by Nur Lajunen-Tal

Mozie: Letting The Son Shine In

by Nur Lajunen-Tal

Mozie: Letting The Son Shine In

Emotive heartbreak ballad Not Done Loving showcased the strong, sweet-toned voice and vulnerability of her songwriting when Mozie first appeared on the scene in 2022. Her second single Sonshine continues in a similar breezy, warm-tinged soul vein, the new song no less vulnerable but taking a more inspirational angle. Nur Lajunen-Tal talked to her for NZM. Made with support from NZ On Air Music.

NZ-Samoan artist Mozie, whose real name is Moana Leota, collaborated with Leonardo Coghini on Sonshine, the two having met through Bret McKenzie‘s band.

“I was a fill-in backing vocalist for Louis Baker and we went live on RNZ one day – my friend Kat and I, who is the other backing vocalist for Bret McKenzie – and Bret’s wife heard us,” Leota remembers. “At the time, Bret was trying to get a band together for the Newtown Festival and she heard us and she was like, ‘Oh, look! I’ve heard two people on the radio that could be good in your band!’ He found our contacts and gave me a call, and then asked if I was available, and if I could contact Kat? I’d heard of Leo working on music around Wellington and other places, but we officially met for the first time in Bret McKenzie’s band. And then we became very good friends.”

Leota approached Coghini about writing together after Hunter Paranihi, her previous collaborator, moved away.

“We wrote Not Done Loving together. I still wrote the lyrics for that and he wrote the music parts, quite similar to the collaboration between Leo and I. He moved down south, and he’s now got his own baby. I knew Leo, we were in the same band together, so then we were just like, ‘Oh, we could try have a jam!'”

During this initial jam, Sonshine began to take shape organically – even though they hadn’t intended writing a song that day.

“We’d just been for lunch or something, then he just started playing his guitar. I was in the lounge and he was in his studio room writing down some parts, and I was like, ‘Ooh, I really like that!’ And then I started kind of humming along to it, and then we just built on that. So I’d hum, and he’d keep playing something, and then we came up with the verse, and then once we had the verse, we moved onto the chorus, and so on and so forth.”

The lyrics were inspired by a recent heartbreak, but listeners shouldn’t expect a sad sounding song.

“I wanted to have a more positive spin on it. It was about the fact that when you lose something the sun will rise again, you get another chance at life tomorrow – to look at the positive things in a situation that might be quite hard. It was about having someone, a past relationship, not treat me the best, but then knowing that I have worth within myself, and to not necessarily put it all in someone else. It was a song about knowing that I’m worthy of the sun, of sunshine, of happy things, of happy moments, of love…”

Touring with McKenzie stalled completion of the song for a while, but Leota finds a positive to that as well.

“It definitely took us a wee while because halfway through our writing we ended up touring around the US, so we didn’t really have time to work on it! So we’d kind’a come back and forth. Life got in the way a bit, but I think it’s come out when it needed to.”

During this time Leota fell pregnant, which changed the song’s meaning for her and explains that quirky spelling of the title.

“Each time Leo and I would come back to it I would be slightly further along in my pregnancy, and as I was singing and writing the lyrics, I found that the sun rising again was my soon-to-be son! So it went from being a heartbreak song to turning into more of an excitement for my baby kind of song,” she smiles.

Excitement is evident in the single’s joyous sound, especially in the infectious, warm harmony-soaked chorus, where she sings, ‘Even if I’m losing, the sunshine keeps on grooving.’

“That was definitely one that came along with my son,” Leota explains of the lyric. “And that’s like, even if the world feels like it’s falling apart, or I’m really not having a great time, I’ve still got this tiny little human that’s full of joy. He’s still here, he’s still going, he’s still alive and I have to keep him alive. It’s kind of like life goes on, you know? There’s light at the end of the tunnel kind of vibe.”

Leota directed the song’s artsy music video herself. Filmed at Breaker Bay by Havea Latu from Vain Creative, the charming video features her partner Brett Taefu and seven-year-old Roman Hamlin.

“When you watch it, I guess, it looks like it’s a father and son figure. But it could also be an uncle. Some people that I’ve talked to have seen it as a mirror of themselves, like their inner child or something. But essentially, it’s just a comment on the things that bring us joy. For me, what I see Roman bringing Brett is fun, is happiness, is laughter. They’re playing together and things like that.”

Though the ease and confidence of Sonshine suggests experience with writing feel-good summer songs, Leota argues otherwise.

“Even though Not Done Loving has still got a beat to it, I feel like this is the first proper, more upbeat song that I’ve written. I always find writing upbeat songs quite challenging. That’s definitely a major difference. The songs I’ve got that haven’t been released are very slow and sombre.

“Sometimes the world’s not an easy or a nice place to be in, so I think it’s really important for us to share good things and positive things and warm things when we can. You never know, as well, when you share, especially when you’re an artist, you never know who you could touch, who you could help with your art. So I think it’s important that if you’re in a position, and have the energy to do so, to share in that way, it’s really important that you can. It can be lifesaving for someone else.”