Austin artist Mobley’s catchy pop packs a meaningful punch
A scream rips through the air and the crowd presses forward as Mobley hits the stage at Empire Garage shortly after midnight on a steamy Saturday in mid-July. For the past two years, the local soul pop artist has been touring nonstop, scorching stages around the country. With an uncanny knack for catchy, sing-along hooks, he creates irresistible earworms, well-crafted pop songs that instantly stick. His Spotify spins frequently top 100,000, and his immersive thrill ride of a live show is racking up looks from prominent national music media outlets.
Now, with appearances at Austin City Limits Music Festival and Utopia Fest looming large this fall, the hometown buzz is beginning to catch up.
His signature look is dapper: He sports a black suit coat and matching derby hat over a black and white striped T-shirt. The ensemble is accented by a jaunty red ascot. As he takes his place center stage, surrounded by a keyboard, a drum kit and a guitar — all instruments that he will command during his engrossing one-man show — a message flashes across the projection screen behind him:
“Fellow humans, we are about to engage in a strange ritual. The hour finds you here, of all the places there are. I would urge you to be here entirely. We’ll raise our voices and slap our hands. We’ll coax sound and light from wood and wire. And if we probe each note, each pulse and rhythm, we might just catch a moment of…”
The screen cuts to a shot of Earth, majestically floating in space.
“I think people, when they go to a show, they really want to be given an excuse to have a good time,” Mobley says when we meet for coffee the following week. “It’s an effort a lot of times. It’s an expense and, at least, to a certain degree, you’re putting yourself out there.”
He wrote the text the night before the Empire show to remind the audience to be present, to allow themselves to be caught up in the moment, to lose themselves to the music.
“I think it’s really important to remind people of people power … there’s a thing that can happen when you have 100 or 200 people in a room all kind of experiencing something really similar to each other in the same simultaneous moment,” he says
If the audience really “buys in” to the power of music, the magic of a group of people responding to the same rhythm and moving as one, he says, “you might feel something transcendent happen.”
It’s easy to be swept up in Mobley’s searing electro-soul throwdown. The songs are hot, his instrumental prowess — switching from guitar, to keys, to drums — is engrossing, and his stage presence is electrifying. Whether he’s playing to a crowd of 50 or 500, he conducts himself with the energy of an arena star, and he sells it 100 percent. You can feel the presence of thousands of unseen soon-to-be fans. You feel like you’re part of a movement.
The broad accessibility of his music is deliberate. First and foremost, he considers himself a pop songwriter. As the child of a Marine, he spent much of his childhood abroad with long stints in England and Spain. For a phase of his adolescence, his dream was to become a British pop star, specifically Chris Martin of Coldplay.
“I probably wouldn’t have falsetto if I hadn’t listened to ‘Parachutes’ 100 times,” he says with a laugh.
But don’t get it twisted. His tracks aren’t just empty ditties designed for mass consumption.
“I don’t just write songs if I don’t feel like there’s something relatively important