Moriah Formica is a 20-year-old singer, songwriter, guitarist from Albany, Upstate New York. Thanks to her father, Moriah grew up with 80’s rock and metal playing in the house and car, and with a healthy diet of copious amounts of ‘That Metal Show’, Moriah was always destined to play music. Enrolling in the Modern Day Music School at an early age, Moriah would go on to open for Michael Sweet of Stryper at age 14, and also appear as a guest vocalist on Sweet’s solo album ‘One Sided War’. At age 16 Moriah appeared on Season 13 of NBC’s The Voice and her amazing version of Heart’s ‘Crazy On You’ had all four judges spinning around in their chairs. It’s fair to say that life for Moriah would never be the same again after her involvement with The Voice, and another life-changing moment came more recently when Moriah opened for Halestorm and Joan Jett. Always wanting to be part of a band, Moriah is now part of Plush, alongside Brooke C, Ashley Suppa, and Bella Perron, debut single ‘Hate’ has just dropped and we spoke with Moriah about the single, as well as her incredible journey so far.
Although you are still only 20, you have been performing for many years, at what age did you actually start?
I was 10 years old when I performed in front of people for the first time. I was in 5th grade and we had a school concert. We did “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor and my brother told my music teacher that I could play guitar really well. She asked me if I’d be interested in playing guitar to this song while the rest of the class sang. I was mad at my brother at first but ultimately said yes. So I played in front of a hundred or so parents in an auditorium and knew immediately when I was done that this was supposed I was supposed to do. I remember feeling a big “high”.
What are your first memories of music?
My first music memories were when I was very little. My father used to play 80’s rock/metal around the house and in the car all of the time. We would also watch MTV Pop Up videos and That Metal Show. I just remember loving the music and the lead guitar players, in particular.
Personally, who has been the biggest influence on you becoming a musician? Would it be a family member? A teacher? A fellow musician?
So many people but I would have to say my father, Joe Perry and Steven Tyler. My father for constantly having that music playing and both of my parents for nurturing my interest and love. Aerosmith was my favorite band from the time I was 5. I would listen to their records constantly. I knew everything about them. My room was called “Aeroville” because it was covered with posters and pictures and banners.
Aeroville! Cool! How much of a help was enrolling in Modern Day Music School at an early age?
It may have saved my life. As a young kid (and still to this day) I’ve struggled with mental illness. It got really dark when I was young because I just didn’t know how to handle all of my thoughts and how I felt. I won’t get into all of that but will say being a part of Modern Day Music connected me with like-minded instructors and kids. It put me together with kids my age in a band and we played a few shows a year. It gave me a purpose to get up every morning but it also helped me develop all of my skills. I was playing shows often from the time I was 11 thanks mostly to MDM.
You also wrote your first song at age 11 I believe?!
Yes, “Lovestrong”. It’s on my debut 6 song EP “Bring It On”. I can’t even listen to it today haha.
How did you feel performing your first gig? And how was it?!
I was extremely nervous. Pretty much like I am to this day. One of the things music has done for me is to help me battle my fears. Every time I’m about to perform I get extremely nervous but once I hit the stage and start playing that all turns into passion and aggression.
At age 14 you opened for Michael Sweet of Stryper, which led to you playing on his ‘One Sided War’ album, how much of a learning experience was this? And what did you take from working with someone as respected as Michael?
First off, that was a turning point in my career. To that point, I was playing in band with Modern Day Music and also just going out and doing open mics. I got the amazing opportunity to open acoustically for him at a local venue called Chrome Food and Spirits. That’s a long story but I love the owner and my producer/owner of MDM for setting that up. I did my set and I just remember seeing Michael coming out of the dressing room to listen to my set every few minutes. He’s on record of saying he just couldn’t believe what he was hearing. It was extremely humbling to meet him because I grew up listening to Stryper (my dad having it playing) and had seen the videos haha. So I just remember he and his wife introducing themselves after the show and exchanging contact info. Next thing I knew they had reached out to ask if I would be a part of his album. I was floored. Working with him was amazing. He came to Modern Day Music to produce my vocal. He was amazing. I’ve had many opportunities to work with him over the years (including the co-write we did together “Time”). I spent a few days in a studio with him and some other great musicians and we came up with that song from scratch. I was 15 almost 16 at that point. I’ve also opened for Stryper a couple of times. Michael is the most talented person I’ve ever been around. He can literally write a song in a few hours. Just pumps them out left and right and has an AMAZING voice and is a killer guitar player. More importantly, he’s just a great person and loves people. I miss him.
