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Spotlight interview: Zoey Tess

Today we sat down with the enigmatic and highly talented Zoey Tess, we spoke about everything from the artists introduction into music, her goals, upcoming projects and everything in between!

1. Hey Zoey thanks for joining is today so firstly.

Where are you from?

Well, I was born in South Florida, in a suburb of Miami called Coral Springs, but we lived in Coconut Creek until I was two years old, until my family moved up north to Connecticut. We moved around a bit, living in Newtown, eventually landing in a small town named Southbury, where I grew up. My husband and I now live in Connecticut as well as Florida. Completely full circle.

2. What was growing up like for you? I believe you come from quite a creative family?

Yes, my grandmother was a concert pianist who passed before I was born. She left my father her baby grand piano which became the catalyst to my interest in music. My parents both listened to a wide variety of music. Everything from Frank Sinatra to Donna Summer. My dad loved classic rock and my mom listened to a lot of disco records. My brothers both play guitar. I loved hearing them play and sing.

At school I didn’t have many friends and I was bullied quite a bit, so music became my safe haven. I looked forward to coming home to play and write music on the piano. I was quite fortunate to have had that outlet and that safety.

3. Being into both production and songwriting were there any challenges you faced getting into these?

With the production side of music, I still believe in many ways that it’s a man’s world. Someone I admire greatly is Alicia Keys. Beyond being a gifted singer, pianist and writer, she’s a brilliant producer. To see women music producers like Alicia and Linda Perry were so integral for me. I love seeing more women entering the field of music producing. It’s powerful.

In terms of songwriting, I think the biggest challenge for me, and many writers is that you pour your heart into your work. It’s so vulnerable. You’re reliving a lot of the traumas of what you’ve been through in order to share your life’s experience. Sometimes that can take you to dark places. Every artist, actor, poet, etc. deals with this. But it’s therapeutic too. It’s so important to work through that pain and be able to share those stories so we can heal and help others.

4. How did realize music was for you? Was this something you always knew you would go into or a decision over time?

I never saw a life that didn’t involve music. I believe we’re put on this earth for a higher calling, our goal being to discover our purpose. My visceral reaction to dealing with emotions has always been to channel those feelings into words. Growing up I always loved writing. Music, poetry, journaling. I’ve had a lot of really wonderful mentors and teachers over the years that have helped me refine my craft by teaching me how to structure songs and allowing me the freedom to create in Pro Tools as well as Logic.

My freshman year of college I attended Berklee College of Music in Boston and I found that I worked best in a hands-on type of environment. So, I dropped out, joined a jazz-fusion band and wound-up living in a recording studio for around two years. Meeting all the artists, bands, musicians that came through was a really thrilling experience. During that time, I was able to perfect my skills and it also solidified my commitment to being a part of the music world.

5. Who are you biggest musical or creative inspirations?

There have been so many different artists that have inspired me and continue to inspire me. Jazz artists such as Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra. In terms of female songwriters, I think Diane Warren and Sia are without a doubt two of the greatest pop music songwriters of our generation. I listen to a lot of Fiona Apple. She’s brilliant. Ani DiFranco, Jewel, Alanis Morisette. More recently I’ve been listening to Zach Bryan, I think he’s such an incredible writer and artist.

6. Can you explain what your creative process is like when creating new songs in production, did or has this changed over time?

I always write first on piano and then bring it over to Pro Tools. I always tell myself to keep it simple, but when you’re in the production process you tend to get excited and start tracking different instruments and ideas. That has stayed consistent over time. I’m a little formulaic in that regard.

I love co-producing because you can bounce ideas off of one another and they might be able to bring light to something you never would have imagined. It’s great to get a fresh perspective and another set of ears. In terms of working with vst’s vs. live instruments, I always prefer the later. It’s really amazing when a guitarist comes in and lays down a killer electric guitar track. Some things can’t be imitated through midi. But it’s all preference and choice. Sometimes with drum tracks, I love to create a midi drum track and have a drummer play over the track. It's a really cool sound.

7. Looking ahead can we expect new work possibly a full-body album in the future in addition to your amazing singles?

That’s very kind, thank you. I’m not sure! For the time being I am enjoying being behind-the-scenes, working with other artists and allowing them to shine. I have about fifteen songs that are in the beginning stages of the production process now as I continue to build my catalogue.

