To coincide with the launch of her brand new single In These Dreams, we caught up with songwriter and artist Zoey Tess, to find out more about the music, her journey so far as a creative, and her hopes for the future. Here’s how it went.
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Hi Zoey – great to catch up with you, congrats for the brand new single! To introduce things, where are you based, and what first inspired you to make music?
Thanks so much Rebecca, you’ve always been so kind and it’s great to catch up!
Well, I am currently based in Connecticut, but my fiancé and I bounce back and forth between here and Palm Beach, Florida.
I began playing the piano when I was four years old and shortly after began studying the violin, up until the end of high school. I was a huge musical theatre geek and loved Broadway music, although, I’ve always had a love for all different genres of music. My classical piano and violin teachers used to get mad because I wanted to play rock, pop, and show tunes.
The summer before I started high school, I auditioned and was selected to attend Interlochen’s summer arts program in Michigan, for musical theatre. Those were some of the happiest memories and I think it was that summer that I decided that I wanted to be a performer in some facet, but I wasn’t quite sure which path to take or where to begin.
I started writing music in middle school and I learned how to record and produce my own music. So, I bought a little home studio setup and just worked at perfecting my craft.
“I’ve met the most wonderful people in the music world through the most unconventional ways that can only be explained by some divine intervention.”
I’ve learned to lead with kindness and let the universe do the rest. My biggest inspiration is having the ability to express myself through song.
Tell me about In These Dreams – how did it come to be, and what do you hope listeners take away from it?
One night the words “let me fly, a hundred-thousand dreams gone by” popped into my head. The next morning, I had written the song in about an hour. I sent a demo over to my co-producer Jake and he really liked it. We got in the studio and started putting layer upon layer of different sounds.
We both shared the same vision of having strings and creating a whimsical, almost child-like atmosphere for the song. I asked my friend Mario McNulty (David Bowie, Prince, WILLOW) to mix the track. I felt confident that he could take In These Dreams to the place it needed to be sonically. And he did.
I wrote In These Dreams in 2015. In retrospect I now understand why I was able to write it so organically and so quickly. I was struggling to find who I was and who I wanted to be.
The premise of the song really resonates with everyone because at some point in our lives we all face a crossroad between where we are and where we dream of being. I hope that it can inspire people to follow their heart and believe in their dreams, however big or small.
Your vocals are beautiful here, are you vocally trained and a lifelong performer, or is it a unique nuance you’ve stumbled upon independently?
That’s very sweet. I did train classically when I was younger and did a lot of musical theatre growing up as well. I think it’s cool to have that classical vocal foundation to apply to other genres.
My first voice teacher Cynthia Servetas is wonderful and taught me so much about maintaining a healthy technique to preserve your voice. I was also fortunate to study with Marko Lampas who is a former protégé of opera singer Maria Callas and a wonderful teacher.
What makes the new single differ from the likes of Turn Me Up – how different was the creative approach?
Turn Me Up and Human Nature were such fun songs to create from a technical standpoint. Both of those songs were dance-pop at their roots, and as a producer it’s really cool to be able to experiment with different midi plugins and electronic sounds.
With In These Dreams I wanted to take more of an organic approach with the arrangement and production. There’s something so magical about live instruments, strings, and piano. I also think it was more of a vocal challenge as well. But very in line with what I’m continuing to create!
With the orchestral backdrop and fullness of the sound, do you consider a full-band arrangement for performances, or a more stripped back alternative?
For sure! I absolutely love seeing an artist performing with an orchestral ensemble. I’ve always been a huge fan of Evanescence, and I love how Amy Lee can perform with a string ensemble and band or she can strip it down to just her gorgeous piano and vocals. I love the dichotomy between the two. I would love to do something like that.
With songs like In These Dreams, it was written with just a piano, so you have the ability to go in either direction for a live show.
How important is live performance for you, and were can fans catch you playing this year?
It’s so crazy because before the Covid era I was playing shows and of course that’s so important to me because I know when I really love an artist, I’ll listen to their live performances more than their recordings. There’s just something so personal about the experience and something so beautiful about the little imperfections. I think being an artist means to be vulnerable and performing live allows for that.
As of right now I have been in studio mode for the past few months and that’s really been my focus right now. When you write, produce and record your own work it’s so much more time consuming but I’m a bit of a control freak so it works out! Lol! I’m also getting married in October of this year, so I’ve been busy, but good busy. As soon as I finish the records I’m working on, I will certainly keep everyone updated on live shows.
You’ve built up a notable following online, what are the main tools you’ve used to grow your audience?
You know, I’m extremely social media illiterate and I feel like a dinosaur when it comes to all the new platforms. I made a Tik-Tok account a few weeks ago but I’m still trying to figure it out! I think it’s karma for when I was younger and used to tease my mom when she would ask for help using the computer.
But I really do enjoy just talking to people and making new connections online. It’s such a great way to share my music and I’m just elated when people have a chance to listen to my music and like what I’m creating. It’s very flattering for sure.
How do you maintain authenticity as an artist when your audience expands and ultimately demands a certain sound or trait?
I try to just follow my intuition when it comes to writing and creating music. I write about what I know and my experiences, be it good or bad. Some days I feel like writing rock music, other days I’ll write a pop ballad.
I would never want to pigeonhole myself into one particular genre or style. There’s no authenticity or freedom in that.
“If you’re putting out records that have to be molded a certain way, then I think that’s where you lose your artistry.”
Right now, I really love the sound we created with In These Dreams and the new songs we’re working on right now are similar in nature.
If you could collaborate with anyone at all, past or present, who would you choose, and why?
I would definitely say Fiona Apple. Her music really had a massive influence on why I started writing music. I think she’s brilliant.
What’s next for you?
Enjoying what I love to do, creating. We set up a little studio in our home and I love being able to start tracking whenever I get the urge.
I have about ten different songs going right now, and I look forward to finishing them and releasing them when the time is right, and the universe will allow for it. I’m beginning to find some cohesion of thoughts that might manifest itself as an album or ep.
Is there anything else we need to know?
That it was a pleasure to speak with you and I’m grateful to you for sharing your space with me! 🙂
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