More often than not music serves as a distraction from the weightier things in life. A song about dancing or pizza or eating pizza while dancing; anything to take us far away from intrusive thoughts. But every once in a while an artist comes along that draws their greatest inspiration from confronting the real issues and in doing so extends a hand to guide us through those moments ourselves. Zosia is this kind of songwriter and her new single “The Alter” comforts us through the most difficult inevitability of life.
“Writing this song really helped me process the loss.”
As the name would imply, “The Alter” has a ceremonious quality to it—a piece dedicated to letting go. With resonant piano chords and gossamer thin synth pads, the dirge is sparse but rich—a soft bed for Zosia’s composed vocal which is undoubtedly the standout element of the track. Zosia’s gift is her ability to portray the depth of the wound without expending too much, thus providing the listener with a sense of hope even amidst the deep uncertainty of the loss.
“I read a lot of poetry to figure out how to put my thoughts into lyrics. The line “she ran as if to meet the moon” was borrowed from a Robert Frost poem.”
Upon speaking with Zosia, we learned more about her need for music as an escape from the banalities of life and about what is helping her heal in 2021…
“The Alter” is a serene soundscape that induces feelings of longing but also hope. What came first, the music or the words? And can you elaborate a little bit about what brought you to the place of writing this powerful song?
I love that description. This song started as the chorus melody, and I couldn’t figure out what to do with it for a while. Then my family suffered the sudden death of a baby, and I knew I wanted to write a song for her. I realized this melody was perfect for what I wanted to say because, as you said, it’s both sad and uplifting. I read a lot of poetry to figure out how to put my thoughts into lyrics (the line “she ran as if to meet the moon” was borrowed from a Robert Frost poem). Writing this song really helped me process the loss.
How do you approach the production for a softer almost ballad-esque like this? Do you have an idea of where you will go with the production from the beginning or does it lead you as you go?
I like when a song’s production follows a similar trajectory to a film: a rise in energy that leads to a climax, followed by a descending action and resolution. That sounds really technical and I don’t consciously plan it out like that. It comes naturally because I think we all are drawn to that story arc. I love how Ruelle’s songs take the listener on a journey, so I referenced her production when working on this. And I knew I wanted to end on a really vulnerable note.
There is a rich text to the story behind your moniker “Zosia”. Can you elaborate on that for us?
Zosia was my babcia’s name (my Polish grandmother). I only found out that her real name was Zosia a few years ago because she went by Sophie after moving to America. I loved the name right away so I borrowed it for my music. She was such a strong woman and braved so much tragedy in Poland during the war. My grandmother passed away just weeks before I released my first single, Water, which was a really awful coincidence. I like to think I’m keeping her memory alive with my music.
You also create clothing to suit your alter ego. Can you tell us a little about where your love for design came from? Do you intend to pursue more of that side of you?
Yes I love to sew! My babcia was a seamstress and would make me clothes growing up, so maybe that’s where I got it from. My mom also taught me to sew once I started to show an interest in it. I’ve always loved fashion design because it allows me to wear my own art. I don’t do it enough now, mostly because it takes a lot of time and energy for me. I’d love to someday have my own clothing line, but for now I’m happy designing and creating merch (like my face masks!).
And with the alter ego, do you see a demarkation line where Anneke ends and Zosia begins? For instance is it purely for the sake of performance on stage or is it a mindset for the entire recording process?
That’s a good question. It’s definitely a blurred line. I see my stage name like a suit of armor; it helps me feel empowered. I don’t feel like Anneke and Zosia are two separate identities. The alter ego just helps give me that extra confidence and bravery that I lacked when I was younger.
In a general sense, how do you feel about the gradual growth into one’s alter ego? I.E. when Nick Cave says that to an extent, he eventually became this vampiric figure that the fans hold him up as.
I’d say that really depends on the alter ego, because I imagine some could be quite destructive (Black Swan is an extreme example). Sometimes the personas are performance art and should remain that way. Other times they are created in part to help us morph into the person we’d like to be. In those cases, it’s beautiful when the person fully embodies the alter ego.
So far, what are you most looking forward to in 2021?
I’m looking forward to hopefully getting vaccinated and seeing the friends and family who I miss so much. Also looking forward to my sister’s wedding! And I can’t wait to release my EP and create more art.
CONNECT WITH ZOSIA
photos / Meredith Lada
story / Chris Hess