Music Interview: Zhero – ‘Mama’ Out Now!

Zhero
Zhero – Photo by Luigi Febbrile

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Hi Zhero, tell us about yourself?

My name is Ciro Manzari, better known as Zhero. I am a 22 years old singer-songwriter and producer, born in South-Italy, in Apulia and based in London.

I’ve been singing since I was eight, but my real passion with music started when I learned production, when I was almost fourteen, through GarageBand on my smartphone.

I love many genres of music, but my favourite one has always been alternative, and I usually love to influence it with pop structures and electronic sounds.

Other passions of mine are literature, philosophy, religions and movies, and they have always influenced me and my music.

What is your songwriting process?

It has all started with a broken heart. I know, it sounds like a cliche, but that’s the truth.

I started writing because I was depressed. I was in love with a boy that has never loved me back, and that experience, almost seven years ago, brought me to write my first album.

Even though I’ve always been singing and I had already started producing at the time, it was my first time trying to express myself through lyrics.

I used to have a piano on my bedroom, I was playing chords, looking for the right progression, and then usually the songs came out themselves, without any pressure.

Of course, through time, I wrote a lot, and I studied music for many years, and since then, my process has completely changed. Most of the times now I begin with references and samples (used as subliminal sounds most of the time) and before composing I try to meditate, it helps a lot with the whole process. Only after collecting samples, drafts and ideas I start.

I use samples because I love to pay tribute to the songs that shaped me, and I always make sure I have at least one sample on every song of mine, they’re my ‘easter eggs’.

About the meditation, it could sound weird, but through that, it is a lot easier to empty my mind from ‘already-existing’ lyrics, structures, riff, melodies, etc… and then I am able to ‘listen to’ (or to read) the song as it is in mind. As soon as I hear it, I am ready to compose and write the drafts. For ‘Mama’, my latest single, the process has been totally different though.

Grammarly Writing Support

Tell us about your latest release?

‘Mama’ is an 80s inspired synth-pop song, the latest single from my independent collection ‘Zhero Presents’ and it is a sung confession dedicated to my mother.

I’ve written, composed and produced ‘Mama’ in 2019 to tell her and my family about my decision to move in another country, the United Kingdom, to chase my dream and live a full new life. I wrote the lyrics in less than 1 hour, in my car.

I was driving and listening to my fav songs of the time, then I kind of had a lapse. I clearly heard Mama’s chorus melody in my head. As soon as that idea came out from my mind, the song has immediately shaped as a track about “making the bags, travel and change your life”. For one hour, I’ve been still on the roadside, writing the song and recording the idea on my phone before it went away.

I wanted to find the best way to tell my mum about my choice, trying to make her less sad as possible. She always has been so possessive about me, so I knew that my decision could really hurt her. Since it was hard for me to express myself and my feelings using speeches and words, writing the song helped me to share all I had to tell to her.

What message do you think your music conveys to your fans?

When I was a teenager, writing was like a therapy for me, and I wrote a song about that, ‘The Therapy’, but now it feels like I do not have to ‘cure’ myself anymore, so I use the music as a mean to share my perspective of life and society. Music can be a great political and spiritual instrument, so I write thinking about this question: how can I help others and make the world a better place? How can I share my truth, my vision?

I’m trying to express many messages with my music, but if I must choose one, I guess that would be, “Find your real voice inside, be yourself and spread the love,” because that is what our world needs the most and it is exactly what I’m trying to do.

I guess my fans are listening to my music mostly for that. I think they understand that I do not want to be just a singer, but my real purpose is to share love, talk about social and “more serious” topics (as mental health), change the world (I would like to make real changes and be a voice for the LGBTQ+ community and for the ecological and animalistic movements in the future) and music is made to connect with other human beings. It is my way to help.

Who are your musical influences?

I’m inspired by old legends such as Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Queen because of their music, character, the stage presence and their stories, but I’m much more musically inclined by more modern artists/bands such as Muse, Lana Del Rey, Lady Gaga, Troye Sivan and The 1975. I love listening to rock music, but alternative, electronic and pop are much more my stuff. I always ended up doing that, and I guess it is also because, even though I can play guitar and piano, I am mostly a producer.

Who are your non-musical influences?

These are a lot actually. As I said when I answered the first question, literature, religions, movies and philosophy for sure are my main inspirations. The whole aesthetic for my videos of ‘In My Head’ and ‘Good & Sick’ is inspired by the 50s noir movies. I loved the style, and the suspense brought up by those light and shadow contrasts.

About literature, I wrote ‘Oceanz’ my first album when I was in love, as I said before, and I was studying “Eugenio Montale” in my high school. Montale has been a famous Italian poet and writer, and he was so sad. I loved it for that, of course. He inspired me, and he is the reason why I called my album ‘Oceanz’.

There two other songs on that album about literature. The first one is “Black & White” inspired by the case of Jekyll and Hyde. Then, a song I dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community, “Paolo & Francesca”, which is inspired by the tragic love story that Dante Alighieri has written in “The Divine Comedy”. About philosophy and religion, there is a lot of them on the next album and singles.

What’s the best gig that you have ever played?

When I released my first album, I was in contract with Bobo Records, an independent label in my region, in Italy. Me and Antonello Boezio organized and made this short tour around South and Middle Italy to promote ‘Oceanz’. I had many funny moments during that tour.

I shared the stage with a precious friend of mine, Noemi Salvemini, aka “La Nena”. She was promoting her first album too, named “Proud”. The songs were about civil rights, stories of justice, roots and feminism. Of course, we became great friends, and we had so much fun (and drinks).
I’ll always keep those sweet memories in my heart.

What do you think are the biggest obstacles for bands/artists today?

I think these are the most difficult and, at the same time, easiest times to reach success in the music industry. The internet made everything accessible to everyone, and I’m actually grateful for that. The web allowed me to be who I am since I learned everything on my own from there, and since it’s through the social media that I’ve been able to reach my audiences.

At the same time, the competition has risen up a lot. So I believe there are many obstacles in the contemporary music industry, much more than ever maybe, but they can also be used trampolines and be useful. It depends on how you see them and then use them. I believe an artist should also be capable to see, understand and domain those “hidden rules” of the stardom.

Grammarly Writing Support

What advice would you give to other bands/artists starting out?

I believe in this whenever we talk about ‘success’ in life: patience, determination and love are your best friends. Be patience with your career. Don’t try to jump or burn the steps, enjoy each one.

Be determined. Obstacles are tests you need to overcome in order to become and be the best part of yourself, only that version of “you” will make your dreams come true. You need to make your unique way to be heard and found, and live your own path to reach your dream, by overcoming all the problems you will face, and that’s exactly how you’ll become a great artist.

Love who you are and what you do, love music and people because to touch people and their hearts is what music is all about. Money is comfortable, but happiness is reachable only through love.

What are your hopes for the next two years?

I am fully living in the present. I have many dreams, and I learned how to correctly believe in myself. I know the future for my career is bright, cause I am building it day by day, and I feel it. I have many hopes, but I don’t have any expectations. I am sure of one thing; I’m going to touch more hearts than I did before.

I hope I’ll reach many people as possible, make their life more colourful and to be truly understood by them. I hope I will be able to change the world, to pass a message. I hope I’ll make a connection with people and build more love and awareness. As I said, that’s all we truly need.

FV Music Blog July 2020

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