ONE of the most promising young artists to come through…
right now: 20-year-old sensation Nzilani is preparing to release her debut album. Never Be is a song that demonstrates what a captivating voice she has. It will be released on Friday (pre-order it here: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/never-be-single/id1096926488) and introduce a host of new faces to the stunning, London-based musician. Few emerging talents have the same ability with emotions and texture: the talent to be able to draw a listener into a song and introduce them to new worlds and emotions. I was excited to catch up with the stunning singer and see what the future holds…
Hi, Nzilani. How has your week been? What have you been getting up to?
Fantastic, thanks. Honestly, I’ve been taking advantage of the good weather as much as I can. I’ve really missed the sun!
For those new to your music: can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m 20-years-old, and whilst was born in London, grew up mostly in Switzerland. I was in two episodes of Peppa Pig when I was/and currently can’t stop listening to Sing a Happy Song by The O’Jays.
Never Be is your new single. What inspired you to write the song?
Actually, the lovely producer Tam and his team were the ones who actually wrote the song- but I can tell you the inspiration behind it. Growing up for most people, you always feel a need to fit in; to conform: to be this person or another. I feel like that’s not really an image you can give up until you stop comparing yourself to that other person- have that realisation that you can only be the version of yourself you can.
The single has some seriously addictive beats and gorgeous vocals; plenty of catchiness and emotion. Which modern-day artists have inspired you and your music?
Well, first off: thank-you for the kind words; I really appreciate it. I’ve always drawn inspiration from older musicians, especially those of colour. My mother taught me to sing to artists like Aretha Franklin with strong emotions-starve behind their words- though I have to say Michael Jackson has always been one of my major influences- one of the artists I look up to the most. His charismatic energy and passion for absolutely everything he did translated and affected so many people – I can only hope to be an artist as sensational as him.
Never Be is the lead single from your debut album. What can you tell us about the album? Will it sound like Never Be or have a variety of sounds/moods?
It was very important to me to try and include a variety of sounds on the upcoming album; to try and not only show diversity; to see what worked and what didn’t. Though a majority of the album is ballads: I hope there’ll be something on there for everyone to enjoy.
You have just recorded at Metropolis Studios. How was that experience for you?
Incredible. There’s honestly no other word that comes to mind. Can’t imagine the session having gone any better. Everyone at the studio was an absolute joy and they made me feel completely at home- not to mention recording in the same studio as the late, great Amy Winehouse (it was as humbling as it was exciting).
Acting and theatre play a big part in your life. Do you think acting helps when it comes to music? Are you able to use your acting skills and discipline in your songwriting?
Oh, definitely. Singing is all about tone- when you’re singing you’re telling a story, and as any good storyteller can tell you, even if you have the best voice in the world- without tone, you’re lost. Without that meaning and weight behind the words, you may as well be speaking gibberish. The exact same thing goes for singing. This also applies to the second part of your question: a lot of songwriting and what I do (which is mostly poetry) relies completely on the story. The emotions evoked from telling that specific tale: the memories that resurface; all of those feelings dictate the way the melody turns; the words used whilst you’re penning. It’s all vital, and a fantastic ability that acting grants you is being able to examine those emotions, and pick them apart. I wouldn’t say it helps. I’d say it’s an intrinsic skill.
Being teenage- Nzilani is just 19- do you think there is a lot of pressure on young artists ‘to succeed? Do you feel that expectation on your shoulder at all?
Well, l ‘m technically a fully-fledged adult now, actually. I turned 20 just last week (oops). And, absolutely. This industry is pressure, and it comes from every side- not just from the people around you, but also from yourself. It is an immense farce that my friends experience it and whilst, at times, it can be a tad overwhelming, it can also be that little ‘push’ you need.
You’re based in London right now- having spent the last 8 years in Switzerland. What compelled you to move to London? How does the music scene in Switzerland compare?
My art. Pure and simple. It was always my plan to come back, and as someone who is slightly more used to the English language, it was definitely a big motivation to came back. There is a very rich and diverse underground music culture in Switzerland.
I feel that whilst Switzerland is a truly fantastic starting point for musicians boasting a diverse, multi-cultural music scene, it wasn’t for me- especially as someone who was more used to singing and writing in the English language. Certain people have different opinions on London. Some find it too intense and overcrowded; others lively and cosmopolitan.
As a songwriter and performer: how vital and inspiring is the city to you?
I’ve always had a deep love and appreciation for this city. As much as I do miss the fields and the hills and the wide open spaces, I couldn’t imagine London any other way. It’s always been this fantastic meeting point for different cultures and ethnicities and experience. As an artist, that is the most vital thing you can do. Collect experiences and stories and ideas: find a way to translate that into your art, to make you mark diverse; more open. It’s one of the best places to get inspired as inspiration can quite literally come from anywhere. It’s what makes London great.
Aside from your forthcoming single (and album) what other plans have you for the coming months?
Work. Work and travel. This whole crazy performing dream has always been just that. My dream, and anything and everything I can do to work towards making this my bread, butter and air are my biggest focus. I’m hoping in to get a couple of trips, however, later on in the year. Being a third-culture kid: travel has always been in my blood, and going to an international school means I have friends scattered all over the world (that I would adore having the opportunity to see them)
What does music mean to you? How important is it in your life?
Everything. I know, it sounds corny, but I didn’t have very many friends growing up; music was always there. I was and honestly still am plugged into my music library at every single opportunity. I was always imagining music videos and choreographies; singing every chance I could get. It literally saved my life when I was going through troubled times. It lifted me up when things were going better. It’s well and truly everything to me.
For those who do not know much about you; could you tell us a secret: something nobody knows about you.
This may sound a bit silly, but when was about 15, I ran away from home to audition for X-Factor – believe it was the first or second year that I auditioned for it, and I remember being given my and some feedback. I was gutted. I kept on thinking of ways I could have responded; of perfect answers that I was convinced would have gotten me on the show. So, I packed my bag, looked up train times and had this insane plan of flying from Geneva to Luton. Then, taking the train from London up to Edinburgh; sleep on the train and be back home with my ‘yes’ and a shot at my dreams. My parents found out before I was even in British airspace, and I promptly got stopped at the border- and put on the next flight back to Geneva.
Do you have any advice for any musicians coming through; those in the same position as you?
Don’t let anybody tell you different. Follow your instincts. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have recorded at Metropolis’, and I certainly wouldn’t be answering these questions. Your gut knows more than you think, and you should definitely listen to it. That, and keep going back. You’ll get that yes sooner than you think, just watch.
Finally- and for being a good sport- you can select any song (and I’ll include it here)
You Are Not Alone by Michael Jackson. It was one of my mum’s favourites and it holds such a special place in my heart.