Who: Carolyn Grigar.
Sounds Like: Petting kittens in a field of flowers while watching dandelion seeds float through the air on a sunny day.
For Fans Of: Camera Obscura, Feist, She & Him.
When you ask most Portlanders how they feel about the city's quickly changing landscape, you'll rarely get anything close to a positive response. But that's not the case for Carolyn Grigar, aka Charlie Moses.
Growing up in Portland, the singer-songwriter has seen places she love vanish and new things take their place. But it hasn't discouraged her from sticking it out in the city she's called home her entire life—even when it's happened to her directly.
"I think change is a pretty universal discomfort when it comes to cities," says Moses, who is also the proprietor of the soon-to-be shuttered Kenilworth Coffee House in Southeast Portland. "I feel like I've stuck around because the people are so awesome. That's absolutely my favorite part of the city. Portlanders are some beautifully impassioned people."
Those "impassioned people," along with a handful of strong female artists, have greatly influenced her music. On her sophomore release, Figurine, Moses—whose moniker is an homage to her mother's maiden name and what she explains as her "desire to be ambiguous with gender"—takes cues from the likes of Kate Bush, Patti Smith and Eileen Myles. "I get especially moved by anyone doing their own thing," she says.
After years spent writing songs and honing her skills on multiple instruments, Moses finally took her voice and her guitar to the stage of her own coffee shop for a low-key performance. It attracted the attention of the local label No Movement, which released her first album, Daffodil, last year.
In contrast to her first recording, which she regards as more of a collection of stripped-down demos than a formal album, Moses says Figurine "had a more thoughtful process behind it."
The result is a beautifully produced collection of 12 dreamy songs that place her soft, airy voice over graceful violins and delicate guitar melodies. On songs such as "Like No Other," she channels her inner speakeasy jazz singer, whimsically singing, "I'm gone/Goodbye/I'll write you someday when I've got the heart and the time to lose." Although she tracked the majority of the instrumentals herself, this time around, she recruited her partner, Evan Mersky, to help out with drums and bass, while Andy Rayborn of Portland electro band Paper Gates contributes bass clarinet.
"I'm so grateful having gotten to work with such incredible people on this album," she says. "I don't take an inch of it for granted."
As she prepares for the bittersweet shutdown of Kenilworth Coffee House and embark on multi-month tour, Moses is excited for what the next chapter of her life might hold—even if that chapter is currently a blank page.
"I'm used to having a plan. I"m a big planner," she says, laughing. "But I'm trying my best to be open to just letting things happen."
SEE IT: Charlie Moses plays the Fixin' To, 8218 N Lombard St., with Golden Retriever and Paper Gates, on Friday, Nov. 17. 9 pm. 21+.