In 2018 I did write and self-produce a jazz album with ten or so songs titled “Black and Blue”. I was in a very dark place in my life at that time and a lot of the music reflected that. One of the songs, titled “Someday I’ll Find Happiness” is a song that’s very hard for me to listen to, even to this day. Out of that sadness came a lot of wonderful art but it was also very personal. Maybe when I’m ready, if ever, I’ll let go of that record.

8. Have you had the opportunity to do many live performances, if so, is there a show that stands out to you? Perhaps there is also a venue or place you would love to perform at?

The Bitter End in New York. The venue needs no introduction. It’s iconic. I was humbled to play a twenty (or so) minute set in my early 20’s. At the time my co-producer Jake Siberon was producing and playing bass for this really amazing rock band. I didn’t want to get up on stage with just my keyboard and I, so the guys from the band learned around six songs that I had written, loaded up their gear and we headed into the city. It was really an amazing night, the band killed it, and for a moment I felt like a rockstar. It was magic.

I believe in manifesting and speaking things into existence, so my dream venue is playing at the Oscars. I’d love to write a song for a movie soundtrack and get to accompany an artist on piano. A girl can dream!

9. In terms of creative achievements what would you say so far has been your biggest highlight?

Getting to work with Mario McNulty who provided the mixing for my 2023 single “In These Dreams”. Not only is he so brilliant at what he does, and I could list his many accolades and credits, but above all else, he is one of the most down-to-earth, stand-up guys that I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Mario always offers great advice and has been so supportive of my writing. I’m very blessed to call him a friend.

10. In terms of songwriting, this is obviously a hugely personal thing, but is there something that inspires you to put pen to paper?

When it comes to writing, the inspiration almost always stems from a visceral reaction to something. As writers, we write what we know and what we’ve been through. Sometimes it could be a story I’ve read in the news or perhaps a conversation overheard by strangers or simply, the raw emotions we all experience day to day. It could begin with a thought, a word or idea. Truthfully, I write best on the nights I can’t sleep and start writing my thoughts down on paper.

11. In terms of genres, is there a genre that you identify with the most?

In terms of writing my mind is always geared towards a great “hook”. I have such an admiration for pop music and great pop writers. I grew up in the 90’s so Max Martin, who wrote for Britney, *NSYNC and the whole late 90’s pop phenomenon. He had a huge influence on my writing.

I listen to almost every genre, and I love to keep an open mind about styles of music because I don’t want one sound or genre to influence the totality of my work. I love classic rock, I’m a huge jazz listener. I love good music. I’ve written folk-influenced songs, dance-pop, orchestral ballads and R&B. I love a good challenge and it’s great to keep challenging yourself!

12. Do you have any dream collaborations of people you would like to work with? Past or present?

So many! I mentioned Fiona Apple before. That would definitely be a dream. I really dig the new Iron & Wine track “All in Good Time” with Fiona. I&W is a phenomenal band and I thought that was such a great choice to include Fiona. Their voices complement each other’s so well.

Every now and then I discover a really knockout artist through Instagram. I recently heard a singer named Lachuné who did a cover of “Lucky” by Britney Spears, and I was really floored. Her voice is so pure and beautiful. I love to work with great vocalists, and she has a really killer voice.

13. Outside of music how does Zoey Tess, spend her time? Do you have hobbies?

Zoey Tess loves nothing more than being home with her Pomeranian/Bichon Frise Sophie, her kitty cat Isabella, and her husband Jay! Lol. We have such a peaceful home filled with a lot of love. We all travel back and forth from Connecticut to our home in Florida on the ocean, and to me, that’s heaven! I love nature and tending to my plants, and I volunteer with animal rescue organizations in the area. I’m a huge animal rights advocate so I try to do what I can when I have the time. I also enjoy reading. I just started the novel “All The Forgivenesses” by Elizabeth Hardinger. I highly recommend.

14. What does the future look like for you in an ideal world 10 years from now?

Peaceful. Writing and producing music for great artists, preserving my inner peace and challenging myself to grow mentally and spiritually. I’m going to manifest that in 10 years from now I’ll have won my first grammy award and that in my personal life, nothing will have changed. This past year I birthed my own music publishing company “The 1193 Music Group” and I am excited for that to expand as my catalogue continues to grow. “Que Sera, Sera!”

15. Do you have a message for your new and current listeners?

A very heartfelt thank you to all those that have continued to support me over the years and I am so excited for what’s to come! To any new listeners: I am so elated to have you and I wish to always be a safe space for all, where everyone feels accepted and has a place, they can feel seen, heard, and loved. I always respond to messages and love hearing from new friends and listeners. :)




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