For emerging alt-pop icon Zolita, every song begins as an elaborate movie in her mind, irresistibly rooted in both riveting drama and viscerally real feeling. A truly multidimensional artist, the L.A.-based singer/songwriter/filmmaker matches her fiercely honest musical output with self-directed videos, each revealing the singular aesthetic she honed in part through her studies in film at New York University’s Tisch School of theArts. Recently signed to AWAL after earning massive success as a D.I.Y. creator (including over 120 million globalstreams to date), Zolita now shares her most magnetic work yet: a high-concept project spotlighting her cinematic storytelling and wildly catchy, newly unbridled sound.
The first in a trilogy of songs accompanied by a series of episodic videos, Zolita’s 2021 release “Somebody I F*cked Once” perfectly encapsulates the pop-punk energy and gritty effervescence of her new material (a sharp departure from the moody dark-pop of past efforts like her debut albumEvil Angel, a 2020 release she paired with a surrealist psycho-thriller short film). Meanwhile, the dazzling visual for “Somebody I F*cked Once” puts a brilliant twist onthe classic teen movie, highlighting Zolita’s desire for LGBTQ+ visibility and starring her as a cheerleader who falls in love with an artsy outsider named Gia just in time for prom. Produced, directed, and edited by Zolita (who also played an essential part in everything from production design to casting), the “Somebody I F*cked Once” video went viral immediately after its premiere, amassing five million YouTube views in its first week alone. As a follow-up, she next created the trilogy’s second installment: “Single in September,” a heavy-hearted but exhilarating portrait of a fast-fading romance, built on a particularly poignant vocal performance from Zolita. Continuing the narrative arc of its predecessor, the video follows Zolita and Gia through the blissed-out whirlwind of summer love (sharing ice cream cones, making out in a top-down convertible), then crashes into the quiet heartache of their breakup. “I think it’s so common for people to believe that your first love is going to be your only love,” says Zolita. “I wanted to capture that feeling of trying so hard to hold onto someone, even though you’re in such different places now.”And with “I Fucking Love You,” the trilogy closes out on an unexpected and thrillingly joyful moment of reconnection.
Born Zoë Hoetzel and raised near L.A., Zolita grew up in a highly creative family who nurtured her artistic side from a young age. To that end, she first discovered her innate gift for music by playing flat-pick guitar with her father (a bluegrass aficionado and longtime banjo player), and later began writing her own folk-leaning songs in her bedroom. “It was mostly something I did for myself, as a form of therapy,” she says. In high school Zolita immersed herself in photography, almost instantly unveiling her left-of-center sensibilities. “I remember my photography teacher telling me, ‘You only take pictures of girls—I want you to take a picture of two guys and a car,’” she recalls. “I’m sure he was thinking I’d come up with something that looked like an Abercrombie ad, but instead I got the high school quarterback to dress in drag, wrapped up my ex-boyfriend in cellophane, and had them pose in a car with garden shears. That really shows the inner workings of my brain.”
Naming David Lynch and Darren Aronofsky among her favorite filmmakers, Zolita next headed to NYU to study film but soon found herself drawn to the world of music-video production. “It hit me that videos were a way to combine everything I love,” she says. “Not just music and film, but choreography, fashion, activism—there’s so much you can do in a three-minute time span.” After refining her stylistic approach by creating a number of videos for her own songs, Zolita had a major breakthrough with the spellbinding visual for “Explosion”—a deeply intimate track she wrote alone on guitar, then transformed into an epic yet slow-burning meditation on desire. With its heady collision of religious iconography and raw sensuality, the “Explosion” video quickly went viral and ultimately clarified Zolita’s intentions as an artist. “There were so many young queer people coming together in the comments and talking about how healing it was to hear someone sing about love between queer femme women, and I realized how badly that gap needed to be filled in pop culture,” she says. “That was the moment when I decided, ‘This is what Zolita is.’”
Since the arrival of “Explosion,” Zolita has gained lavish acclaim from the likes of Billboard, i-D, Paper Magazine, V Magazine, Out Magazine, NYLON, Gay Times, Dazed, and Interview while further pushing her boundaries with releases like “Holy”—a darkly hypnotic track for which she created a dystopian narrative short, centered on a female student who joins the girl she loves in leading a rebellion against their cult-like patriarchal schoolhouse. In the making of her latest body of work, she achieved yet another milestone with the production of “Somebody I F*cked Once,” whose guitar-heavy and galvanizing sound defines the next era of her music. “For a long time I was bouncing off other people and exploring different ideas for my sound, but ‘Somebody I F*cked Once’ was a real a-ha moment,” says Zolita, who recorded the track with L.A.-based producer Hiser (Chloe x Halle, Hey Violet). “It makes so much sense to go for something more guitar-driven, considering my whole experience of growing up playing guitar.” With its shimmering textures and euphoric harmonies, “Single in September” also brings a glorious new radiance to Zolita’s output. “It’s definitely more hard-hitting and rock-oriented than anything I’ve ever done, but there’s also that windows-rolled-down, sunshiny kind of feeling to it,” she notes.
