Motez's journey from student to the studio
Moutaiz Al-Obaidi has asserted himself as one of the most innovative and creative music producers in the Australian music industry. Going by ‘Motez’, the frequent festival headliner has worked hard to make his mark on the industry on a global scale, with multiple national and world tours, and music releases. His 2017 track ‘The Future’ went platinum, reaching more than 25 million streams online and almost half a million YouTube views.
He also has an impressive six South Australian Music Awards under his belt, including Best Release and Best Video in 2020. Growing up in Baghdad, Motez was exposed to a variety of genres, artists and styles, sparking an interest in music from a young age. “We're not really a musical family as such, but music has always played a role in my family's life. A big part of the Iraqi culture and psyche is having an appreciation for the arts like music, painting and poetry.
“I remember my dad playing music from Phil Collins to Peter Gabriel, Tears for Fears and Abba. The songs I’ve released more recently are heavily influenced by the ’80s sound – I think there is a big resurgence of it,” he said.
Having always been fascinated by international relations and politics, Motez pursued a Masters of International Business with the University of Adelaide in 2011. “Growing up in Iraq, in such a volatile environment, you have to be aware of politics so I wanted to study that a little bit more, and as I also speak Arabic, I wanted to put a degree next to it,” he said.
A passionate student, Motez thrived at university. “I really loved it because it felt like my brain was active. I was in a class with people that were praised and encouraged to be critical thinkers. I excelled in the classes that had an esoteric component and required a lot of critical thinking.
“Two of my lecturers, Dr Olga Muzychenko and David Pender, changed my life. They taught me that sharing knowledge is exponential, and to be curious about it. And I think that resonated in me a lot. There is a power in exploring and understanding for the sake of understanding. That has carried on from my studies, to my everyday life, to my music as well,” said Motez.
“I thought the dream of making music was dwindling. I thought people would think who's this migrant kid and how’s he going to make it in the industry?"Motez
Throughout university, Motez remained connected to music. He worked at a music store, selling musical instruments and DJ’ed on weekends. He felt himself gradually gravitating towards the industry, and eventually released a number of songs which gained a significant amount of traction. But it wasn’t until he received encouragement and support from his parents that Motez decided to ‘go for it’.
“It was staring me in the face for almost a year and a half, but I was too scared to make the commitment. I just kept thinking it was too good to be true, until my parents told me to go for it. For me that was the turning point,” he said.
Eight years later, Motez is showing no signs of slowing down. He has released six EPs, played multiple festivals including Splendour in the Grass, Beyond the Valley and RCC, which was held at the University’s North Terrace campus in 2019 and 2020. Coming full circle, Motez found himself playing to a crowd of University of Adelaide students, on a stage nestled between buildings where he once studied. “My classes were all over the place so I got to see a lot of the campus. I remember a time in the middle of one of my RCC sets, I found myself thinking, ‘I used to sit in that building and there used to be a coffee shop there that I used to get coffee from’ which was very surreal,” he said.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the struggles facing creatives in the music and arts industry, in 2020 Motez released his EP Soulitude, a reflection on feelings of isolation and uncertainty that many have experienced in recent times. “One of the tracks on Soulitude was about a friend's mum who passed away in Iraq. I learnt more about distance and the impact it can have, knowing I couldn’t be there for my friend. I deal with experiences like that by making music and I’m thankful that I could do that,” he said.
This year, Motez released his highly anticipated new EP ReSet, the ‘sister sequel’ to Soulitude. The success of the EP has consolidated the dance music producer as a favourite amongst Australian audiences. “ReSet is the darker, more rebellious sibling to Soulitude. It's about turning the page, being more defiant. “I’ve found a new sound and a new voice. It hinges a lot on nostalgia. Over the past year I've looked back on my childhood and the music I grew up with a lot, I borrowed things from that time and put it into a modern context,” he said.
Now that he’s preparing to ‘reset’, the world is his oyster. “There’s never an end goal. The goalpost always moves and I'm never, to my own detriment, ever satisfied."
Story: Sasha Champion
Photos: Meagan Coles