Don’t mistake Bret Mosley for your typical singer-songwriter.
Sure, he sings songs he wrote himself, as well as a bunch of covers you wouldn’t normally expect from a solo artist.
“But I’m a one-man band,” he insisted. When he launches into a tune with his Dobro and stompboard, “it sounds like three people. … I’ll play any Friday or Saturday night any place in front of any band.”
That attitude, energy and confidence carries over to performances and recordings. Half-singing, half-shouting his tales of half-mad half-enlightened lovers and vagabonds working hard to find just the right words to force the truth on to unsuspecting strangers, Mosley, 52, sounds as driven and hell-bent on success as any young buck half his age.
“Dobro-spanking yeller of poems,” as his Facebook page describes him. “Hank Sr. meets the Ohio Players … John Butler meets one-man Gov’t. Mule ... Chris Whitley meets Marvin Gaye.”
Another music writer said he was “somewhere in the desert between Son House and Leonard Cohen.”
Mosley passes through the Tetons this week for two shows as he tours his latest album, “X’ing,” released at the end of October on his own Out of the Park Records.
He’ll play apres-ski Saturday at the Trap Bar at Grand Targhee Resort in Alta, then come over the pass for a Sunday night at Town Square Tavern.
This won’t be Mosley’s first trip to Jackson. He had a similar itinerary last year, he said, and also has passed through with the like-minded un-self-censoring Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons, for whom he gives a great deal of credit for his success as a touring musician today.
Mosley met Joseph in a New York club where Mosley had just performed, promoting his then-recent release “Light & Blood.” The party was his debut at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, N.Y., which later was listed in the Top Five Live Shows of 2007 by New York’s Times-Record — up there with Jack Ingram, Ted Nugent, Queen Latifah and Bob Dylan.
“[Joseph] said, ‘If I have anything to do with it, a year from now you’ll never have a day job again,’” Mosley said, recalling the conversation while talking on the phone in his car on his way from Butte to Hamilton, Mont. “That came true, it really did.”
Joseph put Mosley in a tour van with his Jackmormons and even made a record with him, 2008’s “Change.”
“He opened up the entire U.S. to me as a touring artist,” Mosley said in his online bio.
“I think Bret is the real f---ing deal,” Joseph, in his characteristic profane fashion, said of Mosley in an email. “Great songwriter. Impeccable cover choices. And a s--t ton of soul for a Texan ballerina football star,” referring to a few of Mosley’s past professions. “I spend a considerable amount of time listening to and watching him … so I can steal every goddamn note and dance move.
“That said,” Joseph said, “if he keeps playing all the same markets as me in the same night I’m gonna sell off his Phish tickets.”
As a result of that boost — and Mosley’s own indefatigable drive — these days he’s on the road constantly to make 200-plus shows a year. He’s got an apartment in Brooklyn where he keeps his stuff and where his mail is sent, “but home is typically a paved asphalt surface or a metal and upholstered capsule that moves atop an asphalt surface.”
He was perhaps prepared for life on the road by his father, a PTSD-suffering veteran of the Vietnam War who moved constantly. Born in Texas, Mosley attended 28 schools by the time he graduated.
“He’s been visiting me a lot as I’ve been holed up in Butte,” where Mosley has been writing for his next album. “He came by and said, ‘Slow down, son.’ But I’m getting a rhythm. I’ve got wonderful fans, the tribe. I don’t really couch surf — tonight in Hamilton I’ve got a cabin. In Billings I have a wonderful friend with a room for me. I feel like a kept man for being such a vagabond.”
He wasn’t always on track to be a road-warrior musician. In fact he started out on the Wall Street corporate track.
“I was trying to be the next Gordon Gekko,” he said. “I was driven. I got into this [music] thing after doing a wide array of things for many years. ... I can’t accept the idea of living any differently. I want to play music all over the world for the rest of life.”