Everybody knows the guy that brings his guitar to the party. The one who croaks out, “Anyway, here’s Wonderwall,” and begins strumming the Oasis rendition that nobody asked for.
It’s a rare thing to like that guy, but when he is as charismatic and witty as LA-based songwriter Pozzi, you not only end up liking him, but you might just find yourself singing along when he breaks out his guitar. Rather than playing overcooked ‘90s pop tunes however, Pozzi spent his teen years entertaining his friends with silly songs he made up himself. As he realized his ability to liven up a crowd, the musician thought that he might just be able to make a career out of it.
His parents, on the other hand, seemed to recognize their son’s potential even before that, from the time he was a little kid. Always enamored by the acoustic styles of artists such as Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, Pozzi spent his youth absorbed in videos of these performers and other similar artists. On his eighth birthday, Pozzi’s mom and dad gifted him a guitar. From that point on, there was always noise in their house on the outskirts of Boston. With dedication and practice, that noise turned into chord progressions, then songs, and ultimately well-polished music he played live with his Boston-based band before skipping town to take the next bold step in his career.
On a whim, the 20-something songwriter left New England suburbia for a metropolis across the country, the city where stars are born, Los Angeles. He credits his youthful intuition for the best decision he’s ever made. Right away, Pozzi joined a band and got performing. He worked hard on his dream, and found abundance in opportunities.
Like any meaningful journey, Pozzi’s route to achieving his dream was neither smooth nor easy- nor finished. He’s found himself in the throes of various ups and plenty of downs, including a lost gallbladder, post-concert mornings with dollar bills stuffed into his pants (debatable whether that’s good or bad), meals scavenged from the dumpster, incessant drinking, and through it all, battles with depression. But through these battles blossoms genuine art.
The songwriter’s latest single, “Tyrant,” addresses his struggles. Produced by Frankie Siragusa at the Lab Studios in Highland Park, the track is a single from his up-and-coming album of the same name, set to be released in August.
The single, which premiered on Juneteenth, tackles big ideas, addressing not only the inward-oppression of the songwriter’s self-doubt, but also systemic oppressions such as racism and government-sanctioned violence. The track is meant to be a call for action. Using music to inspire, Pozzi hopes that we can dismantle tyrannical structures, both within and outside of ourselves, and fight for a just world.
We had the chance to discuss these ideas with Pozzi, getting a glimpse into the artist’s life, musical inspirations, songwriting techniques, favorite educational resources, and much more.
What first got you into playing and writing music?
Learning guitar at a very young age and listening to The Beatles and Led Zeppelin is what got me into making “noise,” as I wouldn’t call it music, ha. But when I was a teenager I started listening to a lot of Dylan, Joni, Croce, and Cat Stevens. I’d watch old videos of them performing just on acoustic guitar and I was mesmerized by their songs and style. I’d say to myself…”I want to do that one day”! I learned chord arrangements from listening to their records on repeat, and it inspired me to start trying to sing and write lyrics to accompany my playing. Then I would bring a guitar to parties (yes, I was THAT guy) and I would write these inappropriate joke songs and get the whole party singing along to them. I thought…maybe I could actually do this on a larger scale one day, but with real songs. Fast forward about a decade of performing mostly as a lead guitarist in various bands, I decided to pick up the acoustic again and start writing and performing my own songs more seriously.
What has your transition from a kid playing guitar in the suburbs of Boston to selling out shows at notorious L.A. venues, such as The Hotel Cafe and The Sayers Club, looked like? Can you fill us in on the “in-between”?
I have to pinch myself sometimes, because I have had some unforgettable nights of music that nobody can ever take away from me. When you’re a young kid playing guitar, you fantasize about getting up on a stage and having the lights on you and the audience cheering. Wearing cool outfits and the whole thing. It takes a lot to actually get there and it seems so far away when it’s just you in your bedroom in front of the mirror. I was in some bands as a teenager in Boston and played some local shows there, but things fizzle out and it’s just a harder city to get going in. Best and boldest decision I ever made was spontaneously packing up a suitcase and booking a one-way ticket to LA in my early 20’s. Opportunities started presenting themselves in unimaginable ways. But I was ready for them. I had put the time in as a player. I joined a band the first week I arrived, lugging my gear on the bus. Played my first show at Dragonfly in Hollywood within two weeks of arriving. The rest is history, I suppose.
