It seems now more than ever musicians and songwriters are really entering the political arena with a newfound passion to get their voices heard and to call out those they see as charlatans, hate mongers and liars. Boston born yet L.A based Pozzi pulls no punches on his new single, ‘Tyrant’ a really heartfelt examination of abuses of power, oppression and the harm that causes. Taken from his upcoming debut LP scheduled for August, Pozzi has drawn comparisons to the likes of Wilco and Jeff Buckley – you can certainly hear a similar rise and fall of emotive power, for sure – and has put together a real thoughtful song here that offers both hope yet total honesty in these dangerous and uncertain times. A-UK caught up with the young songwriter and asked him how the current political unrest and racial unease in America has shaped his songwriting and what music is currently pushing his buttons.
Hey, thanks for taking the time out to do this. Tell me a little more about the single? These are weird times, both with the Covid-19 situation and the current worldwide ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests. You are clearly trying to get a message across here?
Thanks for the opportunity to discuss my music. “Tyrant” is the newest single from my upcoming full-length album of the same name. When I started writing this song a while back, I was specifically pissed off about gun violence and Trump’s racially motivated hate speech. Then I started thinking about how many types of oppression there are, and how Tyrants can come in all forms. From politicians, down to police, down to neighbors and “friends,” even your own ignorance and negativity can rule and be controlling, and harmful to yourself and others. I think it’s important that we develop the tools to educate and fight against oppressive forces of any kind. Some people fight and communicate with riots, some with protest, some write books, some make films, others write songs. Every bit counts.
There seems to be a lot more artists keen to get their voices heard. How do you see yourself as a musical artist and how that shapes (or restricts, maybe?) your role in the current climate?
As a musical artist I try to write as honestly and directly as possible. I lean towards being a traditionalist, and I write on and play acoustic guitar a lot, but I’m not limited to that and I feel like people have trouble categorizing my songs because they aren’t quite “singer-songwriter” but they aren’t exactly pop or rock either. Which can be restricting when I’m generally trying to market myself.
I think within the current climate, and more than ever, people are searching for honest connection. It’s a time of great uncertainty and a trial of the human spirit. So more than trying to write a political song, or a catchy song, or a song that is more likely to get on a playlist, I try to write an honest song. Something truthful to what I’m feeling at the time, whatever that might be. If I’m feeling political, that’s where I go. Like in “Tyrant.” I know that I am not alone in those feelings, and if I can write something from the heart that connects with even one person…that’s a success.
How has lockdown been for you? Have you been able to focus on your music? It must be very difficult to ‘look forward’ to a time where you can be back out performing live again?
I’ve found it somewhat difficult to focus on music during this lockdown. I’ve had to struggle to arrive at a mindset of low angst and anticipation. Which means turning off the news and avoiding social media and building healthier habits that aren’t going to trigger anxiety. If I’m too distracted it’s really hard to get into a creative place and try to spin it into something worthy. And it’s a battle to not be overwhelmed by the state of the world and America specifically. With that said, I’ve written a few songs that might be keepers, and many more that will never see the light of day. I try and stay positive and do my part as an artist. Keep on putting my butt in the seat and keep on writing and playing and practising. If I think too much about how long it might be until I can perform live again, I’ll get pretty sad. But if it takes another year before there is live music, and it’s for the better health of the planet…so be it.
What music has been keeping you sane and providing a reassuring soundtrack?
I’ve been going back to a lot of the artists and songs that are deeply ingrained in my musical DNA as a means of comfort during all the craziness. The obvious bands like The Beatles and the Everly Brothers have been on repeat. But these are some of the artist’s albums and songs that have been on rotation lately.
Nick Cave: “Skeleton Tree.” This album has been a go-to for me in times of uncertainty and darkness. I’ve heard a lot of people say that it’s too depressing, but I find it uplifting and masterful. When you learn about the tragedy that Cave was living through when this album came to be, it’s impossible not to be moved. To take such a dire circumstance and turn it into something so enchanting and alive, is inspiring.
Fiona Apple: “Fetch The Bolt Cutters.” This album came out just before the lockdown, so it was perfect timing. I’ve been a Fiona Apple fan since the 90s, but this collection of songs goes beyond anything I’ve heard from her. When I first listened, I knew right away that it was brilliant and entirely unique and personal. But it’s an album you need to sit with and listen to over and over again, and find the subtleties, the lyrics that reveal new meanings in time. She is a fierce and unrelentingly brave artist.
