Partway through his Weekend 1 set at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Mondo Cozmo gazed over a large crowd that was abuzz about the run of well-crafted songs he and his band had just performed. He exhaled hard and admitted to the gathered that he never really believed those songs would be heard by anyone, let alone an enthusiastic audience at a major music festival.
"This is what never giving up looks like," he told the crowd in an emotional moment.
The Houston Press caught up with the singer-songwriter (actual name, Josh Ostrander) who is spending time in Texas between a pair of ACL sets. The band has been on the road around Texas this week with festival-mates, Spoon. Both acts visit House of Blues Houston this Sunday.
We asked what compelled such an honest moment during the set.
"I had so many years of struggling to get music out, to have the past year that I've had and to connect with so many people has just been such a blessing," he said.
The year leading up to that ACL highlight has included a Billboard chart-topper for Mondo Cozmo, the uplifting anthem "Shine." It's far and away the biggest song he's written over a career in music that stretches back to Y2K days. The Mondo Cozmo debut album, Plastic Soul, was released in August. He's played songs from it this week in Austin, San Antonio and Dallas and is eager to perform them here with a headlining band he appreciates as a fellow artist.
"I've been rolling through Houston for years. Really great rock-n-roll town," he said. "Spoon has been one of my favorite bands; to be able to open up for them has been a personal highlight for me. They are a testament to good songwriting."
As for his own songwriting, we heard tunes that recalled Springsteen, Dylan and Neil Young in his ACL set. He did a cover of The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" that felt at home in a festival setting. Originals "Hold On to Me" and "Chemical Dream" were standouts. Fans knew the words to "Shine" and echoed its catchy chorus back to the band.
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"I'm just a fan of all music. I grew up on The Boss, cut my teeth on '90s Britpop and now I take in as much as I can. I love melody. I kind of just try and blend it all together."
The blend mixed so strongly last weekend that this week the Austin-American Statesman proclaimed Mondo Cozmo one of ACL's "9 Sets That Will Lift Your Spirits." There is something almost spiritual about the set.
"These songs came from a real place," he said. "The songs on this record saved me and took me out of the dark and into the light."
Mondo Cozmo opens for Spoon, 7 p.m. Sunday at House of Blues, 1204 Caroline. $37 to $65.