In this weekly series, we spotlight the performers and other participants who will combine for the Emerge Music + Impact Conference on the Las Vegas Strip November 16-18. Tickets are available now at emergelv.com.
For a modern-day singer-songwriter, Joshua Keith Ostrander sure loves touting a boombox. Peruse any of his social media accounts and you’ll see images of him hauling his set of speakers like a lifelong best friend.
For the uninitiated, the image probably screams “DJ/producer,” but those who’ve gotten a taste of Ostander’s sound know the image signifies a lifelong dedication to music, which accelerated after he left his band Eastern Conference Champions as it was about to sign to a major label. Now using the moniker Mondo Cozmo, Ostrander has performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, played in Quebec for 100,000 people, opened for Bastille on a six-week run and locked in a spot at Lollapalooza and a support slot for Spoon—all before releasing a proper album.
Mondo Cozmo cherry-picks the relatable, everyman messages of folk-rock greats like Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger, and packages them with style and gusto. “Shine,” the breakout hit, features a simple four-chord melody intermingling acoustic and electric guitars beneath Ostrander’s distinct vocal twang. “People write to me almost daily about how the song has helped them push through some tough times. It’s incredible,” Ostrander says.
The title track from the band’s upcoming debut album, Plastic Soul (out August 4 on Republic Records), stirred up some controversy after Ostrander struggled to clear a sample from Erma Franklin’s 1967 recording of “Piece of My Heart” (a song later popularized by Janis Joplin). “I heard some piano chords that stopped me in my tracks, so I decided to loop it and make a song out of it,” he says. Ultimately, Ostrander became so frustrated with the process, he decided to release his track for free.
Mondo Cozmo is already making its rounds, with a date planned for Las Vegas’ inaugural Emerge Music + Impact Conference in November. Ostrander will then hit the road for a headlining tour. “Now is the time to get out there and give people a taste of Mondo Cozmo,” he says.