How did you choose the stage name Pozzi?
I’ve gone through a bunch of artist names, trying to find ones that work. The reality is that I get bored with things very quickly, so I couldn’t find a name that I felt I’d enjoy for more than a couple of years, or that I wouldn’t get sick of seeing all the time. Pozzi is my last name and a bunch of people call me that already, and it’s not the least attractive artist name one could have. So, it seemed like an obvious choice, since I’m sort of stuck with it anyways, I’d better learn to like it.
Do you have any favorite stories from your time touring?
I’ve been lucky enough to play some shows in the Middle East over the past two years, which has been life changing. There is this specific tour story that came up again recently, and I couldn’t stop laughing about it. I will leave out names so as to not incriminate anyone. Basically, I was playing guitar for this band, and we had a show in Sacramento. The other guitarist in the band had like six guitars that he would bring to every show. For reasons unknown to me, we had to downgrade from a van to a small SUV while in Sacramento. Which meant less room for all the gear and all the band members. The other guitarist had to choose between having room for his guitars, or having room for the keyboardist in the band. He chose the guitars. So, off we go, driving away from a field in Sacramento while the keyboard player sits alone in the middle of that field, watching our van disappear into the distance. At the time it was hard to believe. We literally left a band member in a random field in Sacramento and drove back to LA. But now the keyboard player and I can laugh about how ridiculous that was.
Although you are a skilled musician, a lot of your focus is in lyrics. What is the most difficult part of writing your songs?
The hardest part is usually finding the right words to get my message across. Words that will remain interesting, are visual, personal, and will also sing well, which is something I think a lot of lyricists overlook. But there is so much more to it. I write on guitar a lot, so I try and find interesting sounding chord shapes and progressions first. Most of the time my guitar will be in some strange tuning, so that I don’t know what I’m doing, and can’t rely on habits. That way the song comes from a very real and urgent place. A lot of the time I’m sounding out chords and melodies and just blabbering nonsense over it. I’m sure my neighbors love that. Then something will strike, a melody or a lyric, or a strange open chord that hits a nerve. Then it’s all about chasing that rabbit down the hole as far as possible. You can’t try too hard, because the rabbit will get scared and run off, and someone else will catch it. So, it’s this delicate balancing act between keeping something raw, but formulating it into something tangible. A lot of the time I end up scrapping my ideas, but the moments of clarity that I can then spin and refine into something worthy, are what you will end up hearing.
Who are some of your inspirations?
Musically I have too many to name. Right now, I’m listening to and inspired by Fiona Apple, Nick Drake, Big Thief, Joan Armatrading, Scott Walker, Sun Kil Moon, and Jenny Lewis. Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen are always looming. Generally speaking, I’m a massive Stephen King fan and his process and prolificacy as a writer has truly inspired me.
Can you talk a little bit about the process of making your latest single, “Tyrant”?
The song “Tyrant” came from a place of fiery resentment towards the American political system, and at a particular time of introspection as I struggled to get over a deep depressive personal state. I had written about fifteen versions of a song similar to this one. Different titles, different chords and melodies, but same message. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t get this song right and was overall in a creative funk. I ended up renting this lockout room Downtown and the first day I went there, I opened up the windows and let the daylight soak the room. Looking directly at the Downtown skyline as I picked up the guitar, I started playing, and immediately the words “Some kind of tyrant left you so silent,” just came out. The rest of the song wrote itself almost in an instant, a flash. It just seemed so right, and like the music was coming from somewhere else. So, I kept it. And I felt so strongly about the title and the message that I ended up naming my entire album Tyrant as well. It wasn’t until I went into the studio that my producer said “What the hell time signature is this chorus in?” And I said “How the hell would I know?” Pointing out that I had written in a somewhat confusing time signature accidentally. Anyways, the pandemic hit very soon after that, and that was the one and only time I got to use that lockout room. It served its purpose I’d say.
The track references relatable inner-battles, such as depression, fears, and anxiety. If you’re comfortable, would you mind talking a bit about your own journey relating to these issues, and the ways your music strives to combat feelings of self-doubt?
