Moses Sumney introduces us to Asheville’s creative community

In i-D’s new film, the musician and multi-disciplinary storyteller tells us about his adopted home in North Carolina.

by Nicole DeMarco
17 May 2021, 4:08pm

This story originally appeared in United States of i-D, a series in celebration of diverse communities, scenes and subcultures across America.

Just as Moses Sumney had become the next big thing in LA’s music scene — after self-releasing a number of EPs, attracting the attention of many major record labels and putting out his critically-acclaimed debut album Aromanticism — he decided it was time to leave the city. “I left LA in 2017 and didn’t really know where I wanted to land next,” the Ghanian-American musician and multi-disciplinary storyteller explains in i-D’s new film. “I toured for a bit, wandered for a bit, moved to London for a bit and thought that’s where I wanted to be. After I got there I realized I wasn’t focused enough. I wasn’t alone enough. I wanted to try living somewhere where I could be in constant commune with the birds and the trees.”

Moses found all that and more in Asheville, North Carolina, a city he’s called home for nearly five years and which provided the backdrop to his sprawling second album Grae (2020). Aside from Asheville’s natural beauty — the city’s located in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains — what inspires Moses most about it is the local creative community there. “The community spirit in Asheville is highly collaborative and everyone kind of knows everyone in that small town way,” he says.

moses sumney and tamarya standing in a field in i-d film

In the film, Moses introduces us to some of the artists and creatives that are not only making exciting work in Asheville, but advocating for a more inclusive art scene and city at large. Our first stop? The Mothlight, an independent music venue that closed during the pandemic, and that’s now being turned into a creative hub and culture house by Honey Simone. Called Different Wrld, it will act as a safe space and a resource for local artists, as well as share a home with Silver Cousler’s Neng Jr.’s, the first Filipinx restaurant in Asheville.

We also meet Coco Villa, a choreographer, dancer and photographer, and Tamarya, a young farmer working to preserve the lineage and legacy of Brown and Black farmers who historically worked the land in the South. And finally, we accompany Moses to a shoot for Naassene, a leatherware label founded by Hunter Savoy Jaffe, that aims to harness the ability of the body to tap into itself. 

profile photo of moses sumney wearing sunglasses

“I was particularly interested in this group of people coming together because there is such a deep spirituality to what they do and I’m in constant awe of them,” Moses concludes. “And in awe of what their positioning in a town like this means and what it can mean for the future.”

Watch the full film and get to know Moses and Asheville’s creative community below.

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Moses Sumney