It’s always said that it doesn’t matter how many times you fall down, only that you keep getting back up and trying again. Mondo Cozmo is a perfect representation of that idea. His latest album, New Medicine, was created after an exhausting two years that culminated with him punching through a glass door and destroying his hand. While some may have let those emotions consume them, Mondo Cozmo pushed through and laid his soul onto the page. The result is an incredibly beautiful album filled with ten songs guaranteed to make you think, dance, and sing along.
Last week, Blast Magazine spoke with Mondo Cozmo about the intersection between personal struggle and professional success.
Blast Magazine: Your latest album, New Medicine, came out recently. Why did you choose that name for the album? What was the process like creating the songs for the album?
Mondo Cozmo: I started recording the album after the band was on tour for almost 2 years straight. It was really intense. I’ve been doing music since I was a kid but I haven’t always had much success. I never saw myself doing morning interviews, meet-n-greets, and after shows. I would say yes to everything and by the end of the 2 years, I was just drained. Emotionally and spiritually. I was just tired. We had to do one last video shoot before we took a break for the new record. The video shoot went terribly wrong. I had the great rock n’ roll freak out of 2018 and I messed up my hand. I went into the control room and punched what I thought was a Styrofoam wall but was actually a glass door. It destroyed my hand and I had to have surgery until 4 in the morning. The doctor put me on medication. It was just antibiotics, not anything special, but I started writing with the cast on my hand. I would tape my pick to my cast and strum my guitar. All these songs just started pouring out of me. It was this profound thing that opened up something in me where I just started writing.
Blast Magazine: You’ve accomplished quite a bit in your career thus far. Your music has been featured on TV shows, you’ve topped the charts, and you’ve played tours all over. Is there a professional goal that you haven’t reached yet that you are still striving towards?
Mondo Cozmo: My main goal in life is to play Saturday Night Live (SNL). For a rock n’ roll band, that is it. For me, that has always been a highwater mark. If you do SNL, you’ve made it. I don’t know how realistic that is, but that would be it for me.
Blast Magazine: A lot of your songs stem from personal experiences you’ve had or things you’ve seen in the world around you. Is it ever scary to feel like you are sharing so much of yourself with people through your music?
Mondo Cozmo: Yeah. There is one song, It Fills the Room, that I was uncomfortable putting on this record. It was an apology letter to my wife when she came to visit me in the hospital after the hand incident. I recorded it just to do it. I thought it was a cool idea for a song and it turned out beautifully but I did not plan on putting it on the record. I thought it was too personal and specific but my wife said I should put it on there. It was really cool because it was her that brought it up, not me, and then I knew it was okay. I was being protective of us and our privacy, but for her to say that we should put it on the record meant a lot to me. I do take lines out of my songs a lot because I’m giving away too much but I’m glad I put that song on the record.
Blast Magazine: One of the things I find especially appealing about your music is that no two songs tend to sound the same. Is that a conscious decision (you don’t want to be put in one box so you try to make every song sound different) or is that just the way it naturally plays out?
Mondo Cozmo: I kinda messed around a bit on the first record. I would take you one way and then go another way. With New Medicine, I was nervous because I was putting old school rock next to what sounds like old Kanye. I wondered if people were just going to hate it and not know what was going on. I think the reason my music is that way is because that is how I listen to music. I am a big music fan. I listen to Kanye next to Velvet Underground. I am such a fan and I think I would get bored if too many of the songs sounded too much alike. Just as an artist, it’s stagnant. If I just went into the studio with a band, most of the record would sound like Come On and I’ve done that enough through the years.
Upside Down was such a stretch for us with the vocal delivery and production. I didn’t know how it would work within the context of the full-length album since I want people to be able to listen to my albums from start to finish in one sitting but I am proud of the way it comes through. The thing that keeps it all together is the vocal delivery.
Blast Magazine: Like you mentioned earlier, you’ve been playing music for the majority of your life. What is the best piece of advice you would have for someone aspiring to pursue a career in music?
Mondo Cozmo: I always tell people, and I wish people told me this, that you should write and record as many songs as you can. If you get stuck, keep moving through it. Don’t stay on a song for too long if you’re getting frustrated with it. Just come back to it later. I would also say that you should play as many shows coming up as you can. I think my best piece of advice though is just to be polite. I think so many doors have opened up for me just by being nice to people.
Blast Magazine: I particularly love the song Come On from your latest album. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song and what it means to you?
Mondo Cozmo: That was a cowrite with Dan Wilson. Dan is a pretty big-time songwriter. He is in a band called Semisonic and writes for pretty big artists. He’s a songwriting guru. For me, it was really cool. I don’t write with too many people but I loved being around the guy. I would go to his house and we would work on tunes and just sit around and talk about music. It was really special because Dan was giving me what I needed at the time. He wasn’t pressuring me to write. He knew there was a lot of pressure on me and he was a friend to me. At the end of the session, Dan turned to me and said that we had to write a song and I mentioned to him that I had recently heard a song called Low by the band Cracker. It was a great song and sounded so good. I thought it would be cool to have a new song like that today. We used it as a template and then Dan made me put a scratch vocal on the track that day. I am so glad he did because a lot of lines from the song came from that scratch vocal. I got Anna Faris to be in the video for it and it just all came together. That’s one of my favorite songs on the album too.
Blast Magazine: You’ve now done two videos with Anna Faris. Are you interested in doing more videos with her in the future? What is the dynamic like between the two of you?
Mondo Cozmo: It would be awesome to have her do another video for the new record. We’re just buddies and I send her and other friends some music when I’m working on stuff just to gauge where I’m at and based on their reaction, work on things more or less. For the video for Hold On To Me, it was harder to ask her to be in it. I was worried that she would think I was taking advantage of the friendship but she said she would love to do it. Nobody made any money and we just were making art. It was really exciting for her because it was so DIY and just a fun time. When I sent her stuff for the new record, she wanted to shoot a video for it. We spent a couple days talking about it and then we shot it. I edited it myself on my computer and it turned out great. She knows it raises the awareness of the song when she does stuff like that. It means a lot to me. For her to take a full day for this means a lot to me.
Blast Magazine: How have you been using this time during quarantine? Have you written new songs, recorded anything, etc.?
Mondo Cozmo: I was feeling really good at the beginning of quarantine in March and April. I was writing a lot. I have one or two songs that I am excited about from that period. I then just hit a wall and didn’t write for a while. I tried but I just couldn’t get into a rhythm where I was writing anything. I was sad because I knew I couldn’t tour and my heart was just heavy looking at the country and everything going on. I needed a break and to just watch some Netflix and regroup. That said, I think it was probably 2 weeks ago that I felt really inspired to get back into the studio. I have been going hard in the studio now, writing and trying to stay focused. I’m just making noise and having fun and if a song comes out of it, that’s great.
Be sure to check out Mondo Cozmo’s latest album, New Medicine, on Spotify and other musical streaming services and follow him on Instagram at MondoCozmo and Twitter at @MondoCozmo.