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Moriah Formica: Moriah’s on Fire

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 14 – New York-inspired (Dec. 2020)

You may remember Moriah Formica as the big-voiced chanteuse who turned all four chairs on Season 13 of The Voice with her spirited rendition of Heart’s “Crazy on You,” but the now eighteen-year-old singer, songwriter, and guitarist proves she is so much more than just an alumnus from a talent competition. An old soul who is wise beyond her years, Formica possesses an absolutely incredible, awe-inducing voice that only comes once every few decades. With millions of hits on social media (her recent post covering a Van Halen song has already received over one million views), and some of the biggest names in music calling her the next big thing, Formica is positioning herself to be a major figure in the rock world. We caught up with Formica about her newly formed all-girl band and how she’s been dealing with the pandemic.

Your voice calls to mind some great powerhouse female rock vocalists like Ann Wilson and Pat Benatar. Besides listening to a lot of these iconic musicians growing up, how else would you say you’ve developed your vocal timbre?
Well, first off, thank you so much for even suggesting my voice brings to mind Ann Wilson and Pat Benatar. They are both the “standard” for female rockers and to be mentioned with them in any way is humbling. I guess the most important piece of developing my voice is the music school I’ve been going to since I was nine. It’s called Modern Day Music, and I’ve been taking voice lessons there forever. I still go and plan on going as long as I can. I’ve had the chance to work with three different vocal coaches there (Lesley O’Donnell, Katie Johnson, and now Nicole Minnelli). I’ve been able to incorporate several techniques from each one. Most importantly, they’ve taught me how to protect my voice and use my diaphragm.

You’re obviously a rocker at heart. Has anyone in your career ever tried to steer you in what they would call a more “pop” or “mainstream” direction?
Definitely. More so since I was on The Voice. I would have people in the industry try and steer me away from rock and metal. I understand where they were coming from, though. To try and write some mainstream hits and get your foot in the door, then you can kind of do anything you want after that. I actually did write a few with that in mind when I was fifteen to sixteen (“I Will,” “No Regrets,” and “Here’s My Heart”). I actually have written a lot of pop songs that people may never hear. However, I am incorporating some of those in my sound, and I think people will be surprised to hear some stuff I’m working on. I can guarantee everyone that every song I write and release will have real instruments and a definite rock edge.

You were on Team Miley on Season 13 of The Voice. How has being on the show changed the trajectory of your career?
The show had a huge impact. It got my name out there to millions. It allowed me opportunities to play shows across the country. It probably was instrumental in having me open for Joan Jett twice. So many opportunities came out of that. The thing is, with all of these shows today (and I was in Season 1 of American Idol last year for a minute), none of them are making stars anymore. It’s not like back when I was a young kid and Idol had Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, etc. That show was a new concept, and stars were made. There were no competing shows. Now, there are a million shows, and talent is watered down. So these shows are really only good for exposure for the contestants. That’s it. They’re only concerned about ratings, not making stars.

Lzzy Hale from Halestorm recently announced via an Instagram post that you were looking for some new bandmates. Have you put together your new lineup already? If so, can you tell us a little bit about your new members and where you recruited them from?
Lzzy has been amazing to me. I’m her biggest fan. I got to meet her first when I was fourteen after a show. I played in a music festival called Rock ‘N Derby, and they were headlining the same night I played. Anyway, she has been supportive of me in so many ways. Regarding the band, yes, we have a lineup. I am super excited about this next chapter. The lineup is Brooke C, a/k/a Rock Angel on drums, Ashley Suppa on bass, and Bella Perron on guitar. They are all amazing, beautiful, and badass women. I heard about Brooke a long time back from some members of my previous band, and I checked her out. I was floored. So my dad reached out to her dad last summer to see if there would be any interest in working together. We got together and jammed, and there was an immediate connection. I love her. She was also friends with Ash, and so eventually, we all got together and jammed, and it was awesome.

Brooke and I decided to do a cover of “Barracuda” in April because of the whole COVID thing and not being able to play live. That video went viral. I think there are over six million views across both of our social media platforms. That brought out lots of attention. I was signed by Surface Management (owners of Pavement Entertainment, a large indie rock label). Bella heard about the opportunity because of Lzzy’s post and reached out. She is an amazing guitarist and musician. She’s a freshman at Berklee. We’ve got some songs ready to go and are working on some cool things behind the scenes. We plan to launch around January.

