As a child, Shelia Moser was known as “Lee Lee.” From her last name, she derived “Mo” to create “Lee Mo.”
Now, the up-and-coming jazz singer, has made the nickname into a moniker for her career.
Growing up, Moser said she sang in her church; it was the first venue stage she performed on. The sounds of gospel music influenced her from a young age. Moser said the gospel singers in her church, “were the first voices that have influenced me.”
Moser, a 2014 Temple graduate, started her vocal jazz career after studying vocal performance and jazz. She is working to expand her image not only in Philadelphia but the tri-state area, where she hopes to gain prominence in other major cities like New York.
Joanna Pascale, a vocalist based in Philadelphia who teaches music at Temple and the University of Pennsylvania, praises Moser’s musical ability.
“She brings an incredible depth to her artistry, and it is something that is very rare for someone her age,” Pascale said. “Her musicianship is incredibly high, and that allows her voice to go wherever her ears lead her.”
Recently, Moser has spent time in WrightWay Studios in Baltimore, Maryland, where she is working on a few upcoming music developments. In the next few weeks, she hopes to release her first single, “You Are My Sunshine,” which is inspired by the sounds of Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.”
She performs at local venues and, in the past two months, Moser said she has performed nearly every other week. She staged a half-hour jazz and soul set at The Grape Room in Manayunk on April 9.
By fall of this year, Moser hopes to produce another single titled “I Am Afraid,” which she wrote two years ago.
“That song is more like a piano-driven song, almost a John Legend, Sam Smith type of vibe,” Moser said.
She describes this piece as being more dramatic; the emoting nature portrays the feelings of fear one might have in taking the next step in life.
“It could be for love or relationships, it could be just taking the next step in your career, or following your heart, taking a risk,” she said.
Early in 2016, she hopes to have recorded her first EP. As a rising artist, Moser said she understands the importance of perseverance.
“You can really get caught up in what everyone else is doing, and what it seems as though you’re not doing,” Moser said.
Although many categorize her as a jazz singer, Moser said her music encompasses more than just a single genre.
“I have a more soulful sound, and … I’ve been influenced by a lot of different genres: jazz, gospel, pop music, soul, funk,” she said.
Mike Boone, an instructor of music at Boyer College of Music and Dance, described Moser’s variety of sound as an intersection of genres.
“She’s at a three-way intersection of church, soul, and jazz music,” Boone said. “She sings with a lot of feeling and reverence.”
When Moser first arrived at Temple from her hometown of Baltimore, she studied English. After spending time at Boyer, she decided to pursue musical studies.
“I was always peaking my head in a door [at Boyer],” Moser said.
The classes and professors at the music school provided Moser with the tools she needed to better express herself as an artist.
“My reason for switching over to music was to deepen my vocabulary musically,” she said. “I wanted to translate what I wanted to say as many ways as possible.”
Finnian Saylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.