In our interview with Zach Zoya, SHIFTER’s Kevin Bourne, aka KB The Boss, talks to the rising Montreal star about his growth as an artist, the success of “Start Over”, his new music video for “Upper Hand” and more.
Kevin Bourne: So I feel like it’s been maybe a year since we’ve last sat down. I feel like you’ve grown so much. Can you just talk about that, how much do you feel like you’ve grown? Because I remember when we first kind of got into music it was the “Dayz Off” series that you were doing. I feel like now you’ve kinda grown so much. Can you talk about how much you’ve grown in the past year since we last spoke.
Zach Zoya: Yeah man. I think the world just opened up and I had a chance to be subjected to real life stuff, and I think that made me grow. There’s only so much you can do from the comfort of your room during a pandemic, you know what I mean? And I think the world opening back up, me being able to travel again, being able to make music with a bunch of people again, being part of the social life…life is back in full effect here in Montreal. We just had two festivals, the streets were locked down right next to my place here, and there’s another festival that’s about to go down. So just that type of energy fuels me and I think it fueled the music as well. So I think it gives you a broader vision, I had a chance to travel, something I didn’t have the chance to do before. It just gave me more perspective on my career, on the music industry, on what I wanna do and what people expect from me. So yeah I think that forced growth out of me if that makes sense.
KB: I hear that. And now I feel like… obviously you’ve always had the talent––I feel like now the commercial success is finally catching up. I remember driving through Scarborough and “Start Over” came on. I think was with my family. I was like, “Yo” and turned it up and I was all excited and stuff. So how has that side of things been for you?
ZZ: So refreshing. It’s like finally getting a taste of the cake you’ve been baking for two years. It’s kind of like it’s a good validation point, like, “Oh okay, this is where it’s connecting with people”. People are identifying with it and relating to it and liking it the same way I was liking it when I wrote it way back, so yeah it’s good. We’re going in the right direction; keep going type of thing.
KB: When you were making “Start Over” did you know that was your…because some people feel like “Ok, I know I got something” and some people are like “Oh, I didn’t know”. For you, with that particular song, when you were writing it and recording it, did you know you had something? Like this was gonna be the hit that it is?
ZZ: I definitely didn’t expect it to pick up the way it did. I didn’t expect it to peak at number 10 on radio in Canada at all, but the energy was what I expected in the sense that that’s the type of record we made. That’s kinda what I had in mind. It’s not one of those records where it’s like, “Oh, this is clearly gonna be a deep cut. It’s gonna be for the Zach Zoya super fans that only listen to the deep cuts on the album and stuff like that.” This is clearly a more accessible record than some of what I do. It’s more a wider audience and stuff like that, so that’s kind of what I had in mind, but I didn’t expect it to pick up like that domestically in Canada, so that’s heartwarming.
KB: Yeah, Canada is sometimes a harder market even for Canadian artists to really be accepted. And there’s certain songs you can tell people are trying to force and make it a thing and it doesn’t become a thing in Canada, but for that song to become what it has become, with the fact that sometimes Canada can be a little bit difficult for Canadian artists, it really is a huge milestone to have such a huge song here at home.
ZZ: A hundred percent, like you said, urban radio is such a tough game here in Canada. I think Toronto has one station, I think; one official urban station. Montreal has none. So the representation of the kind of music I usually do is very thin and very spread apart. But hey, we got the love, all different types of love and I’m embracing it all.
That’s where I’m in a tough position where I kinda have to bring up the issues of the industry in Canada while benefiting…being one of the few who gets to benefit off of it. So it’s a weird dynamic to play with but hey, you gotta spread the word. I guess, paint a picture for other people who will follow. When you’re in that spot I think it’s important to bring up these issues. Because you don’t really have that power before, you don’t really have that kind of leverage to even talk about it, you know what I mean? So for sure it’s a tough game, but we’re happy to be where we are at now, and it’s definitely getting better. I think I am the perfect example of it getting better and better.
