How does one describe a phenom consistently setting the bar ever higher in creativity, sound and musicianship? Singer-songwriter, ‘Curator of the Creative’, pitch-perfect (figuratively and literally), multi-instrumentalist, genre-defying performance perfection? Those are but a few of the many impressions Mobley leaves on anyone lucky enough to cross his path. One of Austin’s best and brightest, he’s built a reputation for high-energy performance, creative caliber and mind-blowing insight. And, as a one-man show, he’s quite literally showing the world what’s possible in music.
I recently had the privilege of sitting down with Mobley on an off-day in between SXSW madness.
We interviewed for the upcoming My Forte documentary film series, where he shared with me some insight on the trajectory of his career and building more into his art than just great sound.
- M: Early on, it was enough to just make a cool sound. That intoxicating feeling of sitting down, fiddling around for a minute and out comes a sound that you love… I had romantic notions of being an artist and paying your dues. But, as my sound developed, I had a better understanding of what it takes to go from making a cool sound to paying the bills.
- Fortunately for me, that hasn’t resulted in cynicism. It’s resulted in an ability to think about things beyond. Things like message; the kind of multi-modal meaning that your art can have when you are intentional and thoughtful when you create it.
Tell me a little about your career and how you got to where you are now.
- I try not to give elevator pitches. I’m not so interested in conforming the art and work that I do to commercial demands. But, I guess I would say that my name is Mobley, I live in Austin, Texas and I am a singer, songwriter, producer and performer. I make records that combine melody and rhythm, while drawing from a variety of genre traditions. I am signed to an independent label, so, while I am signed, I still consider myself pretty independent. I write, record and produce all of my records myself and direct my own music videos. I am pretty D-I-Y in everything I do.
I’m so curious to ask about your earliest years.
- I started playing music when I was very young — four or five. When I was two or three, I heard symphony orchestra and I asked my parents what the instrument was. They told me it was a violin. So, when I was old enough, they got me a violin and violin lessons, and that’s when I started playing music.
- Then, I picked up trumpet and guitar in high school and started writing music. When I caught the writing bug, I basically turned into a recluse and didn’t really do much outside of going to class and writing songs, trying to become a better songwriter.
The last two years were so disruptive to everyone in the industry, but you took some creative and alternative approaches during the pandemic…
- I write music because I have to write music. It happens whether I intend to do it or not. So, the music kind of kept itself alive. But, I kind of did try to do some things to remain connected to my audience. I did a thing called ‘The Curbside Tour’, where I held contests for my fans, drove around with a little PA in my car and played one-song curbside concerts for people at their houses.
- Then I partnered with something called the Noonchorus livestream platform to put on a tour — a small group of collaborators roaming all around the Austin and greater Texas area shooting shows… some acoustic, some plugged in, in a variety of non-traditional locations. I shot in hotels, an empty soccer stadium, the central library… we went out and shot walking around hill country, on the beach along the gulf of Mexico. The livestream promoted the record I put out last year and the proceeds went to venues here in Austin and an Austin nonprofit called the DAWA Fund.
- Early on in the pandemic, I also organized a project that included about 30 musicians and filmmakers on an experimental film project called A Home Unfamiliar about isolation. It generated about $30,000. So, I kept pretty busy over the pandemic.
You have accomplished so much. What would you tell your younger self?
- I think, if I could live my life again, knowing everything that I know now, I would want to go back to that beginning, when everything was so exciting and new, and convey to myself that I should just focus on saying something… the art needs to have something inside it.
Thus, Mobley hasn’t found his calling — he’s making it as he goes. Whether you consider his impressive acumen of multi-modal projects with catchy tunes as the icing on the cake or you find yourself in the crowd at a live show, moving to infectious beats, electric energy and wondering where this music has been all your life… Or, maybe that’s just me. In any case, I’m grateful, humbled and inspired to follow the exemplary trail that Mobley is currently tearing through an undeserving industry.
About ‘My Forte’:
An award-winning 12-part documentary series created by Kaili Rose of Kairo Media in partnership with Top Shelf Music, My Forte explores the challenges and firsthand perspectives of artists around the world. What does it really take to make it in the music biz? What are the definitive challenges and sacrifices artists face? As fans and consumers of modern music, we owe it to our favorite artists to understand and appreciate what it really takes to make the music we love. Click here to watch the first film (it’s free!) and follow along as we begin interviews and production this spring in Nashville, Austin, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and Toronto.