Singer/songwriter Zjál is not afraid to put everything she has into her music, both emotionally and financially. In fact, she feels it’s necessary in order to turn a dream into a reality. After an exploration of creative self-discovery, the Australian-born R&B artist released her debut EP “Home” into the universe, and while putting herself out there induced its share of fluttering butterflies, she’s ecstatic by the response her music has received thus far.
We recently sat down with Zjál to discuss the meaning of success, reinvesting in herself, and why she went through a personal rebirth.
TrunkSpace: Your single “Home” was just released. The title could mean a lot of things, but what did it mean to you and why did you feel it deserved to mark your debut?
Zjál: Well, as the sayings go, “Home is where the heart is,” “There is no place like home.” Home for me represents both the safety and protection I feel in the arms of someone I love, and also my inner sanctuary and place of comfort and stability – a place where I can release all inhibitions and love fearlessly. I wanted to debut with “Home” because it allowed me to showcase a part of myself which is honest and truthful. I wanted to lead with something real. I wanted people to know me as openly as I could show them… and vulnerability is something I’ve always struggled to share, but with vulnerability comes bravery. So leading my debut with “Home” is an accomplishment for me not only musically, but personally also.
TrunkSpace: So much of an artist goes into creating an album – creatively, emotionally and physically. How much did completing the album, calling it a wrap, mean to you and your journey in music thus far?
Zjál: It was a huge relief actually. Emotionally the whole process threw me around a bit. As an independent artist you go into something like this with EVERYTHING on the line. This isn’t just a game. It’s literally risking everything for a dream no one can see but you. And you just hope that the people you are working with understand that fact and don’t treat you like just another client, or just another song. There are no guarantees that you’ll even have a quality track when you’re creating. It’s literally a process of expression with no boundaries and no guarantees. Then you’re faced with the choice of either staying true to your art or doing whatever just to make a dollar. It’s really scary. This is my whole life, I have nothing else to my name right now except my career. All my money goes straight back into investing in my music. It’s all about letting go and trusting yourself, so once this project was wrapped it was a huge accomplishment for me.
TrunkSpace: Did you have butterflies releasing the single into the world? Was a part of you hesitant to let go of it and allow the universe to take control over it?
Zjál: When you release new music it’s like exposing yourself to EVERYONE and EVERYTHING and that has always given me butterflies. It takes strength to be vulnerable and to give yourself over to the world. But I think it’s taken so long for me to get to this point that I had to make myself completely detached from the release process. It sounds strange, but I had to completely surrender and allow the process to happen without putting any expectation or fear into it. On a level I guess I was kind of numb. Everyone was asking, “Oh my gosh, how do you feel? Are you excited?” And as much as I was excited and happy, I couldn’t allow myself to think too much. I had to trust that the release would take on a life of it’s own and I was just a bystander in the whole process. As long as I love what I’m doing and I’ve stayed true to myself then whatever else happens I can deal with. It also feels natural like I’m on my path and taking it all in from a different level. I’m so grateful for all the love that “Home” has received I still do not think it has even hit me yet, to be honest.
TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with “Home” and everything that went into making it a reality?
Zjál: Knowing I had creative control over everything is the thing I’m most proud of. My manager and I discuss everything in detail before I’m comfortable to release anything, we workshop it all openly before making any major decisions. I’m so grateful to have someone who puts my well-being before anything else. The fact that I have the last say in everything I do means everything to me. Another thing I am proud of is seeing my song being received with so much love. As an independent artist it is really satisfying to release a project and have it reach people so positively. Because I went through a complete overhaul and operated in the past as Yasmine Amari, some of my loyal fan base stuck with me, yet I’m mostly rebuilding myself as an artist from scratch. Through operating as my new title, Zjál, I’ve needed to work extra hard to rebuild my career from the ground up, which takes time. I feel as though to even get to this point is a blessing and I am grateful I have had the support and wisdom from people who truly care about me to keep me focused on my path.
TrunkSpace: As you just mentioned, you recently went through a personal rebirth and discovered your voice. What prompted that creative change of gears?
Zjál: Two reasons motivated the change. One, I was going through a lot in my personal life and needed to cut out everything and anyone that wasn’t serving my highest good. I needed to completely start again. Becoming Zjál was my new beginning. Two, creatively, in my past, I felt like nothing was coming out like I wanted it to. A lot of the time I felt like no one really ever understood my vision, or couldn’t grasp what I was yearning for. I believe you become your surroundings and the genres I was surrounded by never felt right for me. It was hard to find producers who could satisfy my craving and produce the sound I wanted. I didn’t feel as though my intention was being understood by the environment I started in, I had a different vision compared to the prominent musical styles of Australia, that’s when I decided to take my chances and booked my ticket to LA, literally risking everything to seek people who I felt could help me generate the product I’d always been hoping for. People are so lucky if their upbringing and environments compliment their artistry, but I feel like I was always like a fish out of water. That’s what prompted me to truly discover my own voice. It is something that is still always evolving and developing though. It’s a process. I finally feel as though I’m on my path. This is only the beginning.
