A conversation with Mathew Mozzoni about “Hot Light”

Q: Hi! What was the inspiration behind the title “Hot Light” for your album?

A: “Hot Light” means whatever you want it to mean! In all seriousness, I arrived back home after driving all night back from a weekend of shows in Chicago, I picked up a bass guitar, and started playing that Hot Light bass line, and the words “Hot Light” sprang to mind. Maybe it could mean something you want in order to make yourself feel better, like a fruit smoothie. But maybe it has no meaning at all.

Q: Can you give us an overview of the musical style and genre explored in the “Hot Light” album?

A: This album explores two distinct styles. Half of this album is lighthearted funk stylings, and half is more serious jazz-fusion compositions. I did it this way because it’s just how I was feeling at that time in my life, both musically and personally. I had a rhythm section specifically for the jazz-fusion tunes and a different rhythm section for the funk tracks. The album features different singers on all the tracks, so it was really just an excuse to work with some of my favorite musicians! 

Q: What themes or concepts are prevalent throughout the songs on “Hot Light”?

A: This album was written about a time in my life I was in transition. I had moved to a new state, alone, and I wasn’t sure it was the right choice. When I went home, it didn’t quite feel like home, but neither did my new city. A lot of the album explores how I was coping with that. 

Q: Did you face any specific challenges or breakthroughs during the process of creating the album?

A: It was always so surprising to hear the music played by live musicians, and to hear their take on something I’d written. I learned throughout the process to trust in the instincts of these great musicians who graciously agreed to play on the album, but also learned to balance that with when to step in and guide how a certain part was going. There’s some excellent improvisation on the album that went differently than I had written in the chart, and those are some of my favorite spots on the record!

Q: How would you describe the overall mood or atmosphere that the album creates?

A: Mood-wise, it flits between angsty and silly. I think when listening, you can hear a sense of passion, and an attempt at something new. I really tried to make every second of this album have a special feature or moment, so I hope that comes through overall when you’re listening to it. 

Q: Are there any particular tracks on the “Hot Light” album that hold special significance to you? If so, why?

A: The song “Someplace Special” is special to me because it has the word “special” in the title. Also, it’s about what it’s like to move away from home when you’re young. It explores how when you leave home and return later, it can feel different than it used to. Familiar faces look strange…strange faces look familiar. The track “Mean” is a silly little exploration of how it feels to live in what feels like a very mean world sometimes, but it doesn’t point the finger at others, its more about all of us. 

Q: What was the collaborative process like with other musicians or producers involved in the making of the album?

A: Stuart Wicke, who is a recording artist himself, was like an unofficial producer on the album. I was showing him snippets and tracks and getting his invaluable input throughout the process. The song “Steeped in Blue” is based on a line from a poem written by my sister, who I actually wrote a lot of the lyrics of “Latika” with. Ethan Evans, a brilliant trombonist and musician, helped edit the horn parts I wrote, and even penned some horn parts/ideas of his own. All of the musicians on the record were invited to have their own creative input. Being in the studio with top-class musicians who lent their own style to the parts was so incredible. Working with Gracie Terzian was a treat, as she lent her knowledge and expertise on her tracks. Montre Davis of Linkin’ Bridge (Americas Got Talent) lent his childlike charm on the track, it was so fun to watch him record that. I hope people enjoy the incredible musicianship captured on this recording.  Go check out the other artists on the album! There’s a full personnel list of everyone who played or sang on the album on the album’s bandcamp page. 

Q: Did you experiment with any new sounds or musical elements on “Hot Light”? If so, can you share some details?

A: I tried to make this album sound “live”, as if you were hearing this band play through the songs. There isn’t much in the way of fancy music production techniques or canned instruments, pretty much everything you hear is played by a real human on a real instrument. As far as musical elements go, I experimented with tone rows (Someplace Special). I also experimented with unconventional forms, so there’s not a lot of traditional verse/chorus type structure. I think this makes it fresh to listen to.

Q: What message or emotions do you hope listeners will take away from experiencing the album?

A: I hope listeners call their friends and family and ask them how they’re doing! I think a lot of us go through things in silence and sometimes don’t connect with those closest to us as much as we could. So call your mom or your sibling or that one buddy from college. Really that’s the point of all this anyway.

Q: How does “Hot Light” represent your growth and artistic evolution since your previous releases?

A:  I just let my imagination run wild on this album, and wrote whatever crazy idea came into my head without limiting it. I definitely learned a lot about recording and writing music, I hope to make another one someday soon.