Musician Marji Mozart finds a new voice after leaving the FLDS church
Marji Mozart, frontwoman for the Marji Mozart Band, grew up in an FLDS community in Colorado City, Arizona. Through the help of an advocacy group, she left the community in 2018. We talked about the story behind her award-winning song "Is Somebody Out There."
“It was a song that I never would allow myself to feel, ever. I would never allow myself to feel the sadness. This whole 'keep sweet' training, felt like the keep sweet was, as long as you don't let anybody see, and as long as you keep telling yourself, 'I need to keep a smile on my face,' as long as you can do that you're keeping sweet," Mozart said. And so don't feel any emotion, don't feel any of the anger, don't feel sadness. Don't feel any of that; only feel happiness. And I sat down to the piano one night, and I just started playing 'Is Somebody Out There,' and that was when I first wrote a song that was just so heart-wrenching.”
Marji started playing piano at the age of two. She was often playing Mozart, so her great-aunt started calling her ‘Marji Mozart’. The name stuck. Much like her namesake, by the age of eight, she was writing music. By age 12, she was performing in front of crowds of 10,000.
These large concerts were for a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) community in Colorado City, Arizona, where Mozart grew up.
She said that despite the discouragement of questions, her mother, a well-known musician in the community who was often referred to as Mrs. Music, always encouraged curiosity.
“I remember, even when I was younger kid, going to her and asking her questions about the church. And then she would be like, ‘That's a great question.' And she never would tell me, 'No, you should never ask questions.' Because we were told never to ask; we were told never to question anything," Mozart said.
The FLDS church is a religious sect that practices polygamy. Mozart said in her mid-teens, she became the second wife of a much older man.
“Everything I was wearing; I had to change my whole entire wardrobe because it wasn't acceptable to the person I was married to. The way I combed my hair, the way I sang, the way I spoke, everything was completely and totally revamped,” Mozart said.
Mozart said she was married for four years and that she became a different human being, a shell of herself. In 2018, Mozart made the decision to leave the church, the community and everything she had known.
“I didn't have a name. I had nothing to myself. I was literally just a nobody in the world, because I didn't have what it takes to even get rent, you know, to rent somewhere to be. And so I had to reach out to advocates who could kind of bridge the gap between leaving that world, of not having anything to being able to just stand on my own two feet, and be able to, you know, live my life the way I want to," Mozart said. "And it took me over a year to figure all that out. I knew I would have nothing to do with my siblings that were still part of that church. There were those who weren’t going to talk to me, my best friends weren’t going to talk to me. I remember knowing that I was going to lose pretty much all of my associates."
Mozart said within the Colorado City community, she was a respected musician and composer, and was well-known in FLDS communities from Texas to Canada. So when she started the Marji Mozart band in 2018, she was restarting her music career.
But now she could write music her way, free from church supervision. Despite the new independence, Mozart said it wasn’t always easy. During this transition she wrote the song "Is Somebody Out There.”
“I was literally at a point in my life where I remember, even looking back on it right now, as I was sitting at my piano, I felt like I was like on the edge of the world, like the edge of the cliff, where there was nothing but darkness. I couldn't see anything out there, you know? It was like I was yelling into the darkness, 'Is somebody out there?' You know, is there any — anybody? I was like in a world that I had no understanding of how to operate," Mozart said. "So when I wrote that, I kept it quiet. And I was just like, no way, I'm not going to show anybody this; it's so embarrassing. Who wants to see this? It's like showing people something ugly, and it's just bad. You know, you never want to ever show anybody that you have ugly parts about you. That was what I was taught growing up in the church."
Mozart kept the song a secret but while preparing for an upcoming gig, the band realized they needed one more song to fill a set list.
“And I was like, 'I do have a song that I haven't showed you guys, and I'll show it to you. Just to warn you, it's really ridiculous.' So then I just thought, oh hell, here goes. And then I just played it and sang it," Mozart said. "And the band just sat there like completely silent. And when I got done, I just kind of was thinking they're just like hating this. And they were all like, whoa. And then the drummer was like, you wrote that?”
We ended up performing it. And even when I was performing, I was like, it's so embarrassing that people are seeing this, you know, because it's all original. And they know, all of our songs are original here. After we performed it, the audience did exactly what the band did, and they were silent, and everybody was like, that's amazing. And they loved it. And I was like, oh, maybe it's okay if I show this song a bit,” Mozart said.
“Is Somebody Out There” is the band’s first single, first music video and the song that went on to win first place in a nationwide song competition last year. Mozart says they’re currently in the studio working on their first album. For now, they have three singles on Spotify: "Outer Space," "Ave Maria," and "Is Somebody Out There."
“What I was cutting off from myself feeling is actually what was stopping me from connecting in the world. Now, when I'm there performing for people, I see that I'm touching hearts in their expression to me through what they're feeling. It's like I know, I know, somebody's out there, you know what I mean? I am not questioning whether somebody is out there,” said Mozart.
The Cherish Families Foundation provides outreach services and support, such as peer mentoring and victim advocacy services, to families of polygamist communities who are in the process of rebuilding their lives.