Along with gearing up for the release of a new EP (due out later this year), Zolita is focusing her seemingly limitless creative energy on developing her live set. “I’m excited by the idea of combining a very conceptual, theatrical stage show with music in a more pop-punk vein, because I don’t think we’ve seen that before,” she says. And as she’s learned on past tours (including a nationwide 2019 run with electropop star XYLØ), the live show allows for an extraordinarily close connection with her audience. “I talk to people online all the time, but to hug the people who’ve supported me is so amazing,” she says. “I love it because I never hear things like, ‘I’m so obsessed with you’—it’s usually something more like, ‘You really helped me embrace my queer identity.’ One of the most important things for me is to normalize queerness, and to show happy endings for queer people. I never thought of that as a kind of activism before, until I saw firsthand what it can actually do.
This week, mxmtoon released her sophomore album rising. Her music video for “frown” was also released in collaboration with Webtoon. You can watch it below and listen to rising on all streaming platforms.
This week, NEEDTOBREATHE released an acoustic version of “I Am Yours.” Click here to listen!
For nearly two straight years following the release of their critically acclaimed debut, Chasing Lights, Ida Mae lived on the road, crisscrossing the US from coast to coast as they performed hundreds of dates with everyone from Willie Nelson and Alison Krauss to Marcus King and Greta Van Fleet. And while those shows were certainly formative for the electrifying British duo, it was what happened in between—the countless hours spent driving through small towns and big cities, past sprawling suburbs and forgotten ghost towns, across rolling plains and snow-capped mountains—that truly laid the groundwork for the band’s transportive new album, Click Click Domino.
“Coming from England, the US feels like this incredibly vast landscape full of freedom and isolation and beauty and tragedy and lostness all mixed together,” says Chris Turpin, who co-founded the duo with his longtime musical partner, Stephanie Jean. “Driving over a hundred thousand miles for months on end, we couldn’t help but be inspired by it.”
Written primarily in the backseat of a moving car, Click Click Domino embodies all the momentum and possibility of the great American unknown, offering up a series of cinematic vignettes full of hope and disappointment, promise and regret, connection and loneliness. The songs here are raw and direct, fueled by an innovative mix of vintage instruments and modern electronics, and the performances are loose and exhilarating to match, drawing on early rock and roll, classic country, British folk, and 50’s soul to forge a sound that’s equal parts Alan Lomax field recording and 21st century garage band. Turpin and Jean produced the album themselves, recording primarily on their own in their adopted hometown of Nashville during the COVID-19 pandemic, and while the collection is certainly bolstered by appearances from high profile guests like Marcus King, Greta Van Fleet’s Jake Kiszka, and Ethan Johns, the heart and soul of the record remains Ida Mae’s enthralling chemistry, which has never felt more vibrant, ambitious, or self-assured.
“Working just the two of us, there’s always been a bit of a Bonnie and Clyde aspect to what we do,” says Turpin. “Spending all that time driving around America, though, things took on more of a Steinbeck or Kerouac feeling. We were on an journey of discovery together, and every day brought us closer together.”
Now married, Turpin and Jean first met a little over a decade ago while attending university in Bath. The pair bonded immediately over their love for the sounds of bygone eras—Turpin, the old-time guitar work of Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, and Mississippi Fred McDowell; Jean, the timeless vocals of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Bessie Smith—and quickly earned rave reviews everywhere from the BBC to the NME with their raucous first band, Kill It Kid. Starting over fresh with a new group named for Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee’s “Ida Mae,” the first song they’d ever harmonized on, Turpin and Jean relocated to Nashville in 2019 and released Chasing Lights to similarly widespread critical acclaim. Rolling Stone hailed the album’s “stomping swirl of blues and guitar-heavy Americana,” while The Independent lauded its “retro lustre” and “impressive experimentation,” and NPR’s Heavy Rotation called it “tightly drawn, harmonic and hypnotic.” The music helped earn the duo a slew of support dates with the likes of Greta Van Fleet, The Marcus King Band, Blackberry Smoke, Josh Ritter, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and The Lone Bellow, as well as performances at Bonnaroo, the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Germany’s Reeperbahn Festival, and Switzerland’s Zermatt Unplugged.
