The intense single “What Have We Become?” from the highly acclaimed author and singer-songwriter Zarah’s upcoming debut album “Blind Woman” is released. With a ferocious intensity and a resolute perspective propelled by her unique, raspy voice, “What Have We Become?” is an introspective song that inspires her listeners to make positive changes. Camouflaged as a number-one rock song with a hint of refreshing pop and appealing to hear. Check out the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how it all got started?
Zarah: I’m from the City of Angels, Los Angeles, a place where people come from all ends of the earth to pursue their dreams in music and movies right in the heart of the entertainment capital of the world, which is Hollywood. I was always on the lookout for the next new thing that would advance my music career and so I did almost anything the entertainment industry had to offer from modeling, acting, singing, performing with my band, etc. I went through so many bands at one point that I honestly couldn’t recall most of them because a break up was inevitable when you’re just trying to figure things out. When I got my first break opening for Goo Goo Dolls across the US, things began to fall into place for me. Next, came my nationally syndicated television series for teens and their music that I hosted called “B InTune TV”. The show was quite a success, which broadcasted from 60 million households to 120 million, all cleared by major broadcasts and cable networks such as VIACOM/CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and DirecTV and I eventually became the contributing writer of the popular series. This completely changed the trajectory of not only my music career but, my career in the entertainment business in general. Writing was the catalyst for all writing career of course, that years later, I decided to published my first murder mystery novel “Diamonds are For Cocktails”. The book was featured on Times Square billboard in New York and endorsed by Fox News, bringing me to this final moment of releasing my singles “What Have We Become?” and “Blind Woman” from my upcoming debut album of the same title set for next year, which received worldwide acclaim and have been added to a total of 75 Spotify Playlists including Editorial and Radio Playlists since its releases.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
Zarah: Yes and no. I had training in singing when I took private lessons with the legendary vocal coach Seth Riggs in Hollywood. I remember parking my car next to Brian Wilson’s from the Beach Boys as he was ahead of my schedule and he usually trains before he goes out on a tour like we all do as professionals. Getting your vocals and band ready takes a lot of preparation, effort and time; you have to be dedicated to delivering a good performance among others. At the same time, I was formally trained in acting when I went to school for it and I also did one-on-one with some of the most reputable acting coaches in the business, like Aaron Speiser known for coaching Hollywood movie stars. In terms of my songwriting as well as performing, this was mostly self-taught although I’ve had some good advice from famous musicians I’ve worked with in the past, which turned out to be valuable years later. I was always of the belief that first, you can never learn enough let alone from the people who have done it all as you can harvest plenty of wisdom and lessons from their experiences to elevate yourself and this includes John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘Zarah?
Zarah: I’m an old soul and I’ve always been a great fan of bands like Led Zeppelin. When I was invited to attend their reunion concert at the O2 Arena in London in 2007 by the management, I thought I died and went to heaven. I ran across many of my rock and roll musician friends here and there and that was to be expected, but seeing the greatest rock and roll band in my opinion get together and perform live again, was perhaps the most memorable concert in my lifetime. They absolutely rocked the stage and blew me away! Along with the classic rock influence were modern rock bands like Collective Soul infused with today’s pop and I basically came up with genre-bending modern rock originals that can also be alternative rock. I picked the name “Zarah” because for one thing, it is my actual first name however, I carry one name as a musician although I’m formally known as Zarah Maillard, simply because it is easier to remember!
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
Zarah: I think in a nut shell, it is simply that they are refreshing and catchy to hear. Because it is rock based, it’s got incredibly rich sounds with layered guitars, dramatic bass, live-sounding drums, and pronounced vocals that carries raw energy and cool melodies that you can repeat in your head and even sing along. And if you delve in deeper, the words are also meaningful and insightful, which is done in a lyrical poetic style. In a general sense, I would have to say the overall sound of the album as it has been artistically done and well-crafted over a period of time. It was recorded at the historical Henson Recording Studios and remastered at McCartney Studios this year in Los Angeles with known musicians like Chris Chaney of Jane’s Addiction and the LA Philharmonic orchestra in the “Blind Woman” lead ballad, who both elevated these songs as well as other talented session players. The entire album has the basis of my rock roots going all the way back in the 60s and 70s combined with today’s pop which really means that “Blind Woman” is a unique fusion of classic rock with the subtleness of today’s pop, all wrapped in a modern/alternative rock originals that is designed to get your attention.
5. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfillment as the amount of work you are putting into it or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
Zarah: Absolutely! It has undoubtedly given me as much fulfillment as I had hoped for in my music career thus far. For instance, music has been such a refuge in every stage of my life, and it does have the power to comfort and heal you, which is exactly what I do when it comes to edutaining youth. But when life hits you with unexpected tragedies, music has solely become my solace and fortitude. When you are truly devoted to your work, talent and craft like I am, you don’t necessarily do it for the glamour or to get anything back. After all, I write and perform songs or write period to express myself in a creative way as an outlet because I am an artist; it’s the true essence of commitment to your work. And if any recognition and accolades come along the way that you are being vindicated or validated for your work, then more power to you but to me, these are all bonuses and sweet rewards along the way because you have simply done your job as a professional artist particularly when I perform my songs live for major rock bands like Goo Goo Dolls. I truly love what I do and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
6. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
Zarah: Well, it all depends. You’ve got to factor your days or mood and what stage are you in your life. Are you happy? Are you sad? Are you hurting or do you just want to say something? These are some of the fundamental things that I have to consider when I write not just songs, but a book or a screenplay for example. Being a singer-songwriter is a bit of a different animal because it’s more complicated. You have to deal with not just words but melodies and music as well, not to mention the arrangement of the song and how you want to produce the track. In my case, there are times when my ears would catch the right chords and my melodies happens to gel that day then I pick the theme and write the words to it. There are days of course, that nothing would come out but other times when I would hum a melody or a hook in my head and write the words because a lot of times melodies are words to me and words to me are notes and so forth. I write songs in all sorts of ways and being creative and resourceful has been helpful to me in the process. In my early days, I was more open to collaborating with other musicians and it hasn’t really worked out. Since then, I have gone on to teach myself how to write my own songs and waited for no one. I was far more productive working alone but not to say that if the right collaborator comes along, I wouldn’t do it, cause, I just might.
7. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
Zarah: I think the entertainment field in whole is challenging enough and if you do not have the drive and determination along with your talent among others to break through, you’ll be left in the dust more so in the music industry, which I think is even harder because the competition is fierce. As a thought leader for many years in the edutainment space, this is exactly what I educate the younger generations to not necessarily focus on the ‘glamour side’ of being a star and that it is crucial to have your integrity as an artist because not only you’ll create your own identity but also, it’ll set you apart from the rest. In addition, I also had the initial challenge in writing because I simply dreaded having to do it growing up. But I was determined to do whatever it took overcome my weaknesses by honing my craft, etc. and ironically, emerged myself as an accomplished writer that I am today. But the fact that I lost my late husband in such a tragic and unexpected way to whom I was closed with, pales in comparison all the challenges I’ve had in my life combined. To be able to recover and get back into your life in one piece and still manage to find success in the midst of it all e.g. publishing my book and now releasing my songs from my upcoming album, I say you just beat all the slings, arrows, bullets coming at you and you’re bound to stay around for a while!
8. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far?
Zarah: All of them. Every dream achieved, every laudation hailed, and every accolade earned and every milestone crossed ought to be acknowledged in my view. These are not easy things to accomplish especially in the industry I am in and so, I never once have taken them for granted as I am cognizant of the considerable dues I’ve paid over the years. To be given the opportunity time and again to open up for a successful rock band that still has a strong following to this day by one rock star John Rzeznik, it is truly one of the greatest feelings I’ve had when it comes to my accomplishments that I’ll always be grateful for. When the nationally syndicated television series “B InTune TV” I was hosting at the time went all the way to a 120 million homes hitting an all-time high, that too, was quite an achievement. Publishing my first novel was also worth noting and commemorating and so as the releasing of my music, which deserves a cause for a huge celebration considering it is where I’m the most passionate and to think, I did it after my loss. But through all of this, I honestly have to say that my proudest moment is when I was able to get through and continuing to do so, the immensely difficult time of losing my husband as well as restoring my faith in God. I know what I have gone through and I know what it takes for me to be where I am today. And for that, I’m not only incredibly grateful, but I’m deeply humbled.
9. With social media having a heavy impact on our lives and the music business in general, how do you handle criticism, haters, and/or naysayers in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?
Zarah: I’m not sure if that was something that I truly paid attention to, honestly. But back in the day, I probably would’ve been a touch more caring but lucky for them, I’m now at a stage where I’ve have developed a hard shell! I think rejection is part of the game anyhow and if you can’t handle that part, you shouldn’t be in this business. It’s as simple as that. Critics particularly the amateur ones, don’t really affect me anymore, because even record labels, producers, A & R reps and even curators get it wrong all the time. It’s a fact, and you can’t take it personally. Some can offer you helpful criticisms, but I find most, meaningless. It’s a judgment call from your part whether or not you’re willing to accept it and you have to listen to your gut whenever necessary to defend your case. For example, years ago, a record producer was asked to share his feedback on my first single “What Have We Become?” after I had just finished writing the song. He then proceeded to rip it apart and spate words of hatred rambling on as he finished his senseless delivery where everyone in the meeting including myself were confused if he was still talking about my song. Fast forward to the release of my first single, “What Have We Become?” has now been critically acclaimed, and added to a total of 69 Spotify Playlists including the Editorial and Radio Playlists both in the US and in Europe since its release as it continues to spread worldwide. But you have to be steadfast and have the confidence of knowing what you got. If you think you and your music is good enough as an artist, then show it! Because at the end of the day, you have to bear in mind it’s just an opinion. And that’s exactly what it is – an opinion.
10. Creative work in a studio or home environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two options excites you most, and why?
Zarah: I honestly like any creative work whether I’m in my private time at home or at a professional studio working with professional musicians. I like writing songs, creating concepts, gathering ideas, channeling bottled emotions and turning it into a song, a book or a script so to complete my artistic vision. However, one of my strengths as an experienced recording artist has always been to perform live and therefore performing with an audience, I have to say, tops it all for me in the creative process. There is something special and irreplaceable when it comes to performing live; it is where I really come alive and feel my sense of purpose as an artist and it’s everything I live for. To be able to connect and perform what you wrote from an idea in your head once upon a time all the way to bringing it to life in front of a live audience means the world to me. I personally think it is the most exhilarating and most rewarding phase of being an artist.