K.ZIA sits down with Notion to talk her ambitious debut album, her dual creative personas and how living in Berlin has shaped her art.
K.ZIA is all about finding the peace in duality – the things that we can learn from acknowledging our own multiplicity.
On her first album, she’s ready to take that idea of duality to new heights. Many debut artists would take it easy with their first ever album, gradually letting the world know what they’re all about, but that’s not K.ZIA’s style. ‘Genesis’ is a sweeping and ambitious concept album which presents not just a story, but an entire narrative universe.
It’s all about splitting the difference between the warm K.ZIA that fans already know and an alter ego, ZIA, whose fierceness is expressed in French-language lyrics that tap into a completely different side of the artist’s emotional expression. K.ZIA and ZIA are two sides of the same coin, but it’s important not to understate the difference – ‘Genesis’ is the work of an artist who doesn’t want to be defined easily by any one thing.
To celebrate the exciting release of ‘Genesis’, we sat down to chat with K.ZIA about how she came to the dual persona idea, how living in different places has helped and what genre she describes herself as.
You recently released your debut album ‘Genesis’. The name itself symbolises a beginning, which is apt for your first record, but can you dive more into the meaning behind the title?
Genesis is indeed a beginning. A beginning of several things. I’ve been creating music as a solo artist for several years now – four, to be exact – and a lot of my work consisted of trying to find my artistic direction. Through experimenting and a lot of learning I was able to define where I want to go – what my mission as a human, woman, and artist is. The formulation of my mantra, my messages, the development of my technique and, more importantly, my universe. This project marks the beginning of that artist’s voice. Within this, Genesis is also the birth of my alter ego ZIA, one of my spirits that mainly sings in French. I used to always write in English and so this project is her first appearance.
On the concept album, listeners are introduced to the two sides of your persona – K.ZIA, who is loving and warm, and ZIA, who is unapologetic and fierce. When did you identify this split in your artist persona? How did it come about?
It first hit me when my mom told me she was missing a part of my character in my music. A part of my character that she often saw in real life but didn’t hear as much in my music. She told me she could recognize what she heard of me but that it didn’t portray the full spectrum of my energy. Then it’s when I started writing in french that I saw my writing was a little different to how it usually was. The subjects, the vocabulary and even the genre was different to what I was used to. I decided to dig deeper into the phenomenon and understood that it is