'Planting the Seeds of Change'
Blurring the lines between artist and activist, Zera Vaughan is using the release of her sophomore album, ‘The New Seed’, as a tool to spread awareness about global, ethical and environmental issues. Vaughan’s song “Release the Chains” sings of the horrors of the fur industry, while the title track, “The New Seed”, pleads for the maturation of the human conscience.
As earnest and exposing as Vaughan’s lyrics are, her warm vocals are equally as brooding as they drift alongside trip-hopesque instrumentals. A beautifully honest and anguished plea for reform, ‘The New Seed’ is a selfless gift from Vaughan to the ears who will listen and the hearts it will touch.
Exclusive Magazine recently chatted with Zera Vaughan about the new album, the social awareness campaign behind the music and her global vision of peace, harmony and respect for all.
Your music has its eclectic roots in European techno, North African drumbeats and American pop. Who were your musical influences growing up and how many still factor into your music today? "I grew up listening to jazz, pop, rock. My neighbors were listening some Arabic music; with those very peculiar middle-eastern drum beat. So I was always used to mix of those 2 styles in my head!"
"I was also very inspired from a very young age, always listening to Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Barbara Streisand."
As an up-and-coming artist, how would you describe the sound and style of your sophomore album “The New Seed”? "'The New Seed' has a very trip-hop sound with some pop and rock influence. It does have a very specific “green” message. Hopefully it will help and send a little alarm for the environment."
Your first name, Zera, is derived from the ancient Hebrew word for “seed”. How has this realization played a part in the naming of the album, “The New Seed”? "Well, I think because we are constantly growing up, learning new things from everybody, the older and the younger, we are in a constant move. I feel like I am reborn from all that new influences. Everything is always “new” so that’s why I decided to call it the new seed. It’s a “new me”
"And besides, my first album was very “world music” oriented; this one is more English America. My father is English so it’s important for me to connect with my English side."
Will you be playing shows throughout the Los Angeles area? What can fans expect from a live show and what is your favorite part of being on stage? "Absolutely. I will be performing live starting January in a lot of venues, first with an acoustic approach to the album, and we will be touring and promoting “The New Seed” to introduce it to the audience."
Your music carries a strong environmental message. All proceeds from the single “Release the Chains” will benefit Greenpeace, while the album packaging itself is produced in a biodegradable case made from recycled paper and biodegradable ink. How do you think this innovative approach will bring awareness to social issues like environmental conservation? "It is very important not only for me but for all of us, to be aware of what’s going on with our planet and what we are doing to satisfy our “needs” which are often, unfortunately fake needs."
"We must understand that we cannot keep "vampirizing" our planet. Earth has limits. And now it is reaching those limits! Please don’t see any negative vibes to what I am saying. I just want to make people realize that “we can change”. To quote someone, “yes we can”! Hasn’t that been proven already?"
"Therefore, yes, I have decided to press only 1000 CDs, produced in a biodegradable cases made from recycled paper and biodegradable ink. I will not print anymore. It is very important to buy music from the Internet, like i-Tunes, Amazon, and the entire world digital platform. Anyway, it’s much easier to buy and download from the Internet and put your music or any MP3 player on the market."
"People’s habits have changed. Before, we used to buy a CD and play it. Now, you have to import to your computer, convert it, and synchronize it with your MP3 player. Then, you’ll throw away because you don’t need it anymore."
"When you buy from Internet you will save trees, and it’s pollution free. It’s important to change our habits. Let’s not get too attached to “the physical” album you want to buy. Let’s give more importance to the music."
"I am aware of the fact that it is a big change. Again, times are changing and with our new behaviors we can help. Now, about “Release the Chains”, all that crazy fur fashion is so cruel. The animals are skinned alive. It takes 30 minutes before they die. Their eyes are still blinking. Not only it’s cruel, but it’s also shameful. There is no respect of life."
"I know that humans did always eat animals and wear their skin, but at least could we do it in a better way? I am also referring to this kind of awareness in the “The New Seed”. I want people to know about those things and hopefully to stop it."
You worked with renowned French composer/ producer, Cyril Morin, on “The New Seed”. Tell us how you feel this masterful collaboration has weaved itself into the musical styling of the new album? "Cyril Morin is a film composer. He has that very special sound. He is a perfectionist. On my side, I have some opera and classical back ground. So I tend to do a bit “too much some time”! Cyril is completely the opposite!"
"He asked me to play the songs with my voice not to sing the song! At the beginning it was a bit strange. I didn’t get it quite well. And I kept thinking I was right and he was wrong!"
"It’s when I understood what he wanted exactly that everything went smooth. We have 2 strong personalities. And I like to have it my way," she laughs.
So, how easy or hard is it to create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderments and accomplishments that preceded it within the industry? "There is neither a “hard” nor “easy” way in the creation on this album. I would say it’s very different. All the techniques and approach we’ve used were different from what I am used too. The main thing is the fact that we’ve produced and released this new album without any involvement of the major players in the music industry. We are still an independent production. I do understand it’s not “fair” for the majors, if all artists are self-produced, but this is also one of the aspects of the “change” I was talking about earlier."
"Today everybody can sing and release an album. It is not expensive and technologically, everything is practical. But the content has to be true, genuine and honest. That, you can’t cheat. I did learn all the production aspect by myself and the evolution is always done through the previous mistakes!"
You were raised between two different cultures, born in Tunisia by your French mother and English father, while going on to study music at the Paris Music Conservatory and Psychology at the Sorbonne. How do you feel these different cultures have marinated together to influence your musical styling? "I was born and raised in Tunisia. So I was listening at a very early age to some jazz and some pop rock with my father, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Leonard Cohen, Beatles, pink Floyd, Mick Jagger, Red Hot Chili Peppers. Also French singers such as Jack Brel, Edith Piaf and even some classical music. On the other my next-door neighbors were listening to some Arabic music. All those mixes in my head made what I am today."
Inspired by trip hop artists like Massive Attack and Portishead, your music carries a somber and dark quality to it. Tell us a little about your writing process and how you compose a song from beats to lyrics and into the finished composition. "For me, everything starts at night! I can’t sleep. It’s kind of an insomnia. I don’t understand why. And suddenly, I realize that maybe I have something to let out! So I start to write some words, sentences that become lyrics. Later on, all the words gather together and start to have a true meaning. I work on the dynamics. I hear a melody in my head. It’s not very clear but there is something very deep in my mind. And than everything light up and come together."
"I work on my piano. I try some chords on the songs, using a click. It allows me to play around the rhythm and the beat. Once I have an idea of the path I am taking, the collaboration starts with my partner. We share the ideas, we polish them, we cut we add we curve."
"It’s definitely a teamwork. On the other hand, I never work on the arrangements. I do have my input but my partner does all the arrangements."
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today and why? "I would love to do “Sweet Dreams” from the Eurythmics! I love that song. I find perfect, and absolutely not cheesy!"
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins, do you? "Of course I love penguins. Did you know that they stay with their partner all their life? The father raises the cubs while the mother is looking for food. Well... maybe some fathers should learn from penguins! ;-)"
To learn more about Zera Vaughan’s music and environmental, social and ethical causes, visit her on the web!
Interviewed by: Erin M. Stranyak
Back To Archives