“We just said yes to everything and played every single chance we got,” says Turpin. “We started off at barbecues and dinner parties and it snowballed until we were onstage in theaters and stadiums playing to thousands of people every night.”
To call the band’s tour schedule relentless would be an understatement. On one particularly grueling occasion, the duo played a headline album release show at Omeara in London’s South Bank, then hopped a flight to straight to Kentucky, where they landed just in time for their second performance of the day, a tour kickoff show with Blackberry Smoke at the Louisville opera house. Rewarding as it was to play for audiences all over the world, the rigors of the road left little time for traditional writing sessions, and when a friend came onboard to help with the driving, Turpin jumped at the opportunity to retreat to the backseat with an iPhone full of voice memo melodies and a notebook packed with potential lyrics.
“I’d curl up in a ball with my headphones on and start trying to match bits of music I’d recorded at soundchecks or in hotel rooms with words I’d jotted down whenever something inspired me,” he explains. “It was a process of sifting through this scrap yard of ideas until something synced up, and then running with it from there.”
When it came time to record, the band had planned on working once again with legendary producer Ethan Johns (Ray LaMontagne, Laura Marling, Kings of Leon), who’d helmed Chasing Lights back in England. With COVID-19 taking international travel off the table, though, Turpin and Jean decided to forge ahead and make the record themselves, leaning on everything they’d learned collaborating with Johns and other top shelf producers and artists over the years like T Bone Burnett (Elvis Costello, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss), M. Ward, Ryan Hadlock (The Lumineers, Brandi Carlile), Jake Gosling (Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes), and Mike Crossey (The 1975, Arctic Monkeys). Working out of their house in Nashville, they set up a series of bare bones recording stations and began cutting tracks together in one or two take performances, embracing the spontaneity of the moment and relying on the intuition of the live show they’d spent the past few years perfecting.
“We’d come straight home from tour when COVID canceled everything,” says Turpin. “We had the gear and we were road ready, so we didn’t want to overthink it.”
Where Chasing Lights was the sound of a band just beginning to discover their true potential, the performances Turpin and Jean captured for Click Click Domino showcased a duo confident in their powers and hungry for fresh challenges. The pair pushed themselves to break new ground on the record, both as artists and producers, experimenting with a bold palette of colors and textures and following their insatiable creative curiosity wherever it led them. The resulting leap forward is palpable on every track, a distinct elevation in ambition and execution that reaches back into the past in order to reimagine the future.
“Our goal was to take our sound further than it’d ever gone before,” explains Turpin. “We wanted to get heavier and open things up and weave together all these different strands of what we do in one place.”
After capturing the foundations of the album live America, Turpin and Jean sent the music back to England, where Johns and Nick Pini added drums and bass. Meanwhile in Nashville, the duo continued fleshing out the rest of the arrangements with a broad array of instruments they’d acquired during their travels: a century old parlor guitar, a gut string banjo ukulele, a vintage Japanese drum machine, a 1920s mandolinetto, analog synthesizers from the ’60s and ’70s, a Beatles-esque mellotron, even a Native American buffalo hide drum.
“Clashing all these different instruments from different time periods together was a chance for us to reframe their context,” says Turpin, “as well as a way to pay homage to the land that inspired us. We get thrown in with labels like ‘Americana’ or ‘rock and roll’ a lot, but truth be told, what we do is a weird cacophony of all these different eras and influences coming together.”
That much is clear from album opener “Road To Avalon,” which mixes Appalachian folk and Celtic mythology into an otherworldly, transatlantic dreamscape. Like much of the music on Click Click Domino, the track embodies a sense of motion and longing, a search for deliverance somewhere beyond the horizon. The hazy “Line On The Page” recalls Sticky Fingers-era Stones as it meditates on the magnetism of the road, while the searing “Long Gone & Heartworn” mixes pub rock charm with punk rock snarl as it tears on down the highway, and the rowdy “Deep River” follows two lovers with big dreams who leave home only to find themselves lost in a system beyond their control.
“I don’t really think of this as a political record,” says Turpin, “but there’s no way to write about what we saw traveling around America over the past few years without some of that darkness seeping in.”