I’ve been a moody person from a very young age. I think people are surprised to find that I struggle with depression and anxiety because a lot of the time I’m cheery and outgoing. Perhaps qualities I’ve developed as a survival mechanism. I noticed that I was making a lot of poor decisions as a result of my depression only much later in life. I was finally able to accept it, and educate myself on how to combat it.
The journey goes something like this: Lash out, party too much, drink too much, sleep too much, eat too much, sever friendships and relationships, lie too much, lose jobs, hangout with toxic people, feel awful about myself and repeat from the beginning. It took me a long time to even put a name to the foundational issues that were governing most of my bad decisions. A lot of it was tied to drinking. Which is hard to admit. I would drink because I was depressed, and I was depressed when I drank. When I sobered up the first time, I was able to take a long hard look at myself. Then began the work. AA meetings, therapy, meditation, exercise, medication, eating healthy, cutting out toxic people, avoiding certain triggers. Some of that work turned into habits I still use, a lot of it didn’t. Knowing that I will have to live with this imbalance forever, but that I can make choices to control how it will manifest is powerful. All the while music has been there. A life raft when I need to get my feelings across and nothing else seems to work. I find the most joy and relief in writing and playing music, more than any substance can achieve.
This band I used to love called Maximo Park had this song and lyric “Apply some pressure, you lose some pressure.” It’s such a perfect message and I use it as a mantra to this day with music. I try and touch on self-doubt and uncertainty in my songs because that is often the state I’m in and the medium I use to navigate such feelings. And I know that it can be helpful for someone else to hear they’re not alone, and that these feelings are part of being human.
“Tyrant” is also incredibly timely in the way it refers to systemic oppressions such as racism and classism. The single being released on Juneteenth feels deliberate. Will you talk a bit about your goals for this track, and how you believe we can actively combat the “tyrant” of oppressive structures?
“Tyrant” is a multidimensional song in terms of the specific issues it discusses, but it all falls under the umbrella of fighting against oppression. My goal is to inspire people to raise their voices, and speak up for what they believe in. Everyone has a struggle or a battle they are facing. From a grand scale such as overthrowing a racist government system, all the way down to those inner demons that can ruthlessly control our lives. In terms of actively combating Tyrannical structures, it starts with educating ourselves on how those structures operate. Spreading the message through protests, posting, songs, and articles is a step in the right direction. Next, we will need to organize globally and lead workplace strikes on a massive scale. Hit the capitalist system financially, the place it cares about the most. When the masses and the working class realize they have the power, everything can change.
In addition to making music, I know you aim to educate yourself in “a country filled with turmoil.” Do you have any go-to educational resources, or some that you can recommend?
I’ve used Al Jazeera as a news source for many years, more often when I was actively protesting the war in Iraq and educating myself on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It goes without saying, but as an American it’s important to read sources that aren’t based in America, as they are usually unbiased and not propagating US imperialism. Avoid FOX News like the plague that it is. Some relevant and helpful resources that I would check out are “The New Jim Crow,” a book by Michelle Alexander, and the documentary “13th.” They are beautifully crafted critiques of inequality as it pertains to the American prison system. They will make you want to scream in the name of justice.
If you could give one piece of advice to your past self, that 8-year-old Boston boy learning to play guitar, what would you say?
Dear Young Pozzi,
First of all, you’re a lot cuter than you think you are, so enjoy it while it lasts, because it won’t. Anyways, here is my real advice. You’re going to meet a lot of people that will think they know what is best for you. They don’t. Follow your heart and your gut, and when you get a little older and those bastards tell you that you aren’t good enough, don’t listen to them. And don’t waste years of your life considering that maybe they were right. The truth is, they were never good enough for you. Also, get rid of those stupid beany babies.
What can we expect from POZZI in the next few years?
I will be releasing another single in July, followed by the release of my debut full-length studio album “Tyrant” in August. I’m already working on the next collection of songs after that album and hopefully shooting some videos as well. I’d love to say that I’ll be out and about performing these songs in venues all over, but the future is unclear in terms of live music. Some goals/dreams that I am trying to manifest over the next couple of years:
· Play a tiny desk concert!
· Perform a KEXP live in-studio show!
· Perform at Red Rocks (stretch but why not!)
· Perform on Jools Holland (bigger stretch?)
· Perform at Glastonbury (rubber band has snapped!)