Bonnaroo artist spotlight: Mondo Cozmo

If you've attended a U.S. music festival this year, chances are, you've heard Mondo Cozmo's heartwarmingly wholesome songs. One of the hardest working artists this year, Mondo Cozmo has hit the ground running before even releasing his first record under the moniker. The artist has been getting his energetic live show out there following the viral success of his track "Shine," and as crowds follow everywhere he goes, clearly it's working for him.

One of the star performances on Thursday at Bonnaroo was Mondo Cozmo's roaring setup in This Tent, complete with a random naked dude in the front row for the entire hour (here's a hint: don't go looking for pics of that!). If the crowd who flooded the tent to hear him weren't already fans, chances are, they are now. Prior to his Bonnaroo set, AXS spoke with Josh Ostrander, the genius behind the quirky name.

AXS: After the two other bands you fronted didn’t pan out, how did you get up the courage to go out again as a solo artist?
Josh Ostrander: You know, it wasn’t courage. I was working two jobs when I was recording songs in my guest bedroom. The songs that were coming out, I didn’t know if I’d be able to keep doing music, and it was killing me. So, I was just like, screw it, I’m going to make songs because I love doing it, and I’m going to play them while I’m making dinner or driving in my truck. I just love, love it. And then I recorded “Shine,” and I was just like, wow, this is like the boy who cried wolf or something, but I have a tune here that I think could really make a difference. And within two months, I had a record deal, that song was just so powerful. Somebody thought there was something to it. Honestly though, I was recording songs in my bedroom before that.

AXS: What do you think is working for Mondo Cozmo that didn’t work for Laguardia or Eastern Conference Champions?
J.O.: You know, it’s maybe a lot of things. I don’t have to answer to anybody, so when I’m recording, I don’t have to turn to three other people and ask them if they like something. Or if I need to change anything. That’s cool because I can make decisions really quick, I don’t have to ask anyone else, which is great. But also, I realized I have to really engage people on social media. Everything’s got to be in my voice. It’s me writing, it’s me responding to messages. It’s just grown so fast, it’s been great to see. But also, just being fearless, and not being worried if it’s cool or not.

AXS: As a fan of The Verve myself, I have to ask - what drew you towards your great cover of “Bittersweet Symphony?” It’s such a different style than your own music.
J.O.: It’s the greatest song of all time! But they had some sample issues on that song, and I’ve run into some sample issues too, to the point that the label was like “we can’t put this song out.” So I was like, screw it, I’m going to release it myself. And then the response we got off of that song that had the sample in it was so great that the label had to go and get it cleared. I was like, that’s cool, I love that. So the song [“Bittersweet Symphony”] was just perfect. It’s a great rock and roll song, the lyrics are meaningful, and I feel a connection to it.

AXS: You’re playing so many music festivals this year, what sets any of them apart for you as an artist?
J.O.: Each one, you really do take away this memory of this great event. We’ve already done like four or five of them. It’s weird, because we did Sasquatch, and the thing I took away was the beauty of the canyon we were in. And Boston Calling, it was just such a great rock show. Each one has their own little thing that makes it different. 

AXS: With such a hectic schedule, what are you doing in between the shows to keep from getting burned out?
J.O.: I drink a lot? [laughter] I honestly try to work out every day, that’s something that’s tough, but try to look after yourself. Be patient, be patient with everybody, because we’re in tight quarters a lot. I’ve got a great band, a really great group of guys. But, yeah, I just try to look after myself as best as I can, and not drink too much.

AXS: As a veteran now in the industry, what advice would you give youngsters out there who hear your music and decide they want to go out there and do this?
J.O.: Honestly I would tell them don’t stop, don’t give up. You’re looking at a guy that had every chance in the world and didn’t get it, and I just started recording songs in my bedroom. If you hit a wall, you just go around it. That’s what you have to do, you just keep fighting.

AXS: Last question, you can only pick one word to describe your music, what do you go with?
J.O.: Honest.
AXS: That’s a good one!
J.O.: Yeah? Honest. I just thought of it.

Fans hoping to hear more from Mondo Cozmo can check out his website. He has a set coming up at Firefly 2017, and tour dates booked until October.