With every single word he sings, Mo Zowayed captures your attention. The production fits perfectly with his voice as he hits note after note, transitioning from smooth verses to raspy choruses. Mo writes his own music, but only when he’s feeling it. If you focus in on the lyrics, this is clear. His lyrics paint a picture. They tell a story. In his original, “Gypsy Queen”, he personifies banjos and mandolins to attract listeners right out of the gate. Mo’s producer describes his music as folky, while Mo prefers to call it “wanderlust” and “love”. No matter what you call it, Mo’s music is fantastic. Get to know him and check out his music in this week’s Undiscovered Spotlight:
Q: What is your favorite TV show?
A: Fargo. Watching someone’s (fictional) life spiral out of control makes me feel better about myself.
Q: How do you find new music?
A: Nothing will ever take the place of word of mouth in my opinion. I love asking people what they’ve been listening to and finding new music that way. Funny how that’s almost a thing of the past isn’t it?
Q: What is your favorite hobby outside of music?
A: Because of travel, I’ve fallen in love with riding motorcycles! And of course tinkering with them and getting my hands greasy.
Q: Where is your favorite place to write your music?
A: I love writing when I’m traveling. I spent five weeks in Nepal a couple years ago and wrote a song almost every day. I stayed in a far off village in the hills at a Nepali family’s spare bedroom and rode a rented Royal Enfield motorcycle to town every day. I stayed almost completely out of touch with the world. I haven’t figured out what changes in me when I’m in a far off place like that, but the inspiration I get is almost palpable. It’s like a fire in my belly. When this article is out I’ll be traveling in Vietnam and trying to capture that inspiration again.
Q: On the topic of writing, what inspires your work?
A: I’m inspired by uncertainty. I feel like music is my way of trying to figure things out, and pick apart the big questions.
Q: What is your favorite lyric you’ve written for one of your originals?
I came back home with a broken body,
a jubilant mind, and a heart on fire.
I left my health with a girl I knew.
She gave me the truth and a song or two.
I never mind the rolling tide
that takes me into her arms at night.
Every pore on my body’s crying out…
From “I’m Alive’
Q: What artist influences you the most?
A: In the last couple of years I’ve been absolutely taken by the Milk Carton Kids. It’s not that I aim to sound like them, but I use the feeling that I got from the first time listening to their second album – Ash & Clay – as the benchmark for what I aim to invoke through my music. If I had to pick a second it would be First Aid Kit. Their music, and especially their most popular song – Emmylou – gives me actual goosebumps every time.
Q: Who would you most like to collaborate on a song with?
A: Collaborating with Gillian Welch would probably be my ‘now I can die’ moment.
Q: What’s your favorite song you’re listening to these days?
A: Right now I can’t get enough of “Harlem River Blues” by Justin Townes Earle
Q: How would you best describe your musical style?
A: If I had to choose two words to describe my music they would be ‘wanderlust’ and ‘love’. They’re the experiences that I live for, and will never run out of words and songs to describe. Although my producer would prefer I said ‘Indie’ and ‘folk’!
Q: If you had to choose something you most want your music or yourself to be known for, what would it be?
A: As cliche as it sounds, I really hope fans of my music know just how much I mean the words that I sing. I don’t write a hundred songs a year, and I don’t try to be provocative just for the sake of it. I’m truly searching for human experiences that move me and I take my time doing it.
Q: So, why music?
A: Easy. There is no poem, TV show, film, painting, sculpture, or photograph that can move me as much as a song can. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate all of those forms of art. But it’s almost like they only have access to a certain amount of my emotions. Whereas music can really shake me, wholly.
Q: Ending on a fun note, what’s your favorite late night snack?
A: Peanut butter and toast. It’s my scrumptious savior during late nights writing sessions. But you gotta make sure to leave the last bite for the dog. It’s good luck.