KB: Exactly. So are you at the point in your career where you’re being stopped in the street and people are asking for pictures? Is that your life, or is Zach Zoya still able to walk around freely in the grocery store?
ZZ: Oh in Montreal it’s been like that for a minute. In Montreal, people been showing me love. People don’t want pictures, people just wanna show love. That’s one thing I love about Montreal. They’ll come up to me, dab me up and say, “Yo, I love what you’re doing. I love the new EP.” They’ll be genuine, and they actually just love the music. I’m not at a point where people ask for pictures. People are not so much like “Oh, I was in the same room as Zach Zoya.” It’s more like, “Oh, I got to tell that guy that I actually appreciate what he does.” So that feels genuine, that feels real, that feels so good. But in Montreal though. Toronto it’s not quite there yet.
One thing I learned with this pandemic is that you can’t predict the future and it’ll switch in a weird way so it’s not really to your advantage to have a rigid plan…I wanna see the growth, I wanna see the pattern go up. That’s what I’m looking for. As long as we got growth, I’m good.
KB: It’ll definitely get there. But that’s good though. At least you’re at the stage where you’re getting that love from people. Because sometimes people don’t even tell you that they have love for your music, so it’s good that you’re actually getting that love from people.
So for the EP, No Love Is Ever Wasted; great project. Obviously, it’s doing very well, I noticed the project leans heavy towards melodic songs. What was the approach? Was that a conscious thing, or was that just where you were at personally and creatively?
ZZ: It’s definitely a mix of both. So it’s just part of my catalogue. I’m at a point where I’m doing a lot more melodic stuff. It’s mostly melodic based. I’m not really tryna be too deep into the rap, like super rap, super lyrical. I’m trying to keep the lyrical, but not strictly lyrical. I’ve always liked melodies. Melodies were always at the core of what I do, and I think it’s just coming out naturally at this point. Because literally I was looking at my catalogue and my songs and what I wanted to drop at this point, what felt right, and it just happened. Everything just fell into place. I didn’t have to force records into the EP. It just kinda all fell into place, but I’m definitely understanding my lane better now, better than ever. I understand what my strengths are and where I think my way in or out is on the market, in the music scene, in the business in general. I think I have a better grasp of where I wanna go, and what space Zach Zoya can occupy, and I think No Love Is Ever Wasted, is a reflection of that.
KB: So can we expect any bars at any point in the future?
ZZ: Oh fo sho! I’m never leaving the bars to the side. In fact, actually I dropped a couple bars on the album, on the EP.
KB: Yeah, yeah I noticed.
ZZ: But yeah for sure, I still got some records in the bank. It’s not something I’ve given up on. I think the advantage I may have is I’m only focused on the vocals and songwriting part of the process and so I get to dedicate 100% of my time to that. I don’t really have to spend much energy doing the production side. I work with an incredible team. I work with my friends and we develop so many different things musically that I just kind of let them lead the way. They’ll give me a house record, you know Drake dropped, Beyonce dropped, so everybody’s gonna be on the House wave this summer, you already know. But some of these things, I have so many different flavours in the bank. It’s just a matter of which ones gonna come first and which makes sense, you know?
KB: So you might jump on the house wave if so?
ZZ: I’ve been doing that bro. But now there’s a clear lane. Our boy gave us the alley-oop there.
KB: So let’s also talk about the “Upper Hand” music video. What was the idea behind the music video, and how fun was it to create?
ZZ: Yeah, that was so nice. It was my first time getting to work with one of my good friends on a music video, Soran; one of my close friends when I talk about producers on my team. That’s Soran who always produces with me and make songs with me and pushes me further. And it was so nice to work in a music video environment with him and it’s just so refreshing, it puts you in a safe place. It’s going to work but it’s casual, with your friends.
