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Exclusive Interview: Zito “Slays” Us With Her Debut Single

Exclusive Interview: Zito “Slays” Us With Her Debut Single


We love to show you all new music, and this time we have an exclusive debut single premiering right here at The Honey POP! And we’re so lucky to introduce you to Zito with her new single, ‘Slay!’

Zito, a classically trained powerhouse, decided to bring her lyricism to life in a genre far off from where she got her start, but boy, are we lucky to have her here in our areas of the water, or shall we say bee yard!

Transitioning from opera to more pop-influenced music, Zito has gone into her vault of songs and pulled out the perfect track to match winding down after a night on the town! We are obsessed with ‘Slay’ just as much as we’re obsessed with her, which is a lot since we got to talk with her about her musical journey and creative processes!

Read our exclusive interview with Zito below and learn how exploring her creativity has led her to release her debut pop single, ‘Slay!’

Can you tell us a little about your musical journey? What motivated you to leave the opera world and explore indie pop?
That’s a great, loaded question! It was a gradual shift. My life dream was to sing opera on the great stages of the world, and see how far I could go. But opera is an unimaginably difficult career path. Singers train like athletes, and the emotional and physical commitment is unforgiving… I was also always writing songs and wanted to explore other sides of me, so I got sucked into how creative and challenged I could be writing brand new creations in pop. Every song is its own world of emotion or experience, and I have to learn new skills to do them justice. I haven’t given those areas of my creativity proper due until recently, so I want to chase that creativity as far as I can.

Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and how have they influenced your sound?
Another great question – my biggest influences probably aren’t obvious in this release, because the sound is so far away from my roots. But their impact is huge. My favorite writers are Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Carole King… creators from another generation who achieve something in their lyricism and songcraft, of which I’m absolutely in awe. Linda Rondstadt is one of my musical idols – she was so artistically authentic and dauntless as a woman in the male-dominated world of rock. Plus her career spanned multiple genres, and I love that she didn’t limit herself to one type of music or singing. Of course, besides these pillars, I grew up listening to oldies, classic rock like the Rolling Stones, samba, jazz, and tons of classical music, and I still immerse myself in all of that. It feels like home so it centers me artistically.

You’re a professional opera singer, which is absolutely amazing! How has your training and experience in classical music impacted your approach to writing and performing in the pop genre?
Thank you so much! My background in opera impacted two main things in my pivot to pop: one being a focus on vocal health. When I sing pop, I constantly test my vocal boundaries, but I have that foundation of technique to fall back on, and I’m always checking in with myself to make sure my voice is functioning at its healthiest. For singers, your body is your instrument, so you have to care for it! The other impact is how much I think about delivery of the story; the way a word is shaped or a phrase delivered, or even the color of the voice in a specific lyric can convey so much emotion.

And congratulations on dropping your debut single. That’s such a big achievement! How did preparation for this differ from other artistic achievements?
Thank you!! It’s very, very surreal… this was years in the making, and so many people helped it come into fruition, from everyone at the label and the studio, to my co-producers and friends who helped hone the idea, to the incredible film crew that translated the sound into a visual. This is different from anything else I’ve done because, unlike a piece of classical music I’d continue practicing, this is recorded and finalized: I can’t mess with it anymore, I have to surrender it. I love that it exists on its own and once we put it out in the world it will belong to everybody else. That’s so freeing.

Where did you find inspiration for ‘Slay,’ and how did you decide that this song was the one you wanted to debut yourself to new audiences?
Slay came from a few too many bad nights at a bar I hung around like a stray cat for a couple years in Overtown, Miami. I absorbed so much from that social scene and space and wanted to capture the mood of that era. After we recorded it, the finished track seemed to resonate so much with everyone on our team that it was an easy favorite to introduce the project this way.

How long did it take to write and produce ‘Slay,’ and what was your creative process like?
What’s funny about this debut is it was written years ago; I think I wrote it in a day and wasn’t emotionally attached to it. The opening lyric came from something a friend had said the night before about the economics of dating (and how bleak it felt). Writing it, I was just trying to capture a mood from that night, got it out, and then forgot about it. But listening back through different song ideas later, this one had so much potential. About a year later, I demo-ed it out and tracked a ton of harmonies, and when [co-producer] Peter Reilly and I re-opened the session, all of the tracks were garbled and overlapping, accidentally creating the enormous chorus full of vocal harmonies. I also knew I wanted it to feel like it spiraled out of control, or was edging toward the climax in the outro, with the drums breaking into the 32nd-note groove in the second chorus.

What do you hope your audience takes away from ‘Slay?’
I hope they feel transported when they listen to any of my music… that it evokes a memory, feeling, or experience any listener can relate to. There’s nothing more universal than music, and if I can connect with anyone on any level, I’ve achieved my goal.

The video for ‘Slay’ is dreamlike and sensual. Can you tell us more about the visual and the creative decisions that went into its direction?
I experience my songs with synesthetic association to color or atmosphere. The impetus for Slay being what it was, I wanted the sound to evoke certain imagery from that dive bar and those late nights (flashes of traffic lights, the way light and shadow plays in a dark car-ride through a city, the harshness of concrete), and so it made sense to have the visuals evoke the sound. Danie Harris & Kevin Eikenberg of Four-Ten Media developed a storyboard that visualized the tension: inner voices in conflict when you’re on the precipice of bad decisions and you know it. They did an amazing job making the video build in intensity with the progression of the track, so you can see the spiral as much as you feel it.

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What was your biggest challenge when making the single and music video?
The pandemic! The song was recorded & produced in late 2019, and we began mixing riiiiiiight before the world shut down in early 2020. The shutdown put us on pause for a little over a year and a half. By the time we revisited the song to make the video, I felt like a completely different person and didn’t relate to it in the same way. That’s where Danie & Kevin were invaluable. Danie’s direction especially helped me reframe my relationship to the song after almost three years away from recording it. She gave it a lot more meaning for me through her perspective.

What can fans expect as we continue our journey into 2023? If you are releasing more projects, can we expect more like ‘Slay,’ or will you be exploring different sounds and styles?
I hope 2023 will be busy! We have a spate of tracks in the pipeline for release, and they all explore different angles of my sound, but I think there’s a through-line that’s recognizable and faithful to what any potential fans would connect with. I’ll always be consistent with the way I use my voice to tell the story, the experimentation in our production, and trying to capture a feeling with each track. Like I said, each song is a world of its own, so I don’t want to limit the exploration of sound… but my subject matter will always come from real-life and be honest. I’m not afraid to be vulnerable with what I share. I can say, I’m really excited for the next couple of songs after this… expect something soulful and raw, and something a little more dance-able.

Did Zito say more new music? We think we heard more new music. 2023 is really turning out to be a great year, and you can bet ‘Slay’ will be slaying every single playlist we can add it to! Wanna join us? You can stream the new song right here.

Want more exclusive interviews? We got ya!


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