Indeed, that darkness looms over the collection like a storm cloud threatening to break at any moment. The eerie “Little Liars” teeters on the brink as it grapples with truth and consequence; the ominous “Has My Midnight Begun” questions how to carry on in the face of so much turmoil; and the blistering “Click Click Domino” lands somewhere between Pops Staples and Jack White as it reckons with a culture driven by clickbait and instant gratification.
“That title track was written to push back against a modern world where everyone wants to look and sound and dress alike,” says Turpin. “When everyone’s trying to do the same thing, you just wind up with a bunch of dominos in a pack.”
Ida Mae, on the other hand, have always managed to follow their own compass. And as Click Click Domino proves, the best stories are often found off the beaten path.
Foy Vance has just shared his latest single “If Christopher Calls” from his upcoming album Signs of Life. Be sure to pre-save the new album and listen to “If Christopher Calls” here.
Samia’s 2020 debut album, The Baby, was a testament to her impressive vocal might, irresistible tunefulness and vulnerable lyricism, both clever and illuminating in equal measure. Drawing widespread acclaim from Pitchfork, Stereogum, NPR, NME, The Sunday Times, and others, the LP more than delivered following the promise of early singles like 2018’s “Django” and 2019’s “Ode to Artifice.” After emerging as one of the most exciting up-and-comers in indie rock, Samia released a companion album this past January titled The Baby Reimagined, a collection of covers and remixes featuring Bartees Strange, Anjimile, Field Medic, Palehound, former tourmate Donna Missal, and more.
Samia spent much of 2020 in self-reflection, and she also made various life changes that left her feeling more earnest and centered. “I got back into therapy and started thinking about boundaries, I moved to Nashville, I did yoga sometimes,” she says. During this time, she wrote a handful of songs that make up Scout, a new EP that’s out everywhere now. “These were pretty much the only four songs that came naturally during this time, but I think they really mirror my emotional experience this past year,” Samia says.
While The Baby leaned more on self-deprecating humor, Scout was born out of a need to “honor feeling secure in what [she] had to say.” Lead track “As You Are” revels in the preciousness of unconditional love (“When somebody loves you / They take you as you are,” she belts in the chorus) and floats delicately with graceful vocals and steady percussion. Staticky guitar number “Show Up” is an acknowledgment of personal growth, and its unwavering desire for wholesome joy really tugs at the heartstrings (“Nothing could ever stop / my ass from showing up / to sing another song for the people I love”). The EP is packed with reverence for life’s ups and downs, but more than anything, it’s an ode to loved ones.
The compassionate glow of this EP partially stems from her new Nashville surroundings, as well as her recent experiences “feeling genuinely loved, making new friends, and holding onto old friendships.” There’s a palpable intimacy to these recordings, whether it’s the voicemail murmurs of “As You Are,” the heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics or the piano twinkles throughout. It’s reminiscent of that reassuring exhale in the mirror after an imperfect yet fulfilling day. As Samia puts it, Scout is “The Baby‘s slightly older sister letting her know that everything is gonna be alright.”
The EP title is a nickname of Samia’s, and it’s a fitting nod to the record’s benevolence. “My partner calls me Scout,” she explains. “It’s just a word that implies bravery to me. I always picture a little girl with a sash and badges basking in her autonomy selling Samoas.” Whether you’re a girl scout trying to gain confidence or an adult who needs reminders of our inability to make everyone happy (“Elephant”) or the untold power of being there for someone (“The Promise”), this EP is an unashamed loving nudge.
Ross Copperman has spent the last decade helping some of the biggest artists in the world use their voices. Now, he’s rediscovering his own.
“I definitely lost my voice as an artist along the way, but it’s always been in me,” Copperman says. “I’ve found it again.”
The GRAMMY-nominated hit songwriter and mega-producer isn’t complaining. After penning smashes that include over 30 No. 1 songs and other chart climbers for stars including Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, Darius Rucker, Kenny Chesney and P!nk, Dierks Bentley, and so many more, as well as producing acclaimed and GRAMMY-nominated albums for Urban, Bentley, and others, Copperman is grateful. He sees his immersion in the art of others as a gift––evidence that he’s been serving artists and sounds they were meant to make.
But it’s time for Ross Copperman the artist, a blockbuster songwriter-producer and nuanced pop stylist, to be heard himself. “I’m not walking away from what I’ve been doing, but my passion for being an artist never really went away,” Copperman says. “This whole process of recording my own releases has been cathartic.”
