Harmony as a teenager. We were all influenced by Alan Lomax and the other collectors of folk songs so that is also when ‘Little Black Train’ came into my life. My favorite song on the album is ‘From Silence’ and it was written by Thomas Bartlett who recorded it as Doveman. Thomas and I have known each other since we were teenagers and so to do this song was just such a natural choice for me.”
Heartland is a remarkable album, and making it has been the ultimate ‘labour of love’. Indra and Benjamin’s love for one another is there to be heard in every note they sing and play, but it was a struggle too; if they had made different decisions along the way it could have meant a very different outcome. “So many people have supported us, allowed us to stand on their backs and that is what has allowed us to get to where we are today.”
Indra sums it all up in a simple, yet elegant way, “If you walk towards your bliss it conspires with you, because what we are doing is in the service of joy.”
Simple and elegant… it’s Heartland.
Listen to ‘Little Black Train’ on Spotify