Solo Musician Interview: Zoee Byrne

Zoee Byrne Photo

Where are you from?

I am from the land Down Under! I grew up by the coast wrestling crocodiles and sharks for our supper!! Okay, maybe that’s not quite true, but I did used do a lot of diving and exploring where I grew up and often times there were sharks! Haha

As a little kid I would go down by the coast and look through all the rock pools for little friends and creatures to name, crabs, limpids. Mainly crabs. I loved to explore the four-wheel drive trails on my motorbike and go fishing with my folks too. I just love adventuring! I am born on the 4th of July, and so I used to get called “Indy” quite a lot, for reference to Independence Day and my similarities to Indiana Jones exploring so much My family and I have traveled a lot over the years and I’ve been lucky enough to have experienced a lot of cultures and places. . . My favourite thing to do is to hop onto a plane and head to a new destination somewhere – I just love the thrill of new cultures, flying, travelling and exploring!

How long have you been playing your respective instrument(s)?

My Daddeh used to play guitar when I was little, so I was first introduced at around 1 or 2 years old, sitting on his knees strumming like a wild-child. I strummed my first chords at around 4 but I first remember playing properly when I was about 8. By 10 singing had followed closely behind this and my poems quickly became lyrics for songs. I started writing my own songs by 12 and learning the ukulele, banjo and piano after. I like to have a go at all instruments! I meddle a little with banjo, mandolin, harmonica and cajon too.

There was always music in our house. My Mummah and Daddeh were great collectors of music from every genre and every era. As kids, my brothers and I were lucky to have grown up surrounded by a great array of tunes.

What genre of music do you consider your work to be?

That has always been the toughest question for me. Whenever anyone asks that, I usually say, you’ll have to get my album to listen to because it’s really unique. I’ve never really understood why people want to categorise everything so much, (music has got so much diversity/freedom) but I guess if it were to be boxed into a category, it’d be somewhere in the Alt-Country/Pop region. But I rap. I play funk. I play blues, rock n roll, swing, jazz, and even ambient. There are so many different styles I piece into my music, so it’s hard to really categorize it.

What are your influences?

Honesty, my life is my influence on my music. The journey and experience of travelling the world with my family is the biggest influence for me, especially for my songwriting. The people I meet and the adventures that follow are always so interesting and there’s always a story I have to tell.  

I’ve never had music lessons or songwriting lessons, or singing lessons for that matter, I play completely by ear, so everything I build is totally me and out of my own soul with passion and feeling. My influences are many, but my style is totally my own.

Do you do covers and if so what’s your go to?

I do! I’ve picked up a few here and there on the way. Hmmm… That’s a toughie! I’d say one of my favourite songs of all time is “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley. I really love playing that one.

Do you have a process for writing your songs?

Honestly, it varies with every single song! Sometimes a melody comes first, and I’ll record it to my phone and I’ll write around that, other times a verse will come to my head and that’ll be the beginning of a new tune. And then it varies again depending on the instrument I’m writing with, say for example guitar, ukulele or piano usually. I’ll start messing and something will just fit, or it won’t and it’ll be added to the “songs for later” pile…. (there’s a few in that pile, rest assured! Haha). I love the creative part of songwriting. It’s honestly one of my favourite things!!

Do you have any interesting/funny stories about gigging or touring?

I was once asked to be married at a show!! The gentleman who proposed was adamant that I was a young Dolly Parton and convinced that I was his soulmate! Haha.

What song do you remember most from your childhood?

I grew up listening to old music quite a lot, so the song who comes straight to mind is Rod Stewart with “Forever Young”. I love that song so much. As a little girl I always wanted to be the kid he was singing to in the film clip.

What has been your biggest challenge as a performer? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so then how?

I think getting to really hone my craft has been the biggest challenges. If you make one mistake out there, you’ll remember it forever. That audience is counting on you to give them a good time and deliver every single time with precision. They don’t care how hot you are or how tired you are from travelling. They want a great show, that’s your job! When you muck up there’s this great awkward moment that seems to last a lifetime afterwards, and every single performer I’ve met has had to go through that same feeling of awkwardness. But you have got to learn from it and carry on with your head held high. You can’t let those little things stop you. Mistakes are what shape you and make you better! They’re really important; but you must always learn from them and own them!

