We love new artists here, and Zana is a force to be reckoned with. Her voice is so unique and her songwriting is so personal. Her video for "Call Ya" is so beautiful and now you can see the amazing behind-the-scenes footage.
Leigh: How did you get started in music?
Zana: Ever since I was a baby, my parents always had music blasting through the house. Artists like UB40, Gipsy Kings, The Fugees—especially Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley, U2, Toni Braxton, Rolling Stones, Bonnie M, The Bee Gees, Abba, Fairuz, Umm Kulthum, Dalmatian, Balkan and former Yugoslavian 80s bands. The list goes on and on. I would get up on the dining room table and dance around, run through the hallways with my “tappy shoes”, making sure I was heard—thank God for my extremely patient parents. My mom quickly figured out that I was going to be a musician and decided to take me to a ‘mommy and me’ piano class. It was set to be an 8-week session, however we got kicked out by the second lesson due to my aggressive pounding of the keys. So, I began playing the drums shortly after, and then one thing led to another and I started to branch out to other instruments including guitar, Arabic percussion and some self-taught piano. Eventually, this turned into writing songs because I always enjoyed writing poetry, so once I got a few chords going, I just added a melody to my poetry and my new love became songwriting.
Leigh: What challenges have you faced in your career?
Zana: Besides all of the little challenges that I face daily as most people do when they are trying to kick start their career, one of the main challenges I’ve had to overcome is stage fright. I had spent so many years sitting in the background behind a drum kit, that once I began performing as a singer and being the frontwoman of the band, I was absolutely petrified. I still struggle with it at times. Eventually, I just made it a goal to push myself out of my comfort zone as much as possible so that in each show I get better, more comfortable and more aware of what attracts the audience and gets them excited.
Leigh: What is the best moment of your career to-date?
Zana: There have been so many amazing moments so far. It’s been an endless series of best moments that constantly remind me why I love doing what I do. From my first ever performance in the Alameda County Fair when I saw kids line up with their parents to meet me and get my autograph, to today, performing around New York, completing my first ever EP, and releasing my new song “Call Ya”! I’ve just had so many moments that I will never take for granted. But honestly, I think my best best moment in my career is yet to come.
Leigh: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Zana: I get my inspiration from my daily life - my family inspires me, my friends, I even inspire myself at times. I could walk down the street and get inspired by the grooves in the pavement. There are times when I feel myself completely disconnected from the world that surrounds me. Then there are days where I feel so absolutely connected to everything around me. Those are the days where I end up writing the beginning or the chorus for like 10 different songs because I’m so inspired and connected to everything that I can’t even focus on writing and finishing just one idea. Other times there is a big or sudden event that takes place in my own life or in someone else’s life who is close to me. In that case, I usually end up writing an entire song in one shot. Sometimes I write songs about characters in books or movies/tv shows, and what they're going through because I feel so personally connected to them. It really all depends on my surroundings.
Leigh: Who would be your dream collaboration?
Zana: I love Ed Sheeran and everything he stands for, it would be a dream to collaborate with him. I saw his recent interview with CBS News and he said, “I wouldn’t class myself as talented. I think you have to work for talent...I think persistence is worth more than talent.” It’s funny because I literally say this all the time and I believe that this is so true. Talent alone is not enough. You do have to work hard and be persistent. One of the many reasons I will forever be obsessed with Ed Sheeran, because that is literally what he stands for as an artist. Plus, he’s amazing and his songwriting inspires me on the daily.
Leigh: Tell us about Call Ya and the music video you guys produced for it.
Zana: I wrote my song “Call Ya” about a year ago. The story is based around me and my ex. It’s about me wanting to call to just ask questions about what happened, how he got to where he was, and how we as a couple got to where we were. At one point everything was so great and it was such a perfect thing we had and then one turn steered us completely off the track and I wasn't even sad about it or crying over it anymore, I was just done and wanted answers. So, I just wrote every lyric based off of the real events taking place with us. As far as the sound of the song, I had never written anything quite like it before, so I felt like it needed a specific vibe. I ended up bringing it to one of my friends, Big Len, who is a producer that works in R&B and hip-hop and he produced this killer beat to my vocal and guitar track (with me nitpicking over his shoulder). Eventually we both fell in love with the song. After that, I knew we needed a music video to complete the story and I knew I wanted to shoot it in my bedroom. So, we kind of made this whole story line around that and just shot the whole thing in one day. I wanted to make sure we captured my frustration of constantly waiting around for this boy to call as he messed about with his flock of boys, while also incorporating sweet flashbacks of how we used to be. The biggest plus to this video is it has a total girl power ending, which I love and am super happy about. I just hope people can connect to it and maybe it can bring comfort to people who have been through or are currently going through the same situation.
Leigh: What advice do you have for young girls aspiring to be a musician?
Zana: My advice to young girls who are aspiring to be musicians is to be the best you can possibly be. Practice your craft, whatever that may be. Educate yourself on everything you can, including (and especially) the business side of things because honestly it is rough out here especially for young girls and women. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to always keep your head on straight. People will try to change you or steer you into a different direction than what you want but stay true to yourself and don't do anything you’re not comfortable with. You are you for a reason, and there is only one you in this world, so just know what you want and don’t ever settle for anything less than that.