Zola Courtney is here to take over the music industry with her smooth and sultry voice and kindred spirit. Hailing from Cornwall, the 22-year-old singer-songwriter prides herself in her soulful pop music that’s nothing short of honest, equipped with a lot of live instrumentation and an organic feel to it.
Growing up in the Southwest region, in the countryside on a farm in the middle of nowhere, Zola moved to London at age 16 to attend BRIT school. Exposed to endless jazz, soul, and R&B, her time in music college shaped her sound and music. She states, “My music used to be a bit more jazzier but I’ve pushed it: gone a bit more pop now, but still has a bit of a soulful element to it.”
Last year, Zola unleashed her critically-acclaimed debut EP titled Nothing To Lose, which held fans over for a year and 4 months until her most recent release with “Superstar.” Flaunt caught up with Zola Courtney via Zoom, who had just left her friend Rosie Alena’s gig overseas at Shawell Arms. Read below as we discuss her biggest influences, linking with TAP for management, new single “Superstar,” collaborating with Caleborate, her Nothing To Lose EP, studio essentials, goals, and more!
Biggest influences coming up?
I grew up listening to a lot of soul and Motown. I love artists like Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, also listened to a lot of reggae. I got more into R&B, people like Anderson .Paak, Frank Ocean, Daniel Caesar, Snoh Aalegra, Charlotte Day Wilson, that scene really.
At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
I left college, and I actually was going to be a music manager. I applied to go to university to study music management, then TAP found me and started putting me in sessions. I started writing. To be honest, it wasn’t until 2 years into writing that I started to think, “Maybe I can do this!” It wasn’t until I was 18 or 19 that I thought I could have a career in being an artist.
Is Zola Courtney your real name?
It’s Zola Courtney Bridgey, it’s a double barrel name. But yes, it’s my real name.
You just released your new song titled “Superstar,” what are you most excited for?
I’m excited for people to hear it, I’m excited, to be honest it’s been a year and 4 months since I got my first load of music out so it’s really really exciting to have a song out. I didn’t really feel like an artist for a while because I had no music coming out. [laughs] It feels good to be releasing again and writing more music. I have more music coming so that’s really exciting as well to be releasing that.
What inspired you to create a record like “Superstar”?
I’ve been listening to a bit of hip-hop. I wanted to do something quite like a driving drum beat, also a funky bass. I went in with that in mind, we started with the beat and built up from there. I was listening to hip-hop that week because I wanted to try my song with a hip-hop influence.
This is your first artist collaboration with Caleborate. How did you guys join forces?
When I wrote the song, me, the producer, and the topliner all agreed that it’d be good to have a rapper on it. We felt that’s what it needed. We all went away and had to think about who we thought would be good for it. Someone sent me Caleborate’s music and I really liked his style. He’s really soulful and I really like how melodic his rapping is. I thought it’d work really well on the song. He was super down to do it, which was cool. I haven’t met him, I’ve spoken to him on Instagram. [laughs] I’m really really really happy he was down to do it, his verse is amazing.
If you could create a dream line-up, who would be playing?
You know what, I’d have my 3 mates here play who are all amazing artists. Olivia Dean, Dustin Cadorelie, and Rosie Elena, very lucky to have talented friends. I’d definitely have them. I’d have to have Silk Sonic because I love Anderson .Paak, they’re amazing. Definitely have Daniel Caesar there, Charlotte Day Wilson.
One thing you want fans to get from your Nothing To Lose EP?
I want people to know that I’m a musician. I write my own songs, I play my own songs. What I’m writing about is totally honest and not made up. That’s really important for me that I’m credited as a musician, someone that writes her own songs.
How did you link with your management, TAP? I know they have Dua Lipa and Lana Del Rey as well.
I’ve been working with TAP for 4 years now, they picked me up when I was still fresh out of college and still developing. They developed me over the years. I’ve been doing 3 years worth of sessions and writing, so it feels really nice to be releasing music now. They’re a really cool company. They’ve given me a lot of amazing experiences and opened a lot of doors for me, which has been really really cool. I’ve been able to write out in LA which has been amazing, which I might not have been able to do if I wasn’t with them. They’re really cool.
3 things you need in the studio?
Snacks, a piano, and a guitar. And good conversation. I can’t write a song with someone if I don’t get along with them.
What do you like to do for fun?
I like to bake, I like to cook. I like to garden, I love gardening. [laughs] I love reading, all very boring things. I love being out in nature, wholesome stuff like that. I like going to the pub with my friends, that’s fun. Being in good company.
Goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
I would love to play Glastonbury, that’s my main goal really. Also to obviously release an album at some point.
Anything else you want to let us know?
Go check out “Superstar”!