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Film composer Emile Mosseri on releasing his debut solo album


For the first time, Emile Mosseri isn't making music for other people's passion projects. After spending his 20s touring in bands, the composer has made a name for himself creating soundscapes for emotional films like "The Last Black Man In San Francisco" and "Minari," which earned him an Oscar nomination and inspired him.

EMILE MOSSERI: I started working with these incredible filmmakers that were making really vulnerable works that were - they're kind of ripping their hearts out and putting them on the screen in a way, and I was inspired by those experiences to do my version of that.

RASCOE: In his debut solo album, "Heaven Hunters," Mosseri creates a universal and cinematic record about his own life.


MOSSERI: In many ways, yeah, it's about what I was going through. And one of the themes in the record is trying to create a life that feels like - we always have this idea that we're going to get someplace, and we'll be void of suffering. We'll be able to transcend our humanity if we have this amount of money or if we have this amount of recognition or this - or if it's a romantic pursuit.


MOSSERI: (Singing) My greedy heart, drunk and confused. Can't walk a straight line all 'cause of you. All 'cause of you.

"My Greedy Heart" is a song that's connected to that - to the idea of heaven hunters, you know, that if we have the big score - like, this big thing - then we'll be able to live in this sort of elevated place.


MOSSERI: (Singing) All 'cause of you. All 'cause of you.

This record is a collection of songs about loss, about friends of mine, songs about my wife, songs about my wife's father.

RASCOE: Can you tell me about the story behind one of your songs? 'Cause I think this involves your wife. It's "Oklahoma Baby."

MOSSERI: That song I wrote for my wife from the perspective of her father, who she hasn't spoken to in about 13, 14 years now. And there was a card that he had written to her that had this line in it - there was never a time I didn't love you.


MOSSERI: (Singing) You were my Oklahoma baby. I put a ceiling over you under skies of atomic blue.

I'd found this card going through old things, and I basically had that one line to lead up to, and I wanted to sort of say some things to her that he wasn't able to say or just sort of write a love song to her about - like, a paternal love song. But, you know, it's also just a song about distress, love and disconnection and - but there's a love underneath all of it. That's a powerful thing for me.


MOSSERI: (Singing) There was a time that I thought I didn't need you at all. There was never a time that I didn't love you.

You know, this - I - my wife and I have been together - we grew up together. We've been together since we were kids. She's a huge part of this record.

RASCOE: There's another song on the album, "Home For The Summer."


MOSSERI: (Singing) Love every friend you have.

RASCOE: And it sounds kind of like fresh air and freedom and definitely a late night with friends, but it moves from the summer that's really bright to the winter and, like, talking about a friend. And it seems like, you know, his laugh is gone.


MOSSERI: (Singing) ...Your crazy laugh - sing every song you know. Sing every tune you know.

RASCOE: Looking at it, it seems like maybe this is talking about a death or a loss. Like, am I reading too much into that?

MOSSERI: No, no, you're right on. That song - I wrote about a friend of mine that I grew up with that was one of my closest friends from when I was a child until when I was in my early 30s. And he passed away a few years ago. And I wrote that song for him and played it - you know, I wrote it and played it at his memorial. And another friend of mine, who was a close friend of his, named Alex Toth, played trumpet on it, and then he was actually a percussionist, and the song starts and ends with a recording of him playing these chimes. I think that song was a celebration of him in a way that my memories of him have to do with - you know, 'cause he went to boarding school when we grew up. We were really close, and then he ended up leaving our school and going to board - so I would see him in the summers and the winters after - for a certain pocket of time in our childhood.


MOSSERI: (Singing) Oh, I can see your heart and your brеath curling in the dark.

You know, I always think about him. He was a smoker - lighting a smoke, and his breath and the spark - like, that - it all sort of - it's just a collection of memories of him and his laugh or things like that that, you know, it's just - it's a song about him, celebrating him and my love for him.

RASCOE: How does it feel to deal with these things that are so personal and so meaningful to you and to put them out to the public?

MOSSERI: It's a new feeling for me. In a dream world, it would be cathartic for people in a way, you know - or that people will put it on for a certain feeling. You know, a lot of my favorite records you go to to sit in one feeling, and you can live there and sit there and swim in it.

RASCOE: That's Emile Mosseri. His album is called "Heaven Hunters." Thank you so much for being with us.

MOSSERI: Thanks for having me. It was great talking to you.


MOSSERI: (Singing) I love you like a rose loves rainwater. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.