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30th November 2021
For a city steeped in musical history, lockdown was a huge challenge for lovers of live music. When restrictions were finally lifted, though, and Liverpool was able to host a ground-breaking test event, one gifted songwriter walked onto the stage and almost raised the roof off the tent in the city’s legendary Sefton Park: a simple ‘hello’ from her raised the spirits, dreams, hopes and aspirations of the 5,000 musical fans in attendance. Music was back, and Zuzu was at the front, and centre, of it all.
As a music fan myself, but let’s just say nowhere near as youthful as this beautifully elegant, sharp, quick-witted and boundlessly talented singer/songwriter, I felt a bit nervous about speaking to her. But Liverpool really is quite the magical city: it binds us all together in a certain kind of cultural frame. My late mum used to talk about those legendary Cavern Club lunchtimes. My husband saw David Bowie at The Liverpool Empire. I attended Echo and The Bunnymen’s legendary concert in St. George’s Hall way back in, well, 1984.
We all have music in us. But very, very few of us have the gift of being able to add lilting melodies to stirring lyrics; reference iconic influences whilst staying truly original; and have the ability to tap into a zeitgeist with an equal determination to remain unique. Zuzu has that talent, and it’s a rare gem.
After releasing her critically-acclaimed album Queensway Tunnel earlier in November, Zuzu is heading out on tour across the nation on the 3rd December, including a homecoming gig here in Liverpool on Sunday 5th December at the 02 Academy. If you have heard the album, then you’ll have listened to it over again. I love the title track but found my own home in Lie To Myself: it takes me back to what a decent song about heartbreak and loss should really be about. If you haven’t heard it yet, then what are you waiting for?
I caught up with Zuzu to ask her about her personal style, more about her new album and tour, her penchant for statement eyewear, with a little bit about football thrown in. We’re from Liverpool. It would have been rude not to.
Who are your own personal style icons?
‘I really adore Diana Ross: she is really glamorous, and has that ability to have an on stage persona, as well as her own style in real life.
Audrey Hepburn is a real inspiration to me, and not just for her style, which I love: she was really cool, a wonderful human being, with a real story to tell. I’m planning my wedding at the moment, and Audrey is definitely playing a part in my mood board.
Winona Ryder really has something. She would have been a bigger star, had the world been a kinder place back in the day. I think issues around how we are as people, and our mental health, is something which we discuss more now.
In 2021, looking at more contemporary figures, I really like Anya Taylor-Joy’s style. She is such a talented actress, and is perfect to be an ambassador for Dior.
Zendaya is also someone I consider to be multi-talented both in music and on film. She has an authentic feel, and is much in demand.’
You have just invested in some beautiful Chanel eyewear at Blankstone – how will you work them with the rest of your wardrobe?
‘I wouldn’t say I have a particular look, or style. My music is drawn from so many different influences, so I suppose how I dress matches that. I really like to change up what I wear on stage, mixing vintage purchases with some fresher pieces. We are becoming a genre-less world in so many ways, which offers so many choices.
I wear glasses every day, so they are a part of my face now, so it’s important to me that they are exactly what I want. I really love my new Chanel eyewear, and the matching glasses chain. I am 27 now, and my glasses are a real part of my history: my last pair were by Fendi, and the pair before that were by Chanel. They all have their own story to tell.
My glasses really have to work hard: I wear them on stage and in the studio, too.’
You’re about to go on tour after the release of your new album. What are you looking forward to most?
‘I feel like playing live is just like meeting my gang, and that extends beyond the stage into the audience. I just love seeing everyone in person. I really care about people who love music, and my gigs feel like just having a ball with my mates. After being locked away for so long, it’s great to feel close to people again.’
Your music is on the playlist at both Goodison and Anfield – that has to be a proud moment, right?
‘I really appreciate the support from both football teams: people travel from far and wide to watch matches here, and so hearing my music being played is so welcome. I’m an Evertonian, which obviously can lead to a fair bit of discussion within the city of Liverpool, but outside of the city I like to think I represent all of us.’
Can you tell us about your future plans?
‘After finishing this tour, I’ll be writing my next album. I am learning to enjoy the moment much more: I have far more control as an artist now, so I can work at the pace I want, which I feel is really important. I have my own label now, imprinted within another label, who are so supportive of everything I do. You really have to dig deep within the music industry – it’s scary, but it’s fun. I think as an artist, you have to concentrate on what you are doing, and not be too concerned about the competition. And I’d like to think in the future that what I’m doing now will be part of a movement to make the industry better for the next generation of artists.’
I think the future holds so much in store for Zuzu. Unbending in her own integrity, she’s all about the music first, and that genuine nature of hers, coupled with wry humour, and the kind of wit and wisdom that makes you want to play a song, and listen to it, rather than just click on another track, by a different artist, means she has the kind of staying power which means your music is not just for you, and your own generation, but for everyone: in Zuzu’s own words, that’s exactly who her music should be for.
At the end of our chat I put on Lie To Myself and thought: it’s a long time since I had my heart broken for the first time, but you never, ever forget it. It transported me back to that moment, and that’s a powerful musical punch for a track like this one to deliver.
While this interview should really be all about this talented artist, I have a feeling it will probably be far more significant in my life: in December 2021, I got to speak to Zuzu. The future of the city’s music feels safe in her hands, and I know she will continue to take to the stage in style: she’ll be bossing it in Chanel for many years to come.
Queensway Tunnel is out now to download, and is also available on vinyl and CD, on Planet Z label.
Nancy is a noted fashion writer and reporter, and now contributes her own style slant for our Blog: eyewear, trends and beyond.
Zuzu’s official website is at https://www.thisiszuzu.com
To follow Zuzu on Instagram land here: https://instagram.com/thisiszuzu/
You can subscribe to Zuzu’s YouTube channel here:
OUR BLANKSTONE BRAND OF THE MONTH FOR DECEMBER IS CHANEL
You can view our full range of Chanel eyewear here:
Additional images courtesy of Zuzu/Spotify/Dior/Valentino
Interview by Nancy Buckland-Kirk for Blansktone