We chatted with Zola Courtney, our new Rising Star! Zola is an artist from the West Coast of the U.K. Her debut E.P, Nothing to Lose, has made waves across the Atlantic, and she's about to support breakout star Dermot Kennedy on his September U.K. tour. Her influences range from Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and Lianne La Havas to Anderson Paak. Her new single "Superstar" ft. Caleborate was just released, and it's now playing on Stingray Music.
You can listen to Zola Courtney on the following Stingray Music channels:
And many more!
To date, what is your favorite song that you’ve ever written?
I think it's definitely "Nothing to Lose." I remember writing the song and knowing instantly that we'd written something really cool. I wrote it in a studio next to my management team's office, and one of my managers was in the office. I remember running in and telling him, "I'd just written an absolute banger." From the moment I wrote it, I loved it.
Who inspires you musically?
I'm inspired by a lot of different artists for different reasons. I think lyrically, artists like Amy Winehouse, Marvin Gaye, and Frank Ocean. Vocally, it's artists like Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, and Leon Bridges. They sing with so much emotion it makes you instantly connect with what they're singing about. Musically, its artists like Anderson Paak, Stevie Wonder, Daniel Ceasar, and Lianna La Havas. Their music has lots of live instrumentation, soulful melodies, and amazing grooves, which is the sort of thing I'm trying to achieve with my music.
What is the best advice that you've been given?
Someone once said to me that labels, managers, and A&Rs have multiple opportunities at getting artist careers right. They can take on lots of different artists and try again and again, however, as an artist, you've got your one chance at making it. You have to make decisions based on what's going to be best for you, even if it goes against what other people are telling you.
If you could have dinner with one musician (dead or alive), who would you choose and why?
I would choose to have dinner with David Bowie. I feel like he'd have some incredible stories and would be a really interesting person to talk to.
When you are performing, what is one thing that you absolutely can't live without?
A gin & tonic! I get so incredibly nervous performing live, I always need a drink before I perform to settle the nerves.
What was the funniest thing that happened to you at a show?
I remember doing a gig on a tiny stage in a pub in St Albans. When I started singing, there was barely anyone watching - I think maybe one or two people. My manager went up to the bar and told people that if they came through to the stage and watched me, he'd buy them a free beer. Quite a few of them took him up on his offer. I didn't find out until after why there was no one there, and then all of a sudden, a handful of people watching me with beers in their hands. I thought it was hilarious!
What's the worst job you've ever had?
I used to live on a farm and had to help out a lot as a kid. Bringing the sheep in from the field was my least favorite job as I'd end up chasing them around the field for about half an hour, getting covered in mud!
What is the best thing that a fan has ever said to you?
A young girl messaged me last year and told me that she listened to my music a lot when her mum was in the hospital. Sadly her mum passed away, but she said that when she listens to my music, it keeps her mum alive in her memory. It was one of the most moving messages I've ever received.
What's the worst lie you've ever told?
I told my manager I was an amazing dancer, and I'm most definitely not an amazing dancer!
What song do you wish you wrote?
I wish I'd written "Strange" by Celeste. The line "strangers to friends, friends into lovers, then strangers again" is one of the most beautiful lyrics I've ever heard.
If music never happened, what do you think you would be doing now?
I would be doing something in conservation or an animal/nature-based job. I'm really interested in protecting the environment and climate change and how and what we can do to protect and restore lost habitats and species. I want to incorporate some conservation work into my music career at some point in the future.
What are your go-to happy and sad songs?
That first album by Tom Odell, Long Way Down is my go-to sad album. He writes such raw, emotional songs that always make me teary! My go-to happy songs are either "It Was a Good Day," by Ice Cube, "Cyanide" by Daniel Caesar, or "Texas Sun" by Leon Bridges, as it reminds me of being in the LA sunshine.
If you could only listen to three songs for the rest of your life, what would they be?
"Too Late to Turn Back Now" by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose "My Girl" by The Temptations "You Send Me" by Aretha Franklin