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The first time we heard 29 year old Nino Moschella we knew he had a magic touch. Gritty, soulful, and honest, his vocal styling and unique funk productions were a must-have for Ubiquity. Imagine our surprise when we learned that this golden voice belonged to a rough n’tumble Irish-Italian-American character from around the way.
Fellow Bay Area crooner Bart Davenport brought Nino Moschella to our attention. He mailed us a demo of tracks that had been recorded at Moschella’s home studio. Working on only a 4-track tape machine, hand claps and broom-stick banging took the place of the usual computer driven drum loops. Innovating with limited resources his lo-fi studio situation provided the perfect gritty back-drop to a big and bold vocal talent. Moschella’s demo was a series of well-written songs with a unique and blend of 1960s soul and funk mixed with even a little bit of indie-pop and folk.
Moschella carries his DIY demo spirit through to his debut album, The Fix, to be released late May 2006. His first official release from this album is, “The Real Better Believe EP”, which the influential music blog Music For Robots calls “absolutely fabulous...a record that Steve Wonder should be making in 2006." It also caused DJ Mag to label the EP “Single of the month” and state, “Cut from the same cloth as soul/funk legends Stevie Wonder, Prince, Betty Davis and Sly Stone, 29 year old, multi-instrumentalist Nino Moschella is what they call in A&R circles “a right f*cking find”.”
Leading off with “Better Off”, Nino plays almost all the instruments (as with most of his tracks) and makes most of the noises from drums to beat boxing. It’s a minimal production keeping only the most essential elements in a bass-line driven rock n’soul style. On “Are You For Real” lo-fi stoner grooves on top are backdrop for Moschella who starts off subtle in falsetto but slowly builds to climatic scream. And on “Believe In Yourself” he adds a little gospel to the mix with a trippy organ section mid-way through.
The Fix album continues the EP’s fusion of genres and eras. With one foot firmly planted in the present Moschella’s musical mash-up is also a reminder that there were days when bands like Jimi Hendrix played on the same bill as Led Zepplin, The Grateful Dead and Sly and The Family Stone. On The Fix he has found his own way of blending rock, soul, and funk and blurring the lines between electronic and acoustic music.
Born into a musical family Moschella’s father was perhaps his first musical influence. “My dad sings and plays guitar. He started out in the choir and singing doo-wop in the Bronx,” explains Moschella. “My mom sings lullabies, I had a great uncle Nino who played the violin and my grand folks were always singin’. You know, typical loud Sicilian folks always carrying on.” Nino Moschella now lives with his wife Mia and recently born daughter in Friant, California, close to Yosemite, in a round house his father built with friends in the late 1960s. They also built a music studio on the property which is where most of his album is being recorded. There’s nothing much but trees, creeks, coyotes, the sun, moon and stars to keep them company.
Moschella’s first musical outing was at the tender age of 5 years old. His father told him to keep time on the snare drum for his rhythm and blues band because their drummer failed to show up for practice. “It was a rim shot on the three. I couldn’t reach any of the peddles, so I kept it simple,” jokes Moschella. But his drumming aspirations grew, and before deciding he’d write and sing, Moschella was set on being a jazz drummer. In fact he plays drums, beatboxes and bangs random items around the studio all over the album in-progress in addition to playing the majority of the instrumentation, too. “I play drums, bass, guitar, stuff with strings, stuff with skin, hand claps, string bass on my sweat shirt tassels,” lists Moschella. “I’m workin’ on my keys. I’m workin’ on all that shit…always.”
When Ubiquity Records first made contact with Moschella, propping up the bar at local East Bay haunt The Ivy Room, it was clear that he had not previously heard of Ubiquity and was someone with musical influences that didn’t include the typical list of current funk and soul faves. He even suggested we might file his records between Caruso and Louie Prima, “In with the other Italian soul singers," he joked. Of his influences Moschella says, “In the last couple of years I discovered Donny Hathaway’s music and voice. That dude was incredible,” and added, “If I find myself getting clouded or too heady, I’ll put on some Miles or Oscar Peterson or the Montgomery Bros. or Jimmy Smith. That seems to help center me on why I do this. You know, to play, express, communicate, and have fun. It seems like every other day something blows my mind even if I've heard it a thousand times. If American culture is blessed in only one way it is definitely the depth and richness of our music.”
Playing the demos to a few label friends earned Moschella comparisons to everyone from classic soul artists like Michael Jackson to Little Beaver, and new acts like Little Barrie or Amp Fiddler.
A new addition to his family, a bouncing baby girl called Estrella Icilda Rosemary Moschella Birdsong (!), has helped shape his recent recordings. And when he’s not in the studio, or playing Poppa he confesses he’s probably carrying out other Sicilian traditions either “Making love or making food.”