FYIG Chats With Singer/Songwriter Zoe Xandra

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Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m Zoe Xandra, a Canadian singer/songwriter from Waterloo, Ontario. I grew up in a big family where there was always some sort of instrument being played in our house at all times of the day. I was the weird sibling that my parents never had to nag to practice piano because I was always found playing and writing music in my spare time since I was young. The most recent chapter of my life started when I was 19 years old, feeling unknown in a big city (Toronto), and embracing the freedom of taking time to define who I am and be intentional about who I wanted to become. You’ll always find me covered in dainty gold jewellery, and I’m always down for a living room dance party.

How did you get your start in music?

Music has been a big part of my life since I was a little kid. I took piano classes since I was seven years old, fell in love, and ended up being a classically trained pianist. Playing music and writing songs has always been something that I’ve kept contained to the four walls of my bedroom, not sure if anyone who loves me would tell me the truth about the strength of my work. In university, I became determined to save up my pennies and take vocal lessons at one of Canada’s top vocal coaching studios. I asked them to give me an honest thumbs up or tell me to please keep it to my bedroom. And here we are!

How would you describe your musical style?

The rhythmic pulse throughout my EP is drawn from significant parts of my life’s narrative. My music is pieces of who I am in a creative form. When I lay out my EP in front of me, I realize each song is written from a different state of mind, reflected in the sounds – from super stripped back piano and vocals, to electronic synth sounds, and back to acoustic guitar. It has been so hard to label this EP with a style, a genre, or a description. It’s a story, it’s me, it’s as fluid and dynamic as human experience and emotions can be. My goal in releasing this EP is for my music to be interpreted by people, not me interpret my music for them.

What can audiences expect from your debut EP, “TMI”?

My debut EP TMI has been such a fun project for me. Being my first EP, I was able to really experiment with different sounds while still having a cohesive story come through each track. There is a personal, layered meaning within each song, and each song has a mind of its own. This EP flows through different concepts such as being intentional with your thought life, the frustration of not being heard, and strategically removing unhealthy things from your life. My music is for listeners who want to find depth and are are looking for a relatable story, but also for listeners who are happy to just jam to a fresh indie-pop release.

What can you tell us about your latest single, “Blah, Blah”?

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Blah Blah is a fun combination of a couple complementary motifs – a not so great day, the deep frustration of not being heard, and the scary question of whether it is possible to be too logical for love. Despite the temptation of these themes being heavy, it was natural to go with a sarcastic and playful expression, which lead to the (perhaps a bit melodramatic) creation of “Blah Blah”. This song is representative of my personality, I sometimes have the tendency to make light of situations and my emotions in hopes that it will help them go away. The message of this song is acknowledging that part of me, while still, in a sassy way, showing how unhealthy this can be.

You worked with 6 female writers when you were creating “TMI”. Was that by design and how is that reflected on the EP?

Collaborating with 6 highly talented female writers was the brilliant idea of my producer, Mike Schlosser. He recognized that women writing with women allowed for a greater atmosphere of honesty and vulnerability, which was proved true in this experience and I’m so grateful for it. It was crucial to involve so many different female writers as each woman had a unique way of bringing out different parts of me and helped me to develop my thoughts and feelings into a concept for a song. Each writer worked with me on separate songs, which is reflected in the dynamic differences between songs despite my overall theme.

What’s next for your career?

Currently, I am fully immersed in the release of the final songs of TMI. My next single is coming out at the beginning of December, and the full EP is set to release at the end of January/early February. It’s been fun taking opportunities to play live gigs in and around Toronto. I love sharing my music with people, and as I release more music I am looking forward to expanding my audience through live shows. I’m also being intentional spending my time writing new songs and developing concepts for a follow-up album.

What advice would you have for aspiring singers/songwriters?

I think it’s so important to surround yourself with like-minded friends who you can involve throughout your writing process and will give you honest feedback. Being vulnerable with people should be part of your songwriting because it is a big part of releasing music. Don’t let your self-conscious nature dictate when you give up on a song. Push through, even if you think your song is terrible. It’s the process of continuing to write and work on something that opens a door to something great. My biggest learning curve as a songwriter was having the self-discipline to sit in front of my piano for hours, despite the first hour or two lacking inspiration or lyrics that had any value.

What’s your life like outside of music?

I’m an adventure seeker. From sky diving, to traveling the world, to nights in that casually turn into friends giving friends stick and poke tattoos. I thrive in high energy situations, but surprisingly the peaceful place that re-energizes me the most is my family’s countryside vacation home. The nostalgic view over the escarpment and taking a deep breath of fresh air on a quiet Monday morning is exactly where I want to be.