(Republished from Zuri’s Website Bio page)
I had the pleasure of conducting Zuri’s story interview, and found out that she is in fact a “free spirited creator.” Early afternoon, she confidently floats into the space holding a cup of tea and a vintage Prada bag. I compliment her on it and she says with appreciative eyes, “it was a ridiculously lovely gift.” She’s here two seconds and she pops her iPhone on my iHome dock to play her music for me. She says coyly “If you’re going to write a story about me, you’re going to have to hear my new music.”
She’s an outside of the box thinker that could really help other Indie artists break the mold. Full of life, passion, and love Zuri’s music is clearly defined as Pop but she breaks the rules by infusing them with meaning beyond the club, the hype, and at the core we get who she is, Zuri is a LOVER! She was brought up with a heavy focus on theater, dance, and music. Her mixed “brady-bunch” esque family suffered a lot of tragedies and Zuri recalls this is why she started writing songs. As for singing, she pauses and says “singing is the only way I know how to deeply connect and breathe.”
As a young girl she made her way into L.A. and of course took the dreamer roller coaster ride, creating countless demos, forming multiple bands where she learned that this out of control business was losing their grip on the steering wheel of artists careers. While studying at UCLA and working two positions full time, Zuri saved up enough money to write and record her first album. Several melody jammed recorders, and lyric filled journals later, she met up with long time friend Mike K and worked out a deal to create an album. There were many sacrifices, random jobs, pennies scraped by the starlit. Knowing she was gambling her comforts on a dream she says “was a risk worth taking.” Wakeup TV interviewed Zuri, about following her inspiration and her passion process you can view it Here.
Like in the interview on WakeupTV Zuri says, “My Number One, was a growth album, even though I had been performing and singing all my life, I had never created a product for myself. The next year and half I learned how to enjoy singing Pop.” The album featured top notch musicians like Pro drummer Randy Cooke (Colbie Callait, Hillary Duff, The Veronicas), Keyboardist Kevin “Toad” Saulnier (Nelly Furtado, All American Rejects), Keyboardist Dapo Torimino (John Mayor, Jill Scott), DJ Trust, Backup Vocals by Disney sensation Ashley Garland, and of course the multi-talented writer, producer, multi-instrumentalist Mike K (Natasha Bedingfield, Nelly Furtado, David Archuleta).
The album was released in 2008 independently and “Walk With Me,” written by Zuri and Mike K. was the first single. That year, “Walk With Me,” was selected as a finalist in several contests such as the Uber.com “You Bring the Talent” contest, The International Songwriting Competition and licensed to a film. Songs “FIRE”, “Walk With Me” and “Incomplete” were voted first place four times and several times voted into the top ten on various channels on Ourstage.com. Other notable features were the home page feature on AOL Music and PopEater.com. Two years later the songs from “My Number One” continue to get recognized, her China music video for “FIRE” was voted into first place in September out of over 400 entries. Additionally “Starz Look Down” was nominated for an award with the Hollywood Music in Media Association.
Zuri’s been criticized for not knowing her sound, but she says quite the contrary, “I might not fit into some box, but for me I’m doing what I want to do which is based upon my musical influences who were all eccentric, rebellious, rule breakers that I relate to the most.” When asked about those Zuri listed, Prince, Madonna, Janis Joplin, Blondie, Stevie Wonder, No Doubt, The Police, RadioHead, Queen, and Michael Jackson.
The second album writing and recording sessions began again with her good friend Mike Krompass who also brought in the help of fellow hit songwriters Lindy Robbins (Jordin Sparks, Leona Lewis), Robbie Nevil (Jordin Sparks, Hannah Montana, Destiny’s Child), Damon Sharpe (Kelly Rowland, Jennifer Lopez, Anastacia), Tommy Lee James (Pussycat Dolls, Delta Goodrem, Rascal Flatts), Liz Rose (Taylor Swift), Steve Diamond (Faith Hill, John Michael Montgomery, Orianthi), Jim McCormick (Trisha Yearwood, Trace Adkins), Dena K (Ashley Garland, Stephen Vickers) and Kip Moore. When reflecting Zuri says, “Mike and I wrote and recorded the entire 10 song album in 2 ½ weeks, he works so fast, and is always focused on making a good product. However this time around was different because we were under pressure to create the product fast because there were financial partnerships involved.”