Marvin Gaye: “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler.)” A song that captures the sound and soulful spirit of the overlooked minority communities. An overall critique of the system, and how difficult it is to find stability in such a corruptly disproportionate system. “Crime is increasing, trigger happy policing.” Talk about a message that is more relevant now than ever. Despite coming out 40 years ago.
Talk Talk: “Spirit of Eden.” There isn’t much I can say about Talk Talk’s brilliance that isn’t immediately revealed in the first second of this album. And the first line on the record, “Oh yeah, the world’s turned upside down.” Damn right it is. Every note, every lyric, every texture is so elaborate and on this particular album they manage to walk the tightrope between calculation and chaos in a way nobody ever has. It’s an album that requires patience, and a front to back listen without interruption. A musical feat. Whenever I need inspiration, this album starts the fire.
Joan Armatrading: “Down To Zero.” A friend of mine turned me onto Joan Armatrading recently and I’ve gone on an endless deep dive into her work. First of all, she is criminally underrated, even with all her success. Especially in America. Her voice is urgent and powerful, deep and demanding. This particular song has elements of folk, but it’s just so much more. Acoustically driven, country at times, heavy rock, blues, soul, and romantic. She is a transcendental artist. Completely ahead of her time. The exact kind of music that I needed to transport me somewhere far away from here and give me hope at the same time.
Mark Kozelek/Sun Kil Moon: “Alesund.” This song is a highlight from Mark Kozelek because of his guitar playing and lyrics. I think he is one of the most underappreciated guitarists of all time. If you listen to Red House Painters, you hear a young Kozelek playing a lot of electric guitar, with shades of Johnny Marr and deeply personal lyrics accompanying his playing. But then he evolves after many years to play a classical style nylon string guitar in his later project Sun Kil Moon. And it’s absolutely stunning work. I went and bought a nylon string guitar because of this song and his albums. It’s rare to hear someone so gifted at a single instrument and that is also such a poetic and personal lyricist as well. This is a song I can get lost in, and it certainly has inspired me to pick up my guitar and pen more during this lockdown.
Bruce Springsteen: “Nebraska.” Bruce’s most loved and hated album! I bought this CD in a small record shop in New Hampshire last year. It’s the only cd in my car. Not exactly “driving while blasting the stereo with the windows down” kind of music, but I do it anyways. I love this stripped-down acoustic version of Bruce because it highlights his prolificacy as a lyricist. The album is deeply political and reads like newspaper articles. I also spent a lot of time in Atlantic City as a child (long story), so that particular song stands out. During the lockdown I would leave my house and go for solo drives around LA. Just to feel less stuck and get ideas flowing. This has been the soundtrack for that.
Scott Walker: “Scott 4.” Possibly top five favorite albums of all time. I return to this album over and over and over again. And again. It is a masterpiece. Walker’s vocal performances, the songwriting, the orchestration, the guitar work. It’s flawless. Deep, moody, dark and timeless. It’s no surprise he influenced giants like Bowie and Thom Yorke. When I first heard “On Your Own Again,” that nylon guitar that kicks it off, I was hooked for life. I don’t think there is a more powerful and beautiful 1 minute and 45 seconds of sound ever to exist. Instant meditation for me. And I have listened dozens of times over the past couple of months.
Joni Mitchell: “Coyote.” Joni is possibly my favorite songwriter. I’m completely in awe of her talent and beauty. I don’t think she’s of this world. Her voice, her guitar playing, lyrics…just untouchable. I’m always drawn to songwriters who play in interesting tunings and approach chords differently. She had a condition that forced her to learn a certain way, and it just resonates with me. I can’t explain it. The opening chords of this song pull you in immediately. Then you’re on a journey, you’re moving, following the lyrical story, the white lines on the freeway. It’s been helpful to feel like I’m traveling for those five minutes, when in reality we have all been stuck inside. Thank you, Joni.
Bob Dylan: “Murder Most Foul.” My favorite song of the year. A masterpiece. Nearly 17 minutes of pure poetry and storytelling. It breaks all the rules and does so with such grace and fury simultaneously. This song is the story and sound of America over many decades, as Dylan sees it. I cried when I first heard it because it felt like an aged man was reflecting/reminiscing on the major events of his life, good and bad. And that aged man happens to be one of the great observers of the human condition we will ever see. I am completely touched by its power. It was released during lockdown, and his first release in many years. Couldn’t have asked for a better song to inspire me during this time.
Tyrant is out now. The album of the same name is released in August.