With tour dates in support of her recently released album, The Girl Who Used To Live In My Room starting in less than a week, we had the chance to chat with storyteller, songwriter and avid traveller, Zoya about her new album, D.I.Y. music and much more. Having recently graduated from Berklee College of Music, Zoya has a firm grasp on releasing and managing her own music, and The Girl Who Used To Live In My Room is a great reflection of that.
You can catch Zoya on tour from August 3rd until August 26th, and keep an eye out for more big announcements throughout the rest of 2015!
Interview by Shannon Shumaker
There are so many things I want to ask, but I’ll start off with something simple: what first inspired you to get into writing music?
Wow, we’re going way back! Well, as a kid music was always around in my house. My parents used to throw huge parties and have people sing, dance, and even do skits! I guess, being surrounded by art at a young age helped inspire the urge.
What or who are your musical influences?
My influences definitely come from other singer-songwriters before me. One’s who have mastered their craft and can literally make you feel like you need to take a whole day to examine and digest what they have said through their lyrics. For example, Ani DiFranco or Fiona Apple.
My inspiration comes from many places and personal experiences… things someone said or things I have witnessed.
You just graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston. What are some of the most important things you feel that you learned in school that you maybe wouldn’t have learned elsewhere?
Berklee was one of the best times of my life. Being surrounded by musicians and like minded people 24/7 was truly a blessing. I originally went to Berklee to study in the Songwriting department but, after my first year, my path changed. I ended up choosing Music Business as my major to equip myself with the knowledge about the industry and to ultimately release my own music and manage my music career how I see fit.
I knew I wanted to make my music on my own terms in an extremely D.I.Y. fashion. Berklee was probably one of the only places that accepted that, encouraged entrepreneurship, and showed me new avenues I could take to have my music be heard. My education there definitely enabled me with the skill set to make this into a actual career as a independent musician.
How do you feel your knowledge in music business/management has helped you as an artist and in your career?
Oh, so so much! I can’t tell you the amount of independent artists I know who are making the most incredible music in their rooms, basements, or apartments and have absolutely no clue what to do with it when they are done. They end up posting the albums on Bandcamp or Soundcloud, expecting the cyber world to care. If I didn’t fully understand how the music industry worked I feel that I would have no means of actually getting the music out there.
Understanding things like the difference between a promoter and a booking agent, when is the right time for management or involving a label, what a publisher does, or how to book your own shows, for example, all empower you and your music to find so many more opportunities.
What has been the best or most rewarding part of your journey as a musician so far?
The most rewarding part is definitely when I get messages or have someone come up to me after a show to tell me how a certain song has affected them. That is the point of all of this, really. Hoping to make some kind of impact on the thought process and emotions of other humans.
Lets talk about your new album, The Girl Who Used To Live In My Room - What does this album mean to you? How do you feel it represents you as an artist?
This album was definitely a challenge. It came out much less intimate, sonically, than Letters To Toska. However, because of the subject matter I am so glad it did. This album meant a lot to me personally. It is kind of like a big huge collection of confessions.
The Girl Who Used To Live In My Room really reflects on a girl who used to thrive in her youth, who was madly in love with love, who used to hope and dream, who lost her way countless times and in countless fashions always ended up back in her room. Until, one day, she had to completely move on and out.
You also recently released the video for “What’s Done Is Done” from the album, which is gorgeous, by the way! What was the inspiration behind the track and video? It seemed like there were some really special moments captured in the video.
Thanks! The track speaks towards a book called, “The Power of Now,” by Eckhart Tolle. That book completely reorganized my brain by helping myself find awareness in the moment we are in now - instead of pining for the past or living in fear of the future.
In the music video we tried to capture moments that were fully lived. Not deciphered later, or storied away. Just moments that were truly in the moment.
Another song on the album that I really love is “Lunar Eclipsed,” which features Kiran Gandhi. Can you tell us a little bit about this track? What does it mean to you?
Lunar Eclipsed is about a love affair between the sun and the moon. It is definitely a kind of metaphor for most of the female and male relationships I have been a part of or witnessed. It was inspired by a morning when a roommate in college made me watch an episode about the Sun and the Moon on the show Cosmos. I started feverishly writing down scientific facts about the sun the moon, their differences and similarities, and that evening I ended up with the song! Something I really like is that all metaphors hidden throughout Lunar Eclipsed are all scientifically factual.
What would you like listeners to be able to take away from the songs on The Girl Who Used To Live In My Room?
I just hope the listeners feel or are inspired by something through the lyrical content. There are many different scenarios, moments, and confessions within each song. I simply hope someone finds some kind of salvation or intrinsic connection to the struggle that goes through 'the girl who’s' mind.
All in all, I hope they take away what they want. I believe art is made for the audience to perceive and digest in and at their own will. I never want to impose my own personal introspections about my work. To each their own.
You also have a few shows coming up in support of the release! What are you most excited about for these tour dates?
Just to be back on the road! Also, to meet and perform alongside the amazing bands on the way! Some are my good friends and some are musicians I haven’t met yet! This was my first time booking a full tour on my own and it’s been in the works for months so it’s going to be awesome to finally experience it!
Do you have any other big plans coming up in 2015?
Yes! I have been working (*secretly*) on a huge electronic remix compilation called, “Zoya: Plugged In”. There are 9 different incredible producers who have remixed songs of mine from Letters To Toska and The Girl Who Used To Live In My Room. We plan to donate all the proceeds of this album to provide electricity to an elementary school in Udaipur, India. Kind of like electronic music for electricity. I am slowly starting to finally tell people about this project but - more details and ways to be involved will be up this fall!
Also, I am moving to India for some time in September! So that is crazy - but I am excited for the new adventure musically and personally. Looking forward to playing some shows there and being a part of a whole new generation of independent artists. Bollywood reigns for most of the Indian music scene however, now there has been a huge change in direction. I am excited to contribute to that and help flourish the independent music scene there.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for talking with me! I hope you all enjoy the new album and that you can catch us one night on the upcoming tour!