If you’re tapped into the culture in the slightest, you’ve probably heard “Roxanne” by Arizona Zervas. The undeniably catchy hook and storytelling in the lyrics captured listeners on a global scale, impacting radio airwaves all across the country. The record has since been certified triple-Platinum, peaked at Top 4 on Billboard’s Hot 100, with the official music breaking a whopping 102 million views and counting.
Born in Rhode Island but moving to Maryland, Zervas began making music at 16 years old and has been on the stairs up ever since. With music being all he knows, he’s not only cementing his name in the music industry, but he’s having fun while doing it.
Don’t get twisted, this is no one-hit wonder. Zervas has followed the success of “Roxanne” with a string of explosive singles including “FML,” “24,” and most recently “Nightrider” — all of which deliver its own energy and story inspired by real-life experiences. Having been in Los Angeles for four years now, Zervas continues to feed his growing fanbase with a true, unwavering passion for the art of making music.
Flaunt caught up with Arizona at the Kandypens house in Los Angeles to discuss his upbringing, the viral success of “Roxanne,” new single “NIGHTRIDER,” the importance of family, goals, and more!
What was it like growing up in Maryland?
Rhode Island is different, it’s more ratchet than Maryland. I was getting into trouble there, my mom wanted to move out to give us a fresh start in a nicer neighborhood. We moved to a small suburban town outside of D.C. It was cool. I started in middle school, ended up getting kicked out. I was homeschooled for a while. I went back to high school, that’s when I started making music. One of my friends made music, I was dabbling in it and kept going. Maryland’s cool, it’s boring. Not much to do. If you’re not getting in trouble, you have to have a hobby.
At what point did you realize this music thing was for real?
I don’t know if I ever found that point. I’ve been slowly making better music and getting my finances together too. That’s a big part of living a dream, you have to find a way to make it work. It’s been stairs. There’s never been a moment, it keeps adding up. Obviously, “Roxanne” was one of my biggest songs. Definitely got to skip a few stairs. [laughs]
I used to work at Power 106 the radio station, that song played all the time!
It’s crazy. I remember when I made it, I wasn’t too crazy about it. It’s not that I didn’t like it, I knew I was dropping it. We got it done in a day, then went back and finished it. All I could think about was it’s going to be on the radio. You never really know how big it’ll be. Whether it gets huge or not, it was more of a radio record. When the radio started playing it, I’m like “damn, that’s some shit.” [laughs]
Was this inspired by a real girl named Roxanne?
It’s about a girl that I came up with a fake name for her, but it’s actually more real than it is fake. The song’s simply about this disaster girl you want to fuck with, but it’s hard to. It happens both ways.
Were you ready for“Roxanne” to blow up like it did?
It’s exciting, watching the numbers go up is so insane. A lot of people calling you, your favorite artists start asking you to get in the studio with them. For me, I was focusing on my breathing. [laughs] I didn’t get a big head about it. I was happy that it was my moment. It’s one thing if I would’ve made a great song but to see how many people were dancing to it and the joy it was bringing to the world, that’s the coolest feeling. It’s every artist’s biggest dream.
What was your reaction when you got nominated for Best New Artist at the VMA’s?
I had no idea, I woke up and saw it. It’s awesome, it’s unexpected. I’m proud of myself. It’s subtle, but it’s another one of those little moments.
Bring us back to when you created “NIGHTRIDER.”
I used to have a studio where I’d make a bunch of different songs, lock myself in a garage and write all these songs. I wrote “24” and “Nightrider” around the same time. I was with this girl for a while. When there wasn’t much to do, we’d hop on my bike and go for a little ride. I always wanted to make a song about that moment, that nighttime vibe. It’s super hard to do, it’s almost like you have to make a movie of music. I ended up writing it to this loop and sharing it to my producer 94Skrt. He ended up reproducing it and making it to what it is now.
You ride a motorcycle? That’s scary.
Yeah it’s tough, you have to be careful. I don’t go far, I promise. I whip around this area, no highways usually.
How long have you been riding?
3 years. I rode when I was a kid, but those were small bikes. Now I got a bigger one so it’s faster.
Is Hennessy your go-to drink?
It’s my favorite, but I don’t drink it often because it fucks my stomach up. I love the way it tastes, I love Henny apple juice. Plus I know darker liquor is bad for me so I’ve been staying away from it. Tequila’s the new wave for me.
I was listening to “FML,” do you have a bae?
Something’s been in the works for a while, but keep it on the DL for now.