Hope, joy and gratitude pulse throughout Somewhere There’s a Light On, a five-song collection of Copperman’s shimmery Southern pop that marked his return as an artist. Featuring back-to-back singalongs and Copperman’s ferocious musicality, the EP is radio-ready piano, staccato percussion, synths, snaps and smooth vocals, with country music’s love of cohesive narratives. “I’ve always liked to write songs to live in any world and not necessarily be too specific to genres,” Copperman says. “It feels like pop has really been influenced by country writing in the last few years.”
Copperman co-wrote Somewhere There’s a Light On with favorite collaborators, including a pair with Ed Sheeran. “I’ve never loved two songs more than ‘Electricity’ and ‘Therapy’ in my life,” Copperman says of the EP tracks he wrote with Sheeran. “We were pitching them to country artists, and I had this realization: ‘Wow. I think these might be my songs.’”.
Reflecting on his return to the artist’s seat Copperman shares, “All my artist friends have been really encouraging. It’s really made me think about how for 10 years, I didn’t want anyone to know I’d ever even been an artist.”
Copperman is known today as an elite producer and the writer of career-defining gems for other artists, but his professional story began with his own record deal in the UK in 2006. His solo debut gained considerable traction on the strength of songs including “As I Choke,” “All She Wrote,” and more, which also found featured spots on American TV shows. He was on the way up, and yet, Copperman felt compelled to do something else. He walked away. Copperman moved to Nashville, drawn to the city’s songwriting tradition and relative proximity to Roanoke, Virginia, where he grew up playing the piano. In Nashville, he became a student of songwriting, increasingly respected not just for hits, but for his relentless work ethic and kindness. Copperman also fell in love and got married, and then became a father to three––all while building one of the most impressive behind-the-scenes résumés in music.
After helping launch careers for some of country music’s biggest stars with songs that have become fan-favorites and staples in their catalogs, the man behind a decade of sound for Music City is coming full circle returning to his roots as a solo artist. Copperman shares, “Finding love, becoming a dad, helping other artists find their voice…all of this life I’ve lived has informed my new music. Without those experiences, I’m not sure we’d be here at this moment with these songs.”
“I’m so happy and filled with such a profound sense of joy and optimism for the future. I’ve always felt like my purpose in writing songs that I record would be to share joy and encourage somebody who’s down––to know there’s a light on somewhere for them,” Copperman continues. “I’m inspired and also, feeling a little vulnerable which feels good. I’m excited. It’s my next chapter.”
Currently, Ross is in the process of releasing his next project “Human”, a 12-part series of tracks released monthly throughout the remainder of the year. “2021 represented a cathartic journey for me — releasing my first material as Ross Copperman in years. In many ways, after years of writing and producing for others, it was an opportunity for me to find my own voice again. I learned so much through that process and am so incredibly proud of what I put out into the world. Through that experience, I was reminded that years into my adult life, I am still figuring things out: who I am, and what matters most to me. The process of writing and recording songs as my own acted as such a powerful vehicle for me to process these thoughts and my own personal growth. It ignited a journey of self discovery, and taught me that there is so much more still left to explore. This year, I want to take you on that journey with me as I continue to learn myself. I will be releasing a song each month throughout 2022 — starting this Friday and ending on December 2nd. This body of work will be a true reflection of myself and what matters most to me. I cannot wait to share it with you.“
It only takes a few seconds to fall in love with Francis Karel. Need proof? Check out any of the unassuming singer/songwriter’s countless Omegle reaction videos, in which he reduces unsuspecting strangers to instant tears with just his mesmerizing voice and soulful guitar. Recorded alone at home, Karel’s jaw-dropping, impromptu performances have taken the internet by storm over the past year, earning him more than 1.2 million followers on TikTok and high-profile Instagram fans like Benny Blanco, Meghan Trainor, Zedd, and Bebe Rexha. And while those videos certainly make for a great introduction, they’re just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the prolific 22-year-old’s otherworldly talents.
Born and raised in Jakarta, Karel’s unlikely path began while working backstage at an Indonesian music festival, where he accidentally spilled coffee in front of a top record executive. Despite the awkward introduction, the two hit it off, and the next thing Karel knew, he was saying goodbye to everyone and everything he’d ever known, flying halfway around the world on a terrifying but exhilarating journey toward a new life in America. Now based full-time in LA, Karel’s set to build on his viral success with his debut studio recordings, which hint at everything from Bruno Mars and BTS to Ed Sheeran to Jon Bellion as they showcase both his extraordinary vocal talent and charismatic charm.
So go ahead and press play on Francis Karel. He may be new, but all he needs is an instant to win your heart.