John M. Becker

Artist Profile: Jack Mozie

Filed By John M. Becker | July 19, 2013 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: gay marriage, immigration, immigration reform, Jack Mozie, marriage equality, Peru, same-sex marriage, undocumented, undocumented immigrant, undocumented youth

jack_mic.jpgMeet up-and-coming Seattle singer/songwriter Jack Mozie.

Jack is a 23-year-old Peruvian American who's tearing up the Seattle music scene with his techno-pop fusion beats, catchy choruses, and exciting vocals. And on top of all that, he's cute.

But Mozie, whose real name is Ramiro Orellana, isn't just another pretty face with a nice voice. Equal to his passion for music is his commitment to social justice, especially for LGBT people and immigrants. Mozie hopes that through his songs, he can inspire others to change the world:

History shows that pop music has a very strong influence on society. From Madonna and Michael Jackson to Lady Gaga, they all used pop music to create change in the world. When I was 14 years old, I said I wanted to take over the world so I can set it free. And... that's still what I want to do. I'm holding onto that child part of myself that wants to make a positive difference.

Mozie's passion for social justice is shaped by his own experience as a gay man who spent over a decade in the United States as an undocumented immigrant. He and his mother emigrated from Peru just before his twelfth birthday because of the stigma she faced in her home country as a divorced single mother. But the family's first years in the U.S. were not easy.

His mother had difficulty finding employment due to her undocumented status. However, she forbade Mozie from working until they could afford to get him a green card, taking the risk solely upon herself. According to Jack, one of the best things his mother did was to send him to school right away, because it saved her from having to hire a babysitter while she was out of the house working. It also kept him fed through the school's free and reduced lunch program.

The family experienced major economic hardships. For example, one of the jobs his mother had was in the laundry department of a nursing home. One day, she witnessed a nursing assistant physically abusing patients. The patients' disabilities prevented them from reporting the abuse, so Jack's mother took it upon herself to inform management about the incident. Instead of disciplining the assistant, though, the nursing home fired Jack's mom, saying that her papers were out of order and that she needed to leave at once. Being undocumented, there was nowhere for her to appeal.

The arts run in Mozie's family -- Jack's mother is a visual artist and his grandfather in Peru was a musician, so he was exposed to a wide variety of musical styles from Mozart to heavy metal. He started taking music classes at the age of six and began performing shortly thereafter. But when he came to the U.S., repeated moves and his family's tough economic situation initially made it difficult for him to hone his musical talents. "When we arrived, we had no TV, and I only had one CD, Shakira's Laundry Service, to entertain me after school and on weekends," Mozie said. "So I listened to it over and over. Of course you can only do that so many times, so it got to the point where I started re-writing the songs with my own lyrics and singing them along with the CD. That's how I came into songwriting."

jack_guitar.jpgIt was his grandfather's death that put the final piece of the puzzle in place for Mozie. At age 17, he got a temporary green card and his first job. He used his first paycheck to buy a guitar, but wasn't serious about learning and practicing it at first. The death of his grandfather inspired him to pick it up, though, because guitar was his grandpa's instrument. Mozie's passion for instrumental music -- that final piece -- was born.

Jack Mozie's newest single is "Jump," which you can watch below. The bilingual song is an anthem that advocates for LGBT-inclusive immigration reform, and Mozie says that in many ways, it tells his own personal story:

"I speak two languages, and I sometimes find it tricky to communicate to the English-speaking community about my Latino background. But this works the other way as well -- my skills go back and forth between [English and Spanish], which also makes it difficult to communicate with my family since I don't know the right words. So I decided to make a bilingual song that tells my story, which more than anything else is the story of a child immigrant: coming to this country and growing up and fighting for what I've always believed in -- freedom and equality."

When it comes to the fight for LGBT equality, Mozie and his mom are all in. Jack came out to his mom at age 17, but it ended up being a much bigger deal for him than it was for her. She had lots of gay friends back in Peru and would often accompany them to hidden gay bars. "So when I came out," Mozie recounts, "she said: 'I already knew.'"

Mozie and his mom were heavily involved in the push to pass Referendum 74, which brought the freedom to marry to Washington State. He describes the experience as surreal, since they were convincing others to vote for a ballot measure even though they, as undocumented immigrants, could not vote at all. "I said to the people I encountered, 'Look, I'm not legally allowed to vote right now. I cannot vote for my own rights. But you can vote for my rights -- you can make a difference.'"

But the emotional pull of the issue was so great for Mozie and his mother that they decided to obtain U.S. citizenship specifically so they could vote for marriage equality. They received citizenship just in time -- a mere two days before the deadline to register to vote in person. Jack is extremely proud of the fact that the first vote he was able to cast as a U.S. citizen was a vote for the freedom to marry.

So what's next for this young artist? He's currently working on the video for his song "Tina," which addresses the dangerous nature of crystal meth addiction. Mozie plans on donating the money he makes from this song to Project Neon, a program of Seattle Counseling Services that helps gay and bisexual men with crystal meth addiction.

jack_jump.jpgAs for long-term goals, Mozie is thinking big. Brimming with confidence, he has his eyes set on the ultimate prize: a Grammy award. "I'm going to play as many shows and write as many songs as it takes for the world to notice me -- hopefully it'll be sooner than later -- but I will be a very happy person when I get my Grammy."

In the meantime, he's going to continue working, both musically and through activism, for social justice.

I plan to keep leading by example, which is one of the reasons I do social justice work. I don't feel it's right for me to sing about social justice issues but not do anything about it. But I try to accomplish this in my music, too, with songs like 'Jump.' I want my music to bring people out of whatever funk they're in and give them the push they need to make a difference. I hope 'Jump' actually pushes people to go out and do something.

For more information about Jack Mozie, check out his website, like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Watch the video for "Jump" below. And in case you're wondering, yes: the woman who appears with Jack in the video is his mother.

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