When Miles Mosley hits the venerable Hollywood Bowl stage this weekend for the 39th annual Playboy Jazz Festival – Los Angeles’ premiere jazz event – he’ll have “breakout artist” written all over him.
After years of playing with some of the biggest names in music, Mosley, 36, and his six-piece band will have all eyes on them in their first performance in Mosley’s hometown since his debut album, Uprising, was released by Verve in May.
Make no mistake: Mosley is very much a creature of Los Angeles and its unique blend of cultures.
Born and raised in La La Land, he received proper classical musical training on the stand-up bass at the celebrated Coburn School of Music in downtown Los Angeles.
Since then, he has written, composed, performed live, appeared in videos and recorded for such diverse artists as Chris Cornell, Jonathan Davis, Everlast, Terrence Howard, Joni Mitchell, Lauryn Hill, Gnarls Barkley, Jeff Beck, Common, Christina Aguilera, Lesa Carlson and Kamasi Washington.
Mosley’s own sound is a fusion of funk, rock and jazz with an overlay of lyrical idealism that he emotes with his own penetrating vocals.
It’s a musical mélange reflective of Los Angeles as both the center of the commercial music universe, but also a constant wellspring of sounds originating from the streets of the city’s various ethnic enclaves.
The name of band speaks volumes – The West Coast Get Down.
We caught up with Mosley for the following interview, just before his Playboy Jazz Fest debut as a headlining artist.
His U.S. tour continues with stops in Detroit and Telluride (Colorado) before wrapping up at the prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival (northern California) on September 15.
His music also can be heard in his score for the new indie feature Halfway film, starring Quinton Aaron (The Blind Side).
Monsters & Critics: How much do you believe your sound — which has been called a fusion of jazz, funk and rock — is a product of your West Coast roots?
Miles Mosley: Greatly. Being born in Los Angeles has imbued me with a sense of freedom, and wide-open possibility.
As a musician in Los Angeles, because of the studio scene, you are expected to understand and competently perform within many different styles of music.
I think my eagerness to understand music as a whole has made it so that I can comfortably combine many different genres together without making them feel drastically separate from one another.
M&C: How does your composing for film and TV influence your other songwriting?
MM: Because I love experimenting with different styles of music, writing for film and TV allows me to exercise my different influences and learn about the production elements required to bring them to life.
I find, often, that after I’ve completed a project I have a new skill set that I can apply to the next song I write.
Sometimes I’ve experimented with a new scale, at other times I’ve found a use for a new instrument.
My music career is one big learning experiment. Film, TV, and commercial work present me with new challenges that expand my comfort zone.
M&C: In particular, can you describe your work and experience on the soundtrack for the upcoming feature film Halfway?
MM: Halfway was a delightfully challenging project. The director knew that he wanted the score to be bass heavy because the lead actor, Quinton Aaron, depicted a large character embodying an even larger social problem.
I chose to experiment with the idea that different instruments would represent each character and environments.
So the sound of being outside in the great wide open was Ryan Porter (WCGD) playing these beautiful and languid brass pads all on trombone.
All of the female lead characters were represented by different configurations of women vocalists, led by Maiya Sykes.
In the end, the score turned out great and is something of which I am very proud.
I was invited to score it after the film’s director and producer, Ben Caird and Jonny Paterson, saw me perform in Los Angeles.
M&C: What is your favorite song on the new album?
MM: It’s always odd deciding which of my creative expressions I prefer over the others.
I think Shadow of Doubt is a really special song. It’s a song about our (sometimes misguided) necessity to prove ourselves worthy of the love we receive.
I am now, and have always been, surrounded by powerful women who have each created and fostered an environment of love and support.
Shadow of Doubt is a song inspired by those beacons of light.
My favorite part of that song is how Tony Austin shines on drums, the sound he produced and the intricacy of the groove gets the party started right out of the gate.
M&C: Which musical artists have had the most influence on your own work?
MM: As a bassist I was most influenced by Ray Brown. As a vocalist I kneel before the era of Otis Redding, Ray Charles, and Marvin Gaye.
As a lyricist I’m heavily influenced by the Laurel Canyon writers including Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
I also lean towards Peter Gabriel and the 90s grunge era. Compositionally I’m influenced by James Brown, Sly Stone, Mendelssohn, and Jimi Hendrix to name just a few of hundreds of influencers.
M&C: What’s on your bucket list as an artist during the next 5 years?
MM: I think I can cover a lot of ground in five years, however, making lists like these make me feel giddy like a five-year-old sitting on Santa’s lap. Here’s my list:
• Break the Top 10 of the Billboard 200.
• Win first Grammy.
• Perform in the countries I’ve missed thus far.
• Score an Academy Award-nominated film.
• Score a video game.
• Collaborate with my favorite new artists.