Shoutout to Dan LeMoyne, it’s one of your Toronto guys actually, who came down and really delivered the vision. I think mostly, I wanted to stay away from a narrative; a whole direct story line. I wanted to leave it very abstract, very artistic, very aesthetically pleasing, in a way where you can interpret it the way you want. One thing I hate about music videos, is sometimes they’ll put the music in a box, right? They’ll define what the music is and leave it to what it is exactly and I think that we did a good job amplifying what the music sounds like without giving too much of a clear “This is what the story is about” and forcing you to feel some type of way about the song and kinda letting people feel whatever they feel when they listen to it. So yeah, I’m pretty happy with the result and it’s coming out great so far. And “Upper Hand”, the record itself is doing great. We got over 200K streams and it’s been a week. So that’s one of my best releases so far, so I’m really happy man. It came out great.
KB: Yeah you’re really known for your music videos. From the very beginning your videos have always been very colourful, very over the top. You’ve always given us different types of flavours, so yeah I think you’ve kinda established a bar for yourself in terms of the visual elements of what you do. So it’s cool to see artists who have not just a musical vision, but the visual vision as well.
ZZ: Yeah man, and I have to give the flowers to the directors man, because that’s mostly their work. I have to shout out Jed, Dan LeMoyne, Guillaume Landry. Like I said, these are the people who really bring the vision to life, you know?
KB: Yeah, yeah, definitely. So as I said before, it’s been probably a year since we’ve last had an interview; you’ve grown so much. Aay we sit down again another year from now, where do you hope to be for that point in your growth?
ZZ: Given the fact that we spoke a year ago, I mean, exponential growth is all I can say. I’ve been saying that every time like I don’t wanna project myself too much because there’s a fine line between, first of all, oversharing, jinxing yourself, putting the bar, not even too high, just in a place where it’s gonna be irrelevant in the future because the world just keeps changing. One thing I learned with this pandemic is that you can’t predict the future and it’ll switch in a weird way so it’s not really to your advantage to have a rigid plan. So I don’t wanna put myself out there saying, “Yo, imma be in that place!” because I don’t know what the world is gonna look like in a year. Maybe the aliens will have invaded, maybe we’ll be on Mars. I don’t know what is going on. But like I said, exponential growth. From what you’ve seen a year ago to what you see now, I’m hoping to get tenfold of whatever. I’m just hoping to get 10 times as much of whatever we’ve been doing. I wanna see the growth, I wanna see the pattern go up. That’s what I’m looking for. As long as we got growth, I’m good. In whatever direction. Musically, I’m definitely tryna get out of here and see the world. I’m tryna got to the United States a bit more, to the rest of Canada. I haven’t got a chance to perform in like Calgary, in Vancouver––I’d love to see the rest of my beautiful country. I’d love to go to Europe. I just wanna see people. I haven’t seen people for two years so I’m just tryna connect with everybody I can and get the most out of it.
KB: Yeah no definitely; I like that. So before you go, anything you have coming up soon that you wanna plug and let our readers know about?
ZZ: Oh for sure, we got, we’re doing Canada Day in Mississauga. So I’ll be down in Ontario; I’ll be close to y’all. I’ll definitely be back in Toronto just on the low too; just to do some sessions. But in terms of shows and where you can catch me, you can catch me in Mississauga on July 1st. You can catch me at Osheaga Montreal I think that’s July 30th. A bunch of other shows all around Quebec. Back in my hometown, you can catch me in two to three shows around Montreal. I’ll be all around Quebec this summer. A couple dates in Toronto. I’m hoping to go back down to the States as well, but just look up Zach Zoya on all socials, tune in, stick around and see what’s up. We got some new music dropping for sure. I’m keeping that ball rolling, we’re not stopping. And yeah, I’m excited man.
KB: Awesome, I need to take in another Zach Zoya show. The last time I saw you was on King Street in Toronto, it was a good little intimate show, so I definitely need to see you on the big stage sometime soon.
Once again this is Zach Zoya, one of the rising artists in Canada, and we’re definitely looking forward to the new music and thank you for your time.
ZZ: My G, as always, thank you for having me man.
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