Seven Local Acts to See at SXSW Music
"It definitely feels like a compulsion, to me," says early thirtysomething genre-buster Mobley in a hushed tone barely audible over the country twang blaring out of the Companion event space on San Marcos Street. "When I first figured out this is what I was going to do, it didn't feel like a normal, healthy thing. I had all these ideas for where I thought my life was going, but I can't stop doing this thing and it just took over my life without me even realizing it at first.
"If I knew the answer, I'd probably find a way to get rid of whatever it was and do something else."
Mobley's quietness shouldn't be mistaken for aloof or secretive. Well-traveled and experienced through a Marine brat background and his own personal trials – in and out of the industry – the hyperaware pop and R&B singer born Anthony Watkins II may actually understand too much. As such, he doesn't offer many details about himself in his writing.
"It's just not my style right now," he explains. "Increasingly, over the past few years, I've found it pretty impossible not to write about the important things happening in the world, things that affect large swaths of people – things that keep people from being free in the world."
Mobley, named after former basketball star Cuttino Mobley, began as a group. Whittled to him and Tim Shelburne, the duo bubbled early with Let Slip and Young Adult Fiction. Now down to Watkins, Mobley continues to promulgate live wire shows and recordings, touching on serious topics while flipping metaphors in hooks. His mash-ups of electronics and soul result in melodies that would turn Ryan Tedder's head. An honesty in his textured vocals belies experiences held close to the vest, just off his sleeve.
Latest EP Some Other Country never settles in one location sonically, and the meaning of the album is specific and far-reaching.
"As I've gotten older, I've bumped up against this idea that there is not just one country, not just one America," he analyzes, revealing himself for a moment. "Black people know that. You know people [police brutality] happened to. You know that.
"You saw it happen with your own eyes."