TrunkSpace: Life is all things… all emotions. “Home” strikes us as that kind of emotional melting pot where the ups and downs are reflected throughout the listening journey. Was that something you set out to do in creating the EP?
Zjál: Yes, I always make sure to put my heart into everything I do and hope it resonates with others. The overall EP focuses more on the ups rather than the downs. There are a variety of emotions incorporated throughout. Love, playfulness, empowerment and strength. I wanted to completely build a new foundation based on positive vibes. I feel like my mind is constantly exploding with concepts and my heart is overflowing with emotions, but this EP is a perfect blend of how I wanted to enter the industry. Everything I write is inclusive of personal experiences and feelings, I can’t work any other way. I usually write every lyric on my own, but for this project I collaborated with some great songwriters, but even then, I always make sure every single line I sing aligns with how I feel and who I am as an artist. If something doesn’t sit right, it doesn’t get used. This is something I am fierce about. (Laughter) And personally, I only really listen to music with meaning. I love songs that resonate with me on a deeper level, so in my own music I love to give back that same energy, in the hopes of connecting with like-minded people.
TrunkSpace: With that said, lyrics are clearly an aspect of songwriting that you have a great connection to personally. What does your writing process look like and are you someone who is constantly creating? Do you have a hard time shutting off your brain?
Zjál: I have a very hard time shutting off my brain. Unfortunately, I’m an expert at overthinking… something that I am overcoming day by day. My mind never sleeps. If I hurt, I write it. If I love, I write it. Everything provokes me to put my thoughts into lyrics and poetry. That’s where meditation kicks in. Or sometimes when I cant stop thinking, I have to distract myself with a movie or completely turn everything off, like literally be in silence. I go through everything completely sober, so music forces me to express myself as a healthy outlet for everything I feel. Yet another thing that comes with sobriety is you can never numb your emotions, you must feel every single aspect of everything you go through. This is how I choose to live and I’m proud of it but it definitely takes super human strength in mastering ones mind, which is why I choose to infuse everything through my creativity. Poetry is my healing. Music is literally my therapy.
TrunkSpace: What is your favorite lyrical snippet off of “Home” and why?
Zjál: My favorite line of home is the opening line. “I just wanna get up out the day, and into YOU.” The literal meaning being, I’m so done with all the noise, all the distractions, fakery, small talk and drama of everyday life. I need to jump into the sanctuary of your arms where all my pain goes away. I need to listen to your heartbeat, get into a place where I feel safe and content. Where my energy feels balanced, where my heart is most at peace and I feel is the safest place in the whole world. Nothing means anything without this love.
This is literally how I feel every single day…
TrunkSpace: Outside of the music itself and the concept of creating, what is the most important skill an artist needs to be successful in today’s busy world?
Zjál: If we are talking on success in the music industry per se, I would say ‘business skills’ are the most important thing to master aside from your creativity. Even though an artist should always focus on the art, I feel it is necessary to be aware of how the business side of things work and what you could potentially be dealing with when building your career. I would always say learn as much as you can about the industry your stepping into regardless of how much of the business you’ll be involved in or not. In order to protect yourself and your art it’s always best to be aware. On a deeper level though, I suppose the term ‘successful’ will differ based on how one defines success. For me, I feel like I am successful when I’m living unapologetically and fearlessly in my truth no matter what it is. So in my case, some traits I try to live by, are authenticity, bravery and vulnerability. A lot of obstacles can come up and throw us off our paths, so I feel like being honest with ourselves through creativity and in our personal lives is necessary to survive in such a turbulent society. If you define clearly what ‘success’ means to you, and work every day to master yourself and your skills, you will always succeed.
TrunkSpace: Creative people tend to be hard on themselves and their art. Where are you hardest on yourself and how do you overcome creative self-doubt?
Zjál: (Laughter) Great question. I haven’t overcome self-doubt, it haunts me every step I take. I am an absolute perfectionist and am honestly way too hard on myself, but I manage to find a way to act in spite of it through working on self-love and self-acceptance. Again, meditation helps with that and gets me to refocus on my higher purpose. Writing also helps release any self-judgment or criticisms. I get sooooo self-conscious over the dumbest things, like facial expressions when I sing, to overthinking what I say in videos, to even filming myself singing to post online then deleting it because I never feel like it’s good enough. That’s the reality of what most artists go through if their art means a lot to them. I love the quote, “The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.” (Robert Hughes)
I think the doubt comes from fear… and fear is there because we love what we do so much it terrifies us. But that’s a good thing. It helps us know how strong we are and what we do means something. So I’m still working on overcoming self-doubt every single day…
TrunkSpace: Beyond the single, what’s next for you as we finish out 2018 and look forward to the new year?
Zjál: I’m really looking forward to traveling and continuing to promote my debut single, “Home.” Soon I’ll be in rehearsals in preparation for my live performances, which I’m really excited about. I’m eager to get back on stage and connect with everyone who has been showing me all this love! It always means a lot to me to be out and about meeting people. Then I’ll be dropping my next single off my EP in the new year so I can’t wait to share that! I’m continuously writing, so getting back in the studio is something I’m really excited about, too. But I’m literally just going with the flow and enjoying riding this wave and feeling blessed to be able to live my dream!