How can fans-to-be gain access to your music?

My music is available on all platforms — YouTube, iTunes, Spotify, Deezer, Amazon and a few others. If you head to my website you can find my music there.  Make sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter and feel free to drop me a line!

Have you released anything yet/if you have then how has it gone down and are you planning anything for the near future?

I do! I released my brand new single “It’s the Weekend” in August, which is a song about the life of the working class man or woman who only gets to enjoy the pleasure and freedom of the weekend! It’s been so well received and that has made me so incredibly happy – it seems to be becoming somewhat of an anthem, which is quite simply mind blowing to me! Very humbling. More music on the horizon soon…. Stay tuned is all I can say for now.

Where have you performed? What are your favourite and least favourite venues?

I’ve been lucky enough to have performed all over the UK, London, Essex, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, in the States, Nashville, Canada, and of course Australia. I love playing by the beach and outdoors!!

Do you have any upcoming shows?

I’ll be performing at the Record Factory in Glasgow on the 21st and debuting at the lovely Hard Rock Café with fellow singer songwriter John Taylor, who’s just the most incredibly delightful man you’ll meet, on Nov 18th. Tickets are available through my website/socials.  

What do you think about downloading music online?

I think it’s so convenient for the consumers to access music these days, myself included. I love that it’s so easy to listen to something new right away. But I just wish that the industry and rules allowed the artist to receive more of their deserved royalties, rather than the labels and platforms as much. I think for every stream the artist gets something like $0.006 to $0.0084, which is such a tiny amount when you look at the thousands an unsigned artist (like myself) pours in to making the music; from building the song, developing it, recording it, releasing it, performing it and marketing it, there’s so much involved in making it.

As much as our listeners love Spotify and iTunes (which is soon switching to streaming as well) physical sales, merch and attending shows are still the best way for the artist to actually make any kind of profit for their hard work and late hours.  It would be the only industry in the world where you can spend 20 years honing your craft and at the end, still receive not one penny for your efforts! For example, in comparison, a doctor studies typically for 8 years to help people, and knows that he will come away at the end of that with a degree in medicine and a job worth thousands to him. Music is definitely not for the faint hearted (….No medical puns intended!)

What’s your outlook on the record industry today?
The industry itself is ever changing, which is wonderful; and rightly so, as the music ‘industry” itself is not very old in comparison to the time music has been around. It’s still got a lot of shaping and building to do yet. But that is happening and I’m very happy to be a part of it.  

I do think that we’ve hit a zone within the industry though where, dare I say, it’s become a little flavorless! I don’t mean that in a bad way, but I do mean to say that the process of building music in days gone by, back in the 70s/80s, there was so much experimentation happening, and depth put into the music. Layers and layers of fun and excitement. And because of that labels would take chances on artists they’d never heard of before, simply because they loved the music. Nowadays, I think the focus is directed more on visuals and making a signed artist a No#1 hit through good marketing, repetition and promotion, rather than the music itself. I don’t believe Bob Dylan cared what brand of clothes he wore, as long as he was warm while he played.

It was the music and personal message that each individual listener drew from it, foremost and always. I think these days there’s a lot of rigidity within the industry to follow proved, tried and tested paths, from the building of the music itself to the promotion of it. We need those older folk back in the labels and driver seats perhaps, the ones who took chances on the unknown! They experimented just as much as the artists and producers building the music. We need to feel the industry more. And music has to be made by humans, not robots. Music is feeling, not mass produced repetitive compressed noises.

And let’s end with something a little different…Which famous person, alive or dead, would you have dinner with and why?

Hmm…. This is the toughie. Okay. I’d have to say I’d go back in time and I’d want to be on the set with Paul Newman when he sang the song “Plastic Jesus” on the classic film Cool Hand Luke.

I remember watching the film with my folks as a kid, seeing Paul playing the part of Luke, and the pain and emotion he was able to inject into this song after his mother had died in the film just stunned and inspired me.

The feeling he put into that song is what music really is to me. It’s a story, it’s a memory. It’s a place in time that one can always go back to in a blink of an eye. The music is part of us. When you hear a special song for the first time, that touches deep within the spirit and soul, it becomes timeless, and so is the magic of music.

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