The Man Behind the Voice

Behind-the-scenes interviews with Medora employees | By Jewel Eliese

You’re driving in your car listening to the radio, humming away to some great music. Then the song stops and you hear a silky sounding male voice, full of depth and emotion.

And you wonder, what is the story behind this radio man’s voice?

We were able to sit down and speak with a Medora employee whose dream is to one day be that man behind the radio. There may be a day when you’ll hear the voice of James Mozey on your drive to work and think how wonderful it is that you know his fascinating story.

And how Medora was a part of it.

1. Where are you from?

I am from Grand Forks, North Dakota. I was born in Mississippi actually. When my parents were choosing where I would grow up, my family decided to make sure I had a good group of cousins and grandparents in a central area which ended up being the Grand Forks/Fargo region.

I’ve always been there. I’ve only ever moved once so I’ve had the benefit of being in Grand Forks for pretty much my entire life. I appreciate that my parents took the time to find a place for me. It worked out really well.

2. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Obviously, when you’re super young you want to be something like an astronaut, but, the first job I really thought I would be good at was actually in the food industry.

My mother and my father are both really good cooks. Honestly, I think my dad’s a little better than my mom but my mom can cook a lot faster and my dad, given enough time, can make anything taste good. So that is something I thought I would inherit from them. 

My entire family are also musicians, percussionists. Becoming a drummer early on in elementary school and high school taught me to, not only look at music differently but to also be in a creative mindset when looking at movies or art or books or even in a workplace, to be original whenever I can be. I really appreciated that growing up.

I thought about maybe doing something with music whether that’s, you know, becoming a music teacher or helping with the construction of instruments. And then a pipe dream would be becoming the next Justin Bieber.

Now I am actually pursuing communications for radio, and that kind of fell on my lap at the beginning of my college career. I’ve been on the radio twice before, and I just caught the bug. I thought it was just the most amazing thing, getting to talk about what you enjoy and just purveying so much emotion with only your voice. 

To have people connect with someone they enjoy listening to on a daily basis, I thought was such a cool connection. You don’t see my face, you don’t see what I look like, and you’re only hearing my voice. I think the whole concept of it and its simplicity is super cool to me.

Now I can never see myself doing anything else. So I truly think communications or radio will be what I pursue for a life-long career.

In Medora, the idea of working in reservations sounded so natural for me. I am not talking face to face with anyone but just speaking on the phone, whether that’s for 90 seconds or five minutes. 

My voice is one of my greatest assets, so I am happy to have the opportunity to work in the Reservation Center and use it there.

3. Who has been the biggest inspiration to you this summer? Living or historical

That’s a pretty big question honestly. The first person that comes to my mind is John Peterson. He leads my bible studies and CRU group back at my college where I am from.

He has not only helped me understand where I want to fit in spiritually, but also how to become a better person and a better man and how to operate independently now that I am stepping further out from home. He’s taught me a lot about how to think on my feet and even how to accept the bad days as a growing process.

He’s certainly been someone who has fostered me as a type of father figure from freshman year and now going into my junior year. I am very thankful for the relationship I have with him.

4. What experiences do you have with the military? What does it mean to you?

The military has always been a part of my life and I think it always will be. My father’s from the military; he was navy. For me, I worked on the air force base in Grand Forks for two years, and I like to say I’m military but not active duty.

In Grand Forks, I do a lot more deskwork or mundane stuff but, even if I am only ever doing a desk job and signing the paperwork, I want that job. I’ve seen the lifestyles and I know some of the curriculum of the military. That kind of work ethic that comes with being military personnel is something I try to take into my life because I see it as a really good way to operate.

The military taught me a lot of if you can do a job in a group you should be as easily able to do it by yourself. So when I had the opportunity to come to Medora I said, “Okay, little different but the military did train me how to be by myself.” I thought I’d be able to handle myself here and I’d say I have.

Even when I am not working on a base, the lessons I’ve learned from that there have helped me further myself in my own independent life. I admire everything the military does and what they stand for.

There’s no sense of being selfish in the military. If you become a soldier and join a branch, you’re essentially giving up your life to serve. That’s not even considering if you tragically pass away. Even if you never see combat, you can go to a foreign country where you spend years of your life just manning a desk. Someone has to do it. It’s the fact of thinking about how could I help others.

That’s what I admire most about the military, the service. Putting others before yourself. That is something I try to put every day in my life.

5. What’s one thing you’re learning now in your time here? How is that important?

This is kind of a life lesson which got thrown at me recently that I am really thankful for. It’s about how doing my best is sometimes okay—even if it’s not 100%.

Every now and I again I have to remind myself that I am doing a good job, even though I may not be doing the best that should be done. I need to give myself a pat on the back and not be so hard on myself when I fail or upset people. That’s hard for me because all I want to do is to please and serve, which is my military upbringing with that sense of serving others coming through. 

So that’s certainly a lesson that I’ve learned is to just be thankful for what I am able to do, and to say to myself, “You know what, I did a good job today. I should be proud of myself.” Even if I didn’t do the job the best the first day, I can always make up for it the next day. 

To continue where I left off and not beat myself up. 

To accept the fact that I am human, and I won’t always do the greatest, and I won’t always never fail.

I am human. I can only do so much, and sometimes all that I can do is still good.