Zuri finished recording and headed home to pack for her tour from Florida, to New York, where she performed at CMJ, then flew 18 hours to China. While in China, Zuri performed at some of the largest venues in Shanghai, Fuzhou, Xi’an, Nanjing, and Tianjin where the average population ranged from 7.5 million to 19.5 million per city. The experience was life changing, Zuri found herself in front of thousands of fans, signing CD’s, shirts and various body parts. She hopped from plane to bullet train to taxi to a memorable walk on the Great Wall where she filmed an impromptu music video for her song “FIRE” while the sun was setting on the wall.
Shortly after being home from tour, the song mixes floated in for the proposed album, and while the songs were well received by her then partners, the album was subsequently put on hold. Sadly Zuri was unable to release her second album and the partnership split.
Once contractually free Zuri decided to re-record some of the songs from the unreleased album. She also began writing with other writers on new songs for herself and for other artists. Zuri says “it was a freedom period, where I was able to reshape how things were run and what I wanted out of my career. And shift the focus of what stereotypically has to be done to what my fans and I wanted. I began working with people who had wanted to work with me, and felt like I was blossoming in new areas. So essentially for me and for my career, the change of partnership to Independent was a blessing in disguise and I learned so much about myself.” I peer in and wonder if I’ll regret asking this, I say ” so, are you bitter?” she looks up and leans in and says quite profoundly, “I honestly don’t harbor any feelings over that transition, instead I turned every ounce of stress and tears into what I think are great songs. I forgive easily, let go, and hold on to who I am, and thankfully songs make all that possible for me. I spent a lot of time at my piano and didn’t tour in the summer like my contemporaries, instead I wrote about my pain, my lovers, new freedoms, and my joy of new-found strength. I wrote a lot of songs without a collaborator this time. I cannot wait to share those intimate songs live this coming year while on tour and on my Ustream shows. ”
In September Zuri was fortunate to privately spend time around some of her highest acclaimed contemporaries on stage and in rehearsals with the intent of “re-studying her art”. She speaks as if she’s not being watched, “not many people depend on their talent these days, engineers put bells and whistles on the canned music product, then the artist flails live, myself included. I was spending too much time and resources on things that I didn’t love. In this transition I found my confidence, my voice, and the reason why I started in this business so many years ago- because I love to sing, write, perform, and share my love.”
The first song Zuri released Independently was “Love or Hate” written by Zuri, Mike K and Dolena K . This powerful trio had worked together on her first album on the club song V.I.P. This time around though Zuri was unable to use Mike K as a Producer because of contractual agreements to the former partnerships. Instead she worked with up and coming Producer Mario Marchetti who’s team found Zuri on ReverbNation earlier that year. Mario squeezed Zuri into his busy schedule between producing artists like JoJo, Girlicious, Miranda Cosgrove, and filming a reality show. The couple had instant musical chemistry in the studio and worked quickly. Zuri explained “Mario is a delight to work with, super positive, all business, fast, and really set a nice tone for helping me get what I want out of my vocal sessions. Not to mention a sincerely cool guy!”
Now with new recordings, songs, and direction Zuri exclaimed, “I had been so eager to give my LOVERS what I had been promising them for a year! It was unfortunate that promises were broken to me. But, breaking promises to my friends, fans, family also known as my LOVERS was unacceptable for me. I’m so happy that we’ll be able to hear new songs that I own the Master recording of, so they won’t get taken away from my audience.”
Zuri also stated that her fans dubbed “LOVERS” have the opportunity to live chat with Zuri once a month, they helped her create new merchandise, submitted multiple pieces of fan art (photo/painting above by lover Will Barnes), participate in contests and are pushing her music into college radio, indie radio, and have created an exclusive love tribe that supports one another.
While writing this story and interviewing sweet fiery Zuri, I found myself exhausted from all that she is working on, but as busy as she is, Zuri says, “I’m just happy to be doing what I love, spreading love, and helping people. I’m honored to be here and feel really blessed!”
Written by Guiles Straton
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