Jack Mosbacher has always had music in his heart, but it took enduring one of the most painful experiences of his life to begin writing his own.
A veteran of the jazz and cabaret scenes in New York, Jack was preparing for his first headlining show in San Francisco when one of his oldest friends was killed in an accident. He was inspired to write his own music for the first time, hoping to provide something for the community affected by the unthinkable loss. He quickly realized that his sudden urge to write songs was just as much for his own healing as it was for others. It was the only way he could cheer himself up.
“I started making music in earnest in some really dark moments in my life,” Jack explains. “For some people, that might manifest into songs about pain and loss. For some reason, I instinctively wanted to make music that would cheer people up, make people happy; make people dance; make people hopeful.”
In the years that have followed, the singer-songwriter has been living up to his goal of being a beacon of light in a dark world. His brand of retro soul is uplifting and joyous. He’s had his music played at weddings and at wakes, but now he’s ready to begin a new chapter in his career. And with a new chapter comes a new name.
Although Jack is still the mastermind behind this project, he wanted the focus to be less on him and more on the music he was making. Hailing from the Bay Area, he searched for a moniker that stood for his hometown and came up with Kezar, taken from San Francisco’s iconic Kezar Stadium in the Haight-Ashbury district – the original home of his beloved 49ers that still stands today, and a music venue that played host to some of Jack’s favorite bands, including Led Zeppelin, Santana, Tower of Power, and the Grateful Dead.
As Kezar, Jack wanted to take his music in a new direction while staying true to the uplifting nature of his sound. And there’s no better feel-good music than pop, a genre Jack’s always wanted to tap into but never felt he possessed the right resources and tools to do so. One fateful day, he met manager Brad Margolis, who introduced him to a couple of producers that specialize in pop: Nitzan Kaikov (K-Kov) and Jeoff Harris.
With K-Kov producing Grammy-nominated albums for Keith Urban and sharing producer credits with Justin Timberlake, Jack knew he was in good hands. From the first day in the studio, the California native made his vision clear: he told the producers he wanted to find a sound that Berry Gordy would sign if he was starting Motown today. He wanted to make hook-dependent, danceable, fun music. He wanted romance, he wanted joy. He wanted to make music that could help people escape their worries, even if just for a few minutes.
“I’ve always tried to pack as much joy into every measure of my music as I can,” Jack admits. “I didn’t want to lose that by going in a new direction, but I knew for some reason that I really wanted to make a true pop record. I finally met people who were willing to bet on me and give me their time and talent to help make it happen.”
While soul is still the backbone of Kezar’s music, it incorporates a wide array of sounds. Using state-of-the-art synthesizer technology, he and the producers added throwback elements from hip-hop’s glory days, like the big 808 drum machines on Run-DMC and NWA records and stacked backing vocals and bass synths reminiscent of the 2000’s Hyphy Movement – homages to Mac Dre, Mistah F.A.B., Keak da Sneak, and Traxamillion. On top, he injected the tracks with the rock-leaning pop sensibility of his hometown heroes Train and contemporary pop influences like Bruno Mars, Sam Smith and Shawn Mendes. The result is a collection of songs that range from sensual, slow-burning R&B jams to funk-laden pop earworms. Partnered for live performances with drummer James Small (Fantastic Negrito), it is obvious that the duo’s sound is defined by the marriage of Jack’s sunny San Francisco pop and Small’s heavier-hitting Oakland rhythm and blues.
“The possibilities of what you can do with people who possess this kind of technical skill and composition talent is really limitless,” Jack says of K-Kov and Harris. “It’s like a sculptor looking at big piece of marble and realizing, ‘I can literally shape this into anything.’ And you have to figure out a way to carve out something that feels both new and true to you.”
Although the way in which this project was created couldn’t be more foreign to Jack—he’s used to writing a song and then recording it with a group of musicians in a big studio, rather than creating everything in a studio between two people—the process has made him more open-minded to new sounds and, quite frankly, a better songwriter.
“This feels as much like me, if not more so, than the music I’ve made in the past,” the singer-songwriter says without hesitation. “I love pop music, I just never knew how to make it. What I’ve found is that if you know who you are and what you’re trying to do going in, then regardless of your influences and methods, the result will sound like you. That’s the thing I’m most proud of with this music: it’s a completely new sound for me, but it feels genuine to who I am, and I think it is a big step forward for me as an artist and as a human.”
With these new tools, the sky’s the limit for Jack—as Kezar or otherwise. And this is just the beginning.