Austin's one-man-band: Mobley | SXSW Interview
The Backstage Voice: How does it feel to play your first of 9 consecutive shows in 7 days?
Mobley: It hit me when we drove in and got to downtown and I saw some of the streets closed that it was really south by…and that knot that’ll be in the pit of my stomach for the next week formed fully. I have a pretty involved production so anytime you have a festival environment, trying to keep track of everything and figure out parking, its an arm and a leg
TBV: How do you mentally prepare yourself for what’s to come?
M: There’s nothing I can do to mentally prepare. There’s a lot of energy needed for the shows, that’s not the bad part…its the stress of the uncertainty that gets me. Where am I going to park? What is the deal with load in? How much time is there between sets? The infinite logistical minutia is what ways on you and then you need to show up and be present on stage.
TBV: Will the human drum machine come out at SXSW?
M: The human drum machine I try to make a part of every show.
TBV: Do you think audience interaction is important during your set?
M: I’ve always felt strongly that the interaction with the audience is what makes the transcendence stuff during a live show happen. You cannot do that by yourself. I always want to find a way to pull people into the set, to have people take more ownership over the performance.
TBV: Where did you come up with the idea for the human drum machine?
M: I’m a tinkerer. I’m always making stuff. I saw a video where someone did something similar to the human drum machine, but with fruit. So I figured why not do that with people? People are just big bags of water — so thats what inspired the idea.
TBV: We know you’re a tinkerer and you like to make your own instruments. Are you bringing any of your new creations to South by?
M: I wish I could bring it to SXSW but it’s not done yet. I’ve been building a new keyboard rig for the past 9 months. My old rig is called T Mothership, it’s so big. It’s living in a couple different racks on stage now. I’m building a new rig, smaller, that’ll be called T Daughtership.
TBV: You do a lot. You play all of the instruments (drum, guitar, keyboards), sing, produce, create your music videos, build you instruments, set design…the list goes on. Do you like one thing over the other?
M: I don’t know if I would like any one piece as much as I do if I didn’t do all of the other pieces. When I start playing a song it’s a cool feeling to know I’m starting with a black stage, once the lights come up anything anyone sees or hears I have a finger in it. If that changed too much, I wouldn’t enjoy it as much. When I’m writing a song I produce and record it - no demo anymore - I love to think about all the aspects…how it will all come together as one large piece of art.
TBV: Your music career started in college when you snuck into the music room - that’s when you learned all the instruments, can elaborate on the start of your music career?
M: Yes. It all started in college. I learned all the instruments by sneaking into the music room. When I left college it really dawned on me that I hadn’t prepared to make money from music. So I taught myself to code so that I could do that on the road. Now I’m working full time as a musician but learning to code helped me dive into the technical stuff, which is a big part of my art making today.
TBV: Favorite venue to play in Austin?
M: Today it’s Empire. I don’t know. Different rooms offer different things.
TBV: How about your favorite venue to see a show?
M: That’s even harder! I try to get myself out of it, but I’m so critical and think about “How did you make this, how are you doing everything” so something like Bass Concert Hall. It’s more traditional, where more is hidden, so you’re forced to be emerged in just what’s happening in the moment as opposed to the open floor plan.
TBV: We saw David Byrne at Bass Concert Hall and it blew our minds.
M: I saw him at ACL and I cried. It was so moving because I didn’t understand it. I felt like how I felt when I first started watching shows. A show that encouraged me to start playing music was when I saw a teenager on stage, I was a teenager at the time, and he was singing and playing acoustic guitar, and I thought “that is magic, what he is doing up there is magic.” Now I’m so immersed in the technical aspect of how all of this is made, and I understand it well. David Byrne’s show was so different that I felt that way again. I didn’t have a way to penetrate what he’s really doing - so I was able to sit back and watch it.
TBV: What advice do you have for the newbie musician who is having some fear of getting on the big stage?
M: I’m a strong believer that there’s something exceptional about being on stage and demanding to be the center of people’s attention. I don’t think anyone is entitled to it. If we were just in a park or a shopping mall, and I stood up on a box and talked louder than everyone else, it’d be weird if I had nothing to say and just wanted their attention. So I think it’s really important that the first step is to form an expression, it can’t just be that you’re talented. That’s not very interesting.
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