Songwriter Profile: Mozella (Miley Cyrus - "Wrecking Ball")

Song Biz 12 MoZella new pixA decade ago when she came to Hollywood from Detroit, Mozella was intent on establishing her career as a recording artist. After well-received releases for two labels, Maverick and Universal, stellar reviews and industry acclaim had not persuaded the proverbial planets to align in her favor.

“When I came into the record business, everything started changing,” remembers the singer-songwriter whose given name is Maureen Anne McDonald. “I discovered that my style worked really well for television shows and commercials.” Series like Fringe, The Closer, The City, Castle, The Hills, Bones and One Tree Hill featured her songs as did ads for Mercedes Benz, Nivea, Motorola Droid, Verizon and JC Penney. From toothbrushes to patty melts it became clear that Mozella’s shimmering songs and radiant voice were ideal counterpoints to an abundance of plots and products.

“It became my thing,” she professes. “I realized that if I could earn a living doing these songs I could have a life; work out in the morning and then go write. I had a lifestyle and I was earning enough money to do what I wanted which led to writing songs for other artists.”

With the No. 1 success of “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus (a Mozella co-write with Dr. Luke, Cirkut, Stephan Moccio and Sacha Skarbek) this aptitude paid off. “The writer doesn’t necessarily get the glory,” she affirms. “But if you can move your ego out of the way and remember what initially made you love music, you get to a sincere place. You want your songs to have a home––the best possible platform.”

As a co-writer, Mozella believes in projecting authenticity. “When you stay open you can be vulnerable. A lot of songwriting is like therapy. When someone starts talking about their kid or their parent you’re talking about heartbreaking or joyful things that subconsciously lead to the making of a song. Collaborating is about being open and receptive to others’ emotions.”

Mozella brings a female perspective into the writing room. “I’m not too precious,” she says. “I’m definitely not going to try and overtake a session. I’m there to enhance the process. When I get called in, it’s for me to bring a lyric that’s relatable to other women and to strike that chord.”

She maintains her parallel career as a recording artist. In 2012, Mozella teamed up with Brian Holland for the full-length release, The Brian Holland Sessions. As a member of the triumvirate Holland-Dozier-Holland, the legendary songwriter-producer is famous for a historic catalog of massive hits for Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Four Tops and other Motown greats. “Brian is like a bright light of love,” enthuses Mozella. “You can hear it in his songs: ‘You Can’t Hurry Love,’ and ‘Baby Love.’ That’s him. He taught me to not overthink. Being with Brian and seeing how free spirited he can be, I realized that love and music make you feel young and ageless. As a songwriter, you can give others the freedom to feel the same way.”

Mozella says that a year ago she hit a rough patch in her life. Although she refrains from referencing this drama directly, the lyrics that she penned for “Wrecking Ball” reveal the meltdown of a tempestuous relationship. “I happened to meet Miley Cyrus, and I shared those moments with her. That led to her bringing the song to Luke, and it then being turned into something that I never could have imagined,” she says.

Mozella is thankful. “You hope that your first big moment is a song that you are proud of. Sometimes you get called in to some ‘Frankenstein session,’ and it’s with seven writers. You end up with 10 percent of the publishing and never feel like it’s yours. I feel blessed that this song is from my heart and my experience. Having it go to Number One a year to the week from when it was written is a blessing.”

To Mozella, creators of words and music bring value to the world. “I would tell any songwriter that songwriting is tapping into people’s hearts,” she says.

“The best way to do that is to be in touch with your own.”

More details at http://mozellamusic.com

By Dan Kimpel