I still remember how starstruck I was by Saratoga Springs when I first moved here. The sheer number of legendary musicians who either hail from the area or who’ve passed through over the years is awe-inducing. It’s a surprisingly long list that includes everyone from Bob Dylan and Don McLean (both of whom played at Caffè Lena) to contemporary electro-rock duo Phantogram and grunge-pop princess Lana Del Rey (OK, she’s from Lake Placid, but close enough). There’s also a growing lineup of talented up-and-comers from Upstate New York, who are starting to leave their mark on the music industry, too.
It seems like every couple of months, I get starstruck all over again, and it just happened when I had the chance to interview singer and guitarist Moriah Formica, an über-talented local artist, who somewhat surprisingly, only recently graduated from high school. In addition to releasing her first EP, Bring It On!, in 2016, when she was just 16 years old, the Upstate New Yorker and rock vocal powerhouse also spent her junior year of high school competing on Season 13 of The Voice, having the chance to be coached by pop megastar Miley Cyrus. Just this last December, Formica wrapped up her first US tour, during which she got to play two shows with pop-punk legend Joan Jett, as well as perform at the 2018 National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Show, the country’s largest music trade event. Formica did all of this while completing her high school education and just trying to lead a normal life (whenever her friends or family weren’t watching her on TV, that is).
Raised in Latham, Formica was inspired by music from an early age and credits her father for her love of hard rock. “I was five years old and watching ’80s music videos, bands like Skid Row and Bon Jovi and Aerosmith,” Formica says. “They all looked so cool, and I just wanted to be like them.” For her sixth birthday, Formica’s grandmother bought her a guitar, and soon Formica was practicing those popular rock riffs that had captured her imagination. “The guitar is definitely what got me into music,” she says. “I was so intrigued by it.” This love of guitar soon led to singing as well, and then, at the age of 11, to lessons with local voice instructor Lesley O’Donnell at Modern Day Music in Clifton Park. “I still see my vocal coach to this day because she’s just amazing,” says Formica.
Saratoga also played an important role in Formica’s musical upbringing. “I love Saratoga Springs,” she says. “I’ve played at Gaffney’s and Putnam [Place]. I also played one song at an open mic night at Caffè Lena when I was really young.” Formica’s first big break, however, came in 2017 when producers from the popular singing competition and reality series The Voice saw one of Formica’s videos on YouTube and asked her to audition. During her “blind audition,” Formica achieved what few singers have accomplished by getting all four celebrity coaches to turn their chairs around in the middle of her performance. With her gutsy guitar playing and gritty, powerful vocals (plus some invaluable guidance from celebrity coach Cyrus), Formica made it all the way to the end of the last playoff round. Though she may not have won The Voice, the show was a critical launching point for Formica’s musical career. About her experience on the show, she says: “It was very overwhelming, but in a good way most of the time. I did have a really hard time switching gears from career mode back to school mode—it almost felt like a double life. But as far as playing with Joan Jett and [rock band] Halestorm [this summer], that was overwhelming in the best way possible.”
For 2019, Formica has a new single coming out called “Take Me,” which she co-wrote with her 16-year-old brother Gabe. Formica says the new song was inspired by her brother’s love of pop music, and it might surprise fans who were expecting a rock anthem. “I’ve really just been focusing on trying to find a new sound that’s never been done before or hasn’t been done in a long time, at least,” says Formica. She’s also considering another EP or recording her first full-length studio album. She’s been meeting with songwriters in Nashville and New York City, including some that have written hits for big-name acts such as Carrie Underwood, Shinedown and Daughtry. “The fact that these writers want to work with me is a really humbling,” says Formica.
Fans of Formica will get a taste of that new sound when “Take Me” comes out later this winter. It may seem like a long wait, but there’s no shortage of Formica songs out there in cyberspace. Which reminds me, I’ve got some playlists to catch up on.
Interested in reading about another artist from the area who’s performed on The Voice? Read saratoga living‘s feature on Delaney Silvernell here.