Need To Know: Zola Jesus

7.26.2011

By Courtney Nichols

So here you are headlining Pitchfork Music Festival but you are playing smaller venues including the Satellite in L.A. You are at this awkward moment in your career when your fame is exceeding venue capacity.
That happened in the last tour when the venues I was playing were being pushed to capacity, which is all you can ask for as an artist. It's interesting to see the dynamics. I need a little more time to grow in some cities because of the exposure there. It's really exciting to come back to a city and play larger venues and see my career grow very visually.

How does the audience response change when you travel oversees?
It's a little crazier, I am not sure why. Maybe that is because Europe is bigger. My music is not inaccessible by any means. It is pretty straightforward pop music, but the themes are a little weird in my music, and Europe is more open to that.

What is your definition of pop?
Anything with a good melody that catches.

In the writing process, how do you know that a song has failed?
When I don't want to listen to it. If it is something you can't respect yourself for making, then no one is going to respect you for making it.

Then you write for you?
I write for me, but since I know that a record is going to come out to the public, I write lyrics that I know can connect with other people. These are my own experiences and ideas, and I will write those songs regardless, but I am more conscious that the public is going to be listening to it, so I want to speak to them and reach out to them.

As a younger artist, do you ever have concerns about longevity?
Oh yeah. The only thing I want is to do this forever. My mission as an artist is to go to the top, and to do this, you have to hope that people will continue to support you and watch you grow. That is something I worry about everyday because this is the only thing I want to be doing, or have ever done.

A lot of young artists disregard this notion of longevity. To maintain fervor, do you think that you have to transform with each album or remain consistent?
For my own piece of mind I have to transform with every album. If I put out two albums that sound the same, then I am doing a disservice to the art or the music. The whole point of being an artist is to create something new and give something new to the community, and if you don't do this, then there is no point. You might as well put out one record and then quit music.

Is this both in terms of sound and visual aesthetic?
Artists should try everything. It is a challenge for yourself to expand your scale and your depth and your talent and what you can create. It is just so important to continue to change.

Zola Jesus's album, Conatus is due out on October 4. For more info on the singer-songwriter, including upcoming tour dates, visit her official website.

Tags: Music
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