Do you eventually want to settle down and have kids?
I guess. After a certain point in life, that’s the new dream — but I wouldn’t know. Right now, I’m trying to take it one at a time. Trying to create a happy environment for whoever I’m around, whether it’s the girl or my friends. “FML” is about the same girl, so I’m on the right track. It’s funny because “FML” came out before “Roxanne.” That’s the fear of being around a girl who might be a Roxanne, but you still want to take your shot at it.
I made the song the day after I met her for the first time. She was a bit suspicious. It could be me overthinking it but even still, I wanted to date her off rip which is wild. The day I met her, she picked me up in this new Mercedes, that’s how I made the whole song. I hadn’t hung out with her for 7 months, I figured I got too drunk and ruined it. I didn’t want to push into something, let it happen naturally. We ended up hanging out, this time she came and picked me up in a Nissan. The story is I was super drunk and thought she had a Mercedes, maybe expect a song about a Nissan next. [laughs]
How much of a role did TikTok play in the success of “Roxanne”?
It’s going up. The coolest thing about TikTok is it can be a really positive outlet for kids, an outlet for people to be creative. People are funny, people make music showcasing their talent. Dancing, you can see genuine true fun. It’s a lot different from Twitter and Instagram, it could be a facade or even more drama. When “Roxanne” was bubbling up on TikTok, it seemed fun. It was carefree. “Roxanne” fit so perfect because I was definitely carefree when I made that. All my best songs are my carefree moments. If I’m in the studio not worried about shit, it comes out naturally.
What is your most meaningful tattoo?
Probably this one. [points to forearm] This is my dad, it’s my little tribute to him. He passed away 10 years ago. I also have this mother/father one, it’s my second tattoo. [points to other arm] It says mother on one side, father on the other side. Of course, anything family related. I got my mother’s handwriting, it says “enjoy it.”
How proud is she?
She’s hyped. She still calls me every time she hears me on the radio. She has her moments. She’ll call me or text me anytime she hears anything I’ve done. It’s awesome, one of the most important things in life is to keep your mom happy.
What do you want fans to get from your story?
Most important thing for me has always been the DIY of what it takes to make your dreams come to life. You can do anything you want. If you put the right amount of time and effort, stay on your own track and stay focused, anything can truly happen. It’s been a really wild journey, always a happy journey too. It’s definitely more stressful now but you have to learn and go through these growing pains throughout anything in life, whatever you want to get into. Especially creative because you’re not going to always be inspired, it’s not always going to come so easy.
Any artists you want to work with that you haven’t yet?
I did one with Swae Lee, he’s an awesome guy. I really want to do something with 24kgoldn. He’s up there, he’s going crazy right now. I love so many different artists. I always want to meet them first because I know it’ll be more organic that way.
Goals for yourself at this point?
Always trying to be a better artist, the focal point of my entire life is being a better person. It’s always been an obsession to get better at music and be the best me in and outside of the studio. My other goal is making more great songs and more experiences. Going on my first headline tour, that’d be big.
Have you toured?
I toured a bunch of really tiny venues. Coming up, you have to learn the ropes. Those are important times, you learn not everyone’s going to like your shit so you have to figure out a way to still be entertaining. Maybe they won’t like all your shit, but one song.
It’s hard to imagine someone would not like your music.
It’s tough. I’ve heard all types of artists even beyond their success, people with all their plaques are still insecure about their music. It’s so weird, I’m definitely going through it. Even when I make something great, it’s more of a moment that you think it’s so good. As you heard it more and more, you might not have the same feeling you had when you first heard it. The hardest thing about music is staying passionate. I always come back months or a year after it’s out and be proud of it. It might not hit the same but that’s life, just be proud. Especially because I do everything with my friends.
What can we expect music-wise?
I’m trying to switch it up. I don’t want to do too much of the same thing, that’s my biggest fear. Feed the fans fresh stuff. Even if I drop something different, it might not be their favorite but at least it’s something new. I know some people will love this one, some people won’t love that one. I’m always trying to sequence them in a different way.
What genre would you call your music?
I have no idea. The world would assume pop, that’s what I always say but I started rapping. Not rap rap, more lifestyle rap. Never in your face. It’s rap, pop, rock. Personally I like to assume it’s genreless because I like touching base with everything, but I’m sure everyone says that. I don’t even think about the genre anymore because you see pop, rap, rock, all being more instrumental now. A lot of guitar, pianos. It’s music.
Anything else you want to let us know?
New song “RIP” out now!