BUSINESS

Brookhaven native dreams of becoming full-time musician

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Sam Mooney performs at the Mid-South Fair in Southaven.

Hunter Ransom
HottyToddy.com
hransom96@gmail.com

A University of Mississippi junior is gaining popularity in the music industry. Sam Mooney, 20, discovered his love for music at a young age.

The Brookhaven native grew up in the country with six siblings. Home-schooled through high school, his favorite subjects were science and history.

“Since I grew up on a tree farm with lots of land, I have always loved the outdoors,” Mooney said. “Studying the environment and other natural sciences was really interesting to me.”

When he wasn’t playing outside with his siblings, Mooney played football, basketball and music. He started piano lessons at age 8 as a hobby, but after getting his own keyboard, he became interested in making his own music.

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Mooney practicing in the campus music building

A six-week trip to Boston to become part of a Berklee College of Music program helped initiate Mooney’s career. “Before the trip, I was not sure what I would do with my life,” he said. “After being around all those talented people and hearing what they had to say, I realized it wasn’t just my mom that thought I was good at playing music.”

At 16, Mooney began to sing and play music publicly. The fall of 2014, right before starting school at the University of Mississippi, he released his first EP, “Somewhere In Between,” which climbed to #10 on the iTunes singer/songwriter chart and established his first real audience.

Mooney began touring after releasing the EP, and for about a year and a half, took almost any gig he could get. He found his current band members at the beginning of this year, and in April, released his second EP, “Find My Way,” which reached #8 on the iTunes singer/songwriter chart.

Mooney credits artists like John Mayer, Gavin DeGraw, Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra as influences. “I would call my music a bluesy Southern pop,” he said.

“Most artists like me are seen on stage with a guitar,” Mooney said. “I’m aware every artist wants to sound different, but I definitely feel set apart, being the front man as a piano player.”

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Music has also taught Mooney many lessons, with the biggest – consistency. “In whatever you’re doing, just work hard, and be consistent, even through the ups and downs,” he said. “One day, you can look back and see how far you’ve come, even if you don’t see results day to day.”

Mooney said music has also taught him the value in doing what makes you happy. “I’ve had a taste of several different careers,” he said, “and none of them made me as happy as music does. I go to every show excited to work.”

Mooney’s longtime friends, fans and fellow musicians, Erika and Zachary Daves, both believe in his talent.

“Every time I see him play piano, it makes me want to quit,” Erika Daves said. “He’s so humble about everything too.”

Zachary Daves said his friend has a “killer voice.” “And he can do things with a piano I’ve never seen anyone do before,” he said.

The two musicians added that Mooney is “one of the nicest people they’ve ever met.”

Music is Mooney’s biggest focus, but friends and family are his first priority. “There have been several times in my career where I’ve been intensely focused on my music, but relationships were suffering because of it,” he said. “I realized the joy of succeeding will never overpower the joy of my relationships with people.”

His favorite thing about his job is making others happy. “Of course I love touring and making music,” he said. “But there’s nothing better than playing a show and knowing people are living in the moment, not worrying about anything else.”

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Another shot of Mooney performing at the Mid-South Fair in Southaven.

Mooney’s staff has grown since he started as a solo artist. He now has a five-piece band, a producer, and a circle of 15 musicians who help each other out. He hopes to find a booking agent and manager at some point.

“I know I might not make it as a full-time musician,” Mooney said, “but there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s what I’m supposed to be doing right now.”

You can hear Sam Mooney’s music here.

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