6. Name the last thing that brought a smile to your face.

I had a great conversation with a nice old man at lunch one day. I went down to eat in our local cafeteria here planning on eating by myself and just listen to some music when this older man came up and said, “Can I join you?” Honestly, I didn’t really want any company that day and just kind of wanted to be within my own thoughts, but I thought well I’m not going to say no.

We often take people like that for granted. Like they’re getting in our way or they’re compromising my time. But we talked about his life, what it was like to grow up in the 60s which is cool because I love that time period since I am a huge film fan, and the 70s were such a prolific time for movies. He told me about all the jobs he’s worked and is still working and I said, “So you’ve lived a really full life.”

He said, “Yeah, I have. I always love to do new things or at least try things.”

And he told me this story. He said he once was asked by his friends to go swim across the river. It looked really wide and scary but when he got to the riverbank, it ended up looking beautiful and calm.

As he started to think about it he realized what he could or could not do and that it would be easy for him. He could do it. 

He said, “Even though you think something may be scary, it’s always good to take a good look at it because you never know what it might reveal itself to be like up close.”

That conversation with him, someone I wasn’t even intending to talk to that day, totally brought a smile to my face for my entire lunch break. 

It was really nice.

7. Why Medora?

Medora fell in my lap.

I was on a spring retreat with my CRU group to a local bible camp. Our representative from CRU to sponsor Medora came to my retreat and gave me a sales pitch for Medora saying what I would get to do and see here. I was like, “Where do I sign?”

I was so excited but as I thought about it I didn’t know if I could do this. It was pretty close to the time I needed to commit myself, plus I didn’t know if I was physically ready. I had a great friend of mine who was thinking about doing the exact same trip. She expressed all the fears I had too about leaving home, or if she was ready. It was like looking in a mirror.

When we both realized our fears were almost the same, we went in with this mentality of “I’ve got you, you’ve got me.” We shook on it, made a pact and said we’re going to do this. She’s working here in Medora now as well. We never have looked back.

It was kind of a blind leap to come here but I had the help of friends backing me. My friends helped me get closer to the ‘river’ like in the old man’s story. It helped me see things more clear about Medora. I am so glad I came.

8. What is one question that no one has ever asked you but you wish they did?

I would like for someone to ask me why I am creative. Why do you like things the way you do. And I would answer kind of how we have just done with my family and all. I would tell them all about why I look at the world the way I do.

I look at the world as a glass-half-full. I always try to do the upside of things because there’s always a sense of hope. As corny as it may sound, there’s always tomorrow. This is something I’ve always applied to myself.
I would love for someone to ask me really in-depth, what led me to think in that mindset because I can’t think of a time where I’ve ever looked at the glass half-empty.

9. Why do you look at the world in that mindset?

I am actually legally handicapped. Not to get really heavy but I am. I’ve had surgeries for it. I have cerebral palsy in my legs and having multiple surgeries a lot of those times I was bedridden or in a wheelchair. I couldn’t play basketball, or football or even go outside and go for a walk.

You do a lot of things pretty much from the waist up. Well, you can watch movies from the waist up. Or watch TV, read books, play video games or search the web, pretty much from a sitting or lying down position. 

And that’s what I did.

Having those surgeries, which were good and helped me to be a healthy young adult, were painful. But to have that sense of comfort in being able to read a really good book was something that helped me get through every operation. Every recovery period.

My first operation was when I was two-years-old, my last was when I was 15 or 16. My entire adolescence was essentially that. It was going in and out of wheelchairs, walkers, bedridden to eventually being able to walk, and then repeat.

And, as sad as this sounds, I thought, “Well I can’t do this or that but what can I do? I can read, well I love to read. I don’t really like to play basketball so it’s not a big hindrance that I can’t do it. But I love to read. For better or worse I’ll always be able to read.”

To look at it from that perspective of growing up not thinking of what I couldn’t do, but focusing on what I could helped me to be independent and creative.

You can’t really read a book with someone else, so I did a lot of things on my own. Because of this, I started to look at things deeper. When I finished a book I loved I’d think about why the author wrote it. 

Was he happy? Sad? 

Then I’d re-read the book with a totally different mindset. Finding something I’d enjoy and looking at it creatively, then looking at it again, had a domino effect. I did it with everything while growing up in and out of hospitals.

While this does sound like a sad story, truly, having those moments where you literally have to be still and quiet and just let your body heal led me to think so many things and to understand so many things. They led me to find the guitar at minute 1:26 on the song I was listening to. Or the trumpet at three minutes. Those are little things I would find in the still times.

Nowadays, even though I can run, jump, climb and swim, I still love going to the movies. To this day, if I see a movie I love, I’ll see it like three times in theaters, and think about it all the way home. I’ll dissect it.

Without having the hindrance on my legs that I do have, I would not have developed in the way that I am creatively. In a way, I am thankful for my handicap because it helped me become the creative, outspoken, different person that I am.

I wouldn’t trade that in for anything in the world.

Everyone has a story, from the person selling popcorn at the musical or the man behind the radio. The next time you hear a voice at the Reservation Center, it might be his. And one day, we look forward to listening to James tell us what tune is going to play next. Or hear his own Podcast.

And hopefully, we too will take a still moment to hear the beautiful guitar or saxophone in a song, to have that creative mindset just as the man behind the voice does.

James’ top movie?
“Stars Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” with the classic line of, “Luke, I am your father.”

Top book?
“The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton

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