Likewise, spending time with Lzzy Hale after opening for Halestorm and Joan Jett must have been special? She’s a hurricane, isn’t she!
Lzzy is the best. First time I ever heard of them was through a friend I met at Modern Day Music. Her father invited me to go to a show with them to see Halestorm when I was 13. I just remember looking at her and being like holy sh—. She was the first woman I had ever seen playing guitar and singing so I instantly connected with her. I was hooked after that show. Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and talk with her on several occasions. But opening for them and Joan Jett was the pinnacle. We got to really “hang” after their set and talk for hours. She is just a special person and I love her. She also shared about our need to find a guitar player and that’s how our lead guitarist Bella Perron had heard about the opportunity.
We of course have to touch on your appearance on The Voice, where you performed a flawless cover of Heart’s ‘Crazy On You’, how hard was it to keep your emotions in check when Miley Cyrus turned her chair around, especially since you hadn’t finished your performance?! Would it be fair to say that your appearance on the show changed your life?
If you watch the video you will notice that I smirked when she turned around. I just remember feeling a tremendous amount of relief. No one really knows what goes on behind the scenes for those shows but they have you out there weeks in advance just preparing for your blind audition. There’s hair/makeup, legal meetings, practice with the band, networking with other contestants. Days are full and you are quarantined in a hotel and shuttled back and forth. Just really mentally grueling. Then I was isolated in a room by myself knowing I had 10 minutes before I went on. So by the time I got out there I couldn’t feel my body and I was scared. So to see her turn without having to hit any high or powerful notes was such a relief. That show did change my life. It taught me toughness, perseverance and I met lifelong friends. It also gave me a lot of exposure and enabled me to play tons of shows and keep my career going.
Onto Plush, what are the origins of the band? You of course performed ‘Barracuda’ along with drummer Brook Colucci and racked up 1.6M hits on YouTube, but how long have you known each other and what can you tell us about your bandmates?
I’ve known Brooke for about 2 years. I had seen her on Instagram and was blown away. Also, at the time, my bandmates had told me about her and that she only lived an hour and a half away. So my dad actually found her father’s contact info and reached out to them. We started to get together and jam well before the Barracuda video. Same with Ashley our bass player. She’s actually a friend of Brooke’s so we were jamming around the same time. Bella is new as I mentioned above. Lzzy is responsible for that connect. What I can honestly tell you about my bandmates is that they are all amazing musicians, amazing people and we all have the same love, roots, and passion for rock n roll.
What should people expect when they check the band out? How would you describe Plush?
They should expect real music and a real passion for live performance.
‘Hate’ is the forthcoming debut single, what was it about this one that made you chose it as the first piece of music that people would hear from the band? And what are the lyrical themes behind it, it seems quite a personal track for you?
We chose that song collectively. Management, producer Johnny K and the band. The reason is simple. It’s a straightforward heavy thumping rock song. We thought it personified us best and that we should come out of the box swinging. The song is very personal. It’s about someone who broke my heart in a very bad way. I was just so angry and sad but I couldn’t bring myself to actually say that I hated that person, because the truth is I really, really loved that person, and I just hated that I loved them.
What goes through your head in the run-up to releasing, not only new music but the band’s debut single? Are you excited? Nervous? – Both?!
Both. Excited for the world to hear our creations but nervous about the reception and possible rejection.
Are there plans for a full-length album?
Ultimately yes. Nothing set in stone yet.
In terms of a similar audience: who would be the ideal act for Plush to support?
No question, Halestorm or Joan Jett.
What was the last gig that you attended as a fan?
Animals as Leaders at NAMM 2019. They were great. I performed also.
Your YouTube quarantine cover versions have been great fun, anyone that takes on Blondie is fine by me! Were there any covers that proved to be especially hard to put your own slant on?
Yes, “I’ll Never Let You Go” by Steelheart. That tested every facet of my voice. I could never do that live show in and show out.
What album do you have in your collection/Spotify playlist that would surprise most people?
Rap artist Cupcake.
Although 2020 was a year to forget, there was some great music released; what would be your album of 2020?
By far Chromatica by Lady Gaga.
What are your plans for 2021 should COVID ever disappear?!
Getting back to life. Fishing, socializing, practicing, and playing LIVE shows!
Lastly, now that someone has been impersonating you on social media, does that mean that you have “arrived”?!!
Haha, it’s so annoying. I’m constantly having to report and block people. I guess that’s a good thing because they must [use] the algorithms or something on my social media and are trying to scam people but it’s just so pathetic and sad.
Interview – Dave