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Smells like Stardom

© by Martin Siebenbrunner

Instrument: Lead vocals, singer-songwriter
Genre: Electro swing and chanson Français with gypsy flair
Age: 18
Hometown, home country: Vienna, Austria.

Zoe artist nameZoë and I met at the Global Rockstar office, in the middle of Vienna’s 10th district. It is not a small office, but Global Rockstar is a still start-up and doesn’t have a meeting room with fancy couches, coffee tables and other such amenities. In order not to disturb the busy office we sat down in the kitchen. Zoë wears black jeans, biker boots and a black baggy t-shirt, with no makeup and her hair is in a messy knot. She looks like a teenager who just came back from a camping trip with friends. She probably is. And she’s a stunning beauty.

I’ve seen Zoë before, live on stage and also at the office, but we never exchanged more than a few words. All I knew was that she’s extremely young, extremely talented, and that her career is taking off really fast. Frankly, if you live in Austria it is impossible not to notice — she participated in the Eurovision Song Contest Austrian pre-selection and ended in third place, her first feature-length concert at the Theater am Spittelberg was sold out and her second single Mon Coeur A Trop Aimé plays on the radio and is #6 in the charts. She’s also an actress and had a side-role in last year’s successful TV series Vorstadtweiber on ORF1. Her debut album is due in a couple of weeks.

We bet her career is only at the beginning and that we will hear a lot from her in the future. It will be fun, by then, to dig out this old interview with a super young Zoë, still a bit disoriented from the events, naïve and intensely frank at the same time. For me it was a pleasure simply to interview someone who is not feeding you what his or her press agent prepared but an artist who hears the questions for the first time, thinks about it and answers while looking you in the eye. Enjoy.

When and why did you start making music?
I can’t remember, I guess as a baby! My parents and my grandparent listened to a lot of music, so I grew up surrounded by opera and musicals, then pop and other genres too. There is a picture of a three-years-old-me playing the piano and singing… the question was not if I like music but mainly where will this passion bring me.

Who or what inspired you to take up composing?
Music itself, I guess. There is a big difference if you sing a cover versus a song you wrote yourself. The bond I feel with my own music is much stronger, I don’t have to think about what feelings I should express or how; my music is mine from the bottom of my heart and I know exactly how to sing my songs! Really, the process of writing music is amazing.

How did you earn your first money as a musician?
I was 10, at the Kiddy Contest! I won a video game console and some cash. I remember my parents opened my first bank account with my name on it, I was so proud! But I wasn’t allowed to spend it! (laughs)

Live or studio, what suits you best?
Live, no question!

In the recording studio you can repeat takes as many times as you want. If something bothers you, you can have a break, get some fresh air, drink coffee and clear your mind. Playing live you have no safety net. It may sound counterintuitive but I prefer the risk, I love the adrenaline rushing through my body. In fact I’m always exhausted after a concert! I’m always so sorry for my friends who came to the show and want to go party and celebrate afterwards… while I just want to eat some food and go home, fall face down on my bed and sleep!

The lowest moment of your career
It’s not a moment, but I’m struggling a bit with adjusting to my new life. I graduated school in 2014 and I’ve been immediately thrust into a full time job and adulthood. It went like that! (snaps her fingers)

I was used to a routine schedule, school, homework, meeting friends, exams and holiday… but this job has no routine! Sometimes I just want the phone to stop ringing! I don’t know, it is only stress and pressure building up, of course, but sometimes I’m so tired I cry a little. Last time was after seeing my friends, they have weekends and holidays… for me it is always maximum one or two days and I must go back to work. Then I think “are you stupid?!”. That sounds really ungrateful. I am so lucky I have the chance to live my dream!

The highest moment of your career so far
I guess the correct answer would be “right now!” (laughs)

Honestly, when something this amazing happens, it takes some time to realize. I feel a bit dizzy… it even scares me a little! I try not to let it too close to my heart, I try not to be too happy or too proud. What happens if it doesn’t work out? I’d be devastated. But there are moments, mostly alone at home, when I embrace it and let it happen without worries. Then nothing can hurt me and I feel invincible. At least for a while.

