When 15-year-old MoZella failed to land a coveted role in her high school play, the Detroit native decided it was time to take her career into her own hands. With the stubborn determination that only a teen can muster, MoZella (who had fallen out the previous year with the members of her folk-rock garage band over creative differences) began to book her own shows at local coffeehouses in the Detroit area. "My first gig was the day I got my braces on and I could barely talk", she recalls. Still, the owner was impressed enough to ask if she wanted to perform there on a regular basis. One night she made $80 bucks. "At the time, I thought I earned the money on my own, but now I'm sure my Grandma snuck a $20 in the tip basket", she says.
From this auspicious beginning, MoZella has grown into a full-fledged singer-songwriter about to release her debut album 'I Will', which documents the 24-year-olds journey from leaving home at 18 and arriving in Los Angeles to pursue her dream of making it as a recording artist and performer. "I didn't go to a four-year university", she says, "so struggling to get my music heard was like my schooling". I learned a lot and wrote these songs about the experience.
MoZella, whose confident, soulful voice can turn from seductively husky to girlishly vulnerable on a dime, sets her coming-of-age tales about love won (Love is Something), love lost (You Wanted It), the state of the world (Killing Time), loneliness (Last Twenty), and forgiveness (Light Years Away) to plaintive acoustic guitar and hip-hop influenced programmed beats -a style that one critic described as balancing coffeehouse intimacy and subtle groove with jazz and electronica.
MoZella says the R&B-soul inflections in her voice come from a childhood steeped in the music of her hometown. Her mother sang in the choir, tuned into the local Motown gospel stations on the radio, and favored Detroit soul music such as Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and Bob Seger. Growing up in Detroit, the style of music (black soul combined with blue collar, white rock) molds you as a singer in a lot of ways", she says. "There is so much beat and bass-driven music. And I think the gospel thing itself has always been in me; theres no way around it".
Armed with nothing but her guitar, MoZella set out for the West Coast after graduating from high school. She worked as a waitress and cake decorator at a bakery by day and wrote songs and performed in coffeehouses at night. After several false starts, including a brief apprenticeship with rapper Warren G and a stint in England recording a demo with producer Tim Saul (Portishead), MoZella returned to L.A. and recorded a new demo. It found its way to Mavericks A&R executives, who signed her at the end of 2003.
MoZella began work on 'I Will' with producer/songwriter Jude Cole (who has worked with Beth Orton and Lifehouse) manning the control board. "Jude is an amazing writer himself, so he understands how to work with a song", MoZella says. "He knew instinctively how to bring out the urban feel of my music, without going over the top".
MoZella has been busy jumping on high-profile tours with Lifehouse, Dave Matthews Band, and Daniel Powter. Her songs have appeared on Vol. 2 of the soundtrack to the hit WB show One Tree Hill, and used in episodes of the NBC dramas Las Vegas and Inconceivable. In addition, a ballad she wrote called Amazed was featured in a Mercedes-Benz commercial for the company's high-profile Framed Portraits campaign last year.
With 'I Will' scheduled to drop on November 7th, MoZella is a long way from her cake-decorating days. "I remember working there one day and hearing Macy Gray's 'I Try' come over the speakers. And I was like, Holy cow, this is a great song. I want to make great songs like this. I want to get somewhere with my music". Look's like MoZella's getting her turn.
Check her out @ mozellamusic.com