You recorded a new single, “Champion,” in January. Is this going to be a part of a larger body of work, like an EP or album?
It’s just a single. The only EP I’ve done to date was my debut EP, Bring It On. That was a collection of songs I wrote from eleven to thirteen years old. After that, we decided that making an EP or album was too time-consuming and cost too much. I’m not really a “known” artist, so my fan base is smaller, and probably don’t want to wait six to twelve months to hear music. We didn’t want them to lose interest, so we decided to try and release a single every three to four months.

You often cover a lot of celebrated classic rock songs on your social media pages. Which one so far has been the most challenging to learn and perform?
That’s easy. “I’ll Never Let You Go” by Steelheart. That guy has an insane range and voice.

The pandemic has threatened a lot of people’s livelihoods, particularly creatives. How have you adapted to this drastic change, and what have you learned during this time of uncertainty?
Yeah, it’s been crazy. I don’t think anyone thought we’d be shut down this long. I didn’t. I was supposed to go on tour in the spring with Michael Sweet (Stryper) and Tony Harnell (TNT), but that was obviously canceled. To be honest, though, this whole time has been a blessing for me. I had just decided to start over again and look for a new all-female band. So it allowed me to be patient and not lose live show opportunities like it would have if the pandemic never happened. More importantly, it gave me time to relax and really think about my future and what I want out of life. It gave me time to slow down and connect with my fans on a deeper level than I’ve ever had. I had the idea months ago to post about doing covers for people for a small fee to try and make some money to help offset losing so much. The outpouring was amazing. The videos have gotten a lot of attention, and lots of opportunities have come my way (behind the scenes). The whole thing is horrible, and I grieve for those who have died and those who have lost loved ones. However, regarding my career, it’s been the most productive six months of my life. I’ve learned not to take anything for granted. My life. My freedom. My health. My career. I am going to continue to work every day and connect with fans every day and try and bring people some joy.

What do you think will become of live music after the pandemic? Do you think it will continue to include more virtual performances, or do you think that people will be so starved for an in-person experience at that point that they will come out in droves to music venues again?
Honestly, I have no idea. Things have been so unpredictable in the last six months in general. I would like to think people will come out in droves, but who knows how deep the fear of this whole thing will go? I’m prepared to bring my message and my music to any platform.

A lot of music fans over the years have lamented that “rock is dead.” As a musician who has been touted by Miley Cyrus as a “rock goddess” and Lzzy Hale as “the future of rock,” what do you have to say to those people?
First off, that statement pertains to America only. Rock and metal are still huge just about everywhere else. I think people say that because you don’t see rock and metal represented in the mainstream at all anymore. You don’t see it on award shows. You barely see it in Rolling Stone magazine or other large publications that were once rock-heavy. If you do, it’s always classic bands. So I understand what they mean. You can’t hear rock or metal on popular stations. You don’t see them on the award shows, and when you do, it’s always throwback acts. However, rock is definitely not dead in America. There are lots of fans. More importantly, there are tons of young fans yearning for this. I’ve seen it firsthand at shows I’ve played. I see young girls and boys who have never been exposed to rock before blown away. Almost like they’re looking at me or my band like, “What is happening right now?” Just the visual of real instruments being played and kick-ass music. I personally believe all it’s going to take is that one band for a major label to believe in and push like they do for major pop acts, and there will be a major rock explosion in our youth. That’s always been my mission, and hopefully, my new band will be that act.

Photo by Brian Michael Baldwin

Photos provided by the artist with permission to use

Alexx Calise

Alexx Calise is an accomplished singer, guitarist, and songwriter. Perhaps best known for her hit song, “Cry,” which became a staple on the show “Dance Moms” and boasts millions of hits on YouTube, Calise’s raw emotion, heart-and soul-lyrics, and unmistakable vibrato have impacted thousands of young girls all over the world. Calise is currently working on new solo material and songs for licensing, and she recently released a new EP with another music project, Batfarm. In addition to her musical pursuits, she also works in public relations and marketing and owns her own party entertainment business. When not playing shows or writing music, she enjoys horror movies, exercising, or taking a well-deserved nap. alexxcalise.net

Alexx Calisehttps://alexxcalise.net
Alexx Calise is an accomplished singer, guitarist, and songwriter. Perhaps best known for her hit song, “Cry,” which became a staple on the show “Dance Moms” and boasts millions of hits on YouTube, Calise’s raw emotion, heart-and soul-lyrics, and unmistakable vibrato have impacted thousands of young girls all over the world. Calise is currently working on new solo material and songs for licensing, and she recently released a new EP with another music project, Batfarm. In addition to her musical pursuits, she also works in public relations and marketing and owns her own party entertainment business. When not playing shows or writing music, she enjoys horror movies, exercising, or taking a well-deserved nap. alexxcalise.net
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