Do you get recognized on the street?
Every now and then, yes! It is so funny! Sometimes, though, I react oddly… a couple of days ago, for example, I was at the airport on the bus that brings you from the airport to the plane, it was impossibly early, no makeup, messy hair and all nervous (I’m afraid of flying) and a woman approached me “Are you Zoë?”. She asked if she could take a picture together since her daughter is a huge fan… I was worried about the messy hair, the (missing) makeup and probably made an awkward face… that’s because instinctively I don’t understand why people recognize me, I’m not used to it! But it is very flattering and I must confess that I like it very much! Even with messy hair! (laughs)

Where would you like to live, musically speaking?
Everywhere! But one step at the time, right now I fit better in Europe, I’m thinking of France… maybe…

Your idea of a perfect gig
A lot of people in the audience, people that came for me, for my music, all cheering. It doesn’t matter where. I’m more nervous in small venues, when from the stage I can see and recognize people in the audience – family, friends… to see the expression on their faces during my performance is awkward and amazing at the same time. The idea that they are here for me!

Ah, and open air! Definitely open air. And no rain, please.

Your idea of a disastrous gig
When the equipment doesn’t work as it should, I can’t hear myself in the in-ear micro and I’m so worried about that, distracted by that actually, that I can’t concentrate on singing.

Once – oh my! – I forgot my lyrics after the first verse! My songs are in French so I hoped the audience wouldn’t understand and… I faked it! I kept repeating myself and even sang some pidgin-French “lala, fravafrave jemama… ohlala”… nobody noticed! It was a significant lesson: I learned how important it is to keep cool, no matter what!

Your favorite outfit for a gig
What a difficult question! I’m really not into fashion… I like fashion but I don’t have a feeling for it, I don’t understand it. I hate going shopping because I don’t know what I want, while everybody else seems to know exactly what they want. So I go for basics, to be safe.

The glittery dresses I wore on stage… hmm… I want to move away from that, it makes me too diva. On the other end, of course, I don’t want to look trashy… I want to be myself… but fashionably speaking I don’t know exactly who I am yet. I’ll soon find out my style!

What I know is that it is very easy for me to look older than I am and that I must pay attention to that. I don’t want to hear “you look too old in this outfit/makeup” ever again!

On stage, anyhow, the most important piece of clothing are shoes; especially the heels must be comfortable, otherwise I’d worry too much about my balance!

Do you play any instruments?
I play a little piano – not much but I can play chords and accompany myself while composing. As a child I tried the guitar but I was too small for the instrument, my hands were too small and my fingers hurt so much!

Your favorite musical instrument
The violin! Strings in general, so powerful and full of feelings.

The most natural musical sound
Rain drops on the roof. I love to curl up in my bed and listen to the rain outside, it has a calming effect on me. I also love the sound of thunder and storms, of waterfalls… anything that has to do with water!

What is the most important skill required – besides talent – to become a successful musician?
Discipline! Being organized, available, answering your calls and mail.

Luck also plays an important role… but you need to be ready and realize immediately what is happening. Don’t let it slide past you. Do something, don’t procrastinate. Otherwise, if it doesn’t work out it’s only your fault.

What keeps you up at night with regard to your music career?
That it won’t last. Everything is happening so quickly that I fear it could as quickly go away. I don’t allow myself to enjoy it too much.

I also worry a lot about small things I did wrong or could have done wrong… did I say something improper in that interview? Did the audience notice that small detail in the performance? I am learning to focus more on the future!

But at the moment I’m mostly so tired at night that nothing keeps me up! (laughs)

The most beautiful album cover ever?
Abbey Road, by The Beatles. It’s trite, I know, but I’m a huge fan.

Describe your music
My music is definitely not unidirectional, it reflects many different sides of myself — from the acoustic soft and powerful love songs to the lighter tone of the fun joy-of-life songs. Each number is unique in the way I write it and in the way I sing it; I express different feelings.

Written by Monica Mel

Global Rockstar magazine editor

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