Artists: Moriah Lawson
Back in October I took pictures for a band playing at an exceptionally eclectic Day of the Dead party downtown. The band featured a very talented mandolin player with an amazing voice that sounded like the lovechild of Alison Krauss and B.B. King. She was the sort of artist that I immediately knew I wanted to talk to about this series. So I was exceptionally excited when she agreed.
Moriah and I met at her boyfriend Chris' (better known as Nomad) farm out by New Carlisle, Ohio. It was a farm he had inherited from his grandmother and a location that was in perfect harmony with Moriah's story. As She showed me around and told me about her life and I got the sense that places like this farm were the mental equivalent of a studio for Moriah. A sort of creative solace where art isn't made, as much as it is pulled out of a long string of memories and emotions.
I arrived before Moriah and was greeted by several cats and a softspoken man with very impressive mutton chops, whom I later learned to be Moriah's boyfriend: an extraordinarily kind man with a passion for simplicity and a self-sustainability. He and Moriah having a shared goal of being able to live off of the land and be as off the grid as possible. I confess I was a little intimidated by the whole place at first: Nomad's way of life is one that I am not accustomed to. But as Moriah and I talked about her life, her music, and her goals: that intimidation was replaced by an incredible amount of respect and admiration for the both of them.
Nomad's farm is a beautiful sprawling piece of land. Moriah and I met there as the evening light was setting in, the whole place was magical. As she showed me around and told me about herself there was a certain sense in which it felt like we were visiting a memory. It was fitting.
Moriah grew up in Jacksonburg, which happens to be the smallest incorporated village in Ohio (with 52 citizens). Jacksonburg lands fairly squarely between Dayton and Cincinnati at the intersection of OH-744 and Jacksonburg road. Moriah was raised there amongst a family of musicians hailing from a variety of backgrounds, including Appalachia. Naturally She there developed a style rooted deeply in traditional folk music: a style that was later influenced and developed with the influence of artists like Alison Krauss, Patsy Kline, Billie Holiday and a plethora of other folk and blues influences.
Not unlike Billie Holiday, Moriah's influence is heavily informed by her experiences with sexual abuse. As I talked to her: her passion for using her music as a tool to communicate with and help people with similar experiences was clear:
"I see my music as a tool for a sort of larger ministry mission, it is one of the colors in my pallet of kindness. I want to help others and I'm not to concerned how much "official" recognition I receive for it because the real stuff is hearing that one of my songs touched someone's heart and maybe, just maybe, helped them open up to the tiniest moment of healing"
As can be heard in her song "Growth After Tribulation" Moriah was a victim of varying degrees of sexual abuse, including rape. Despite the difficulties of her past: she remains committed to not hiding it: but using it to help other people find a channel by which to tell their own stories.
This selflessness and openness carries through to the rest of Moriah's life. In the proceeding weeks since she and I talked I have already seen many ways that she has used her experiences to grow and to help those around her.
There was something amazingly unique about Moriah and the way she uses and views her craft, visiting Nomad's farm with her and seeing her talk about this organic process and growth that has come to her and others through her music was, to be honest, almost surreal. Her passion is so distinctly selfless and infused with an incredible amount of talent. It was a joy to be able to be even a small part of what she is doing in Dayton and beyond.
On the way to meet with Moriah my phone died which was, frankly, a little terrifying: because I was out in the middle of nowhere and I enjoy being tethered to the grid. Likewise I typically record these interviews on it. However, the lack of a phone made our talk all the more meaningful, as if I were stepping outside of time for a few hours. It also prevents me from giving you a word for word view of Moriah's story which I was initially rather bummed about: but I think its better that way. Moriah's art is so intertwined with her story and who she is I think it would do her an injustice to simply transcribe a conversation. Her music, her story, are ones that demand to be told up close and in person. They are not simply emotional expressions: they are scars that are beautiful and terrible; empowering, and inspiring. Scars are meant to be shared person to person and heart to heart, I encourage everyone to go out and share in a little part of Moriah's story. You can find her events on her website below and her music on itunes and spotify
Moriah Currently performs in Cincinnati and Dayton. Her works, tour dates and bio can be found on her website, spotify, itunes, and facebook. Performances and other videos can be found on her youtube channel. She plans to continue writing and creating music with the goal of helping victims of abuse, whether locally or otherwise. She can often be found creating at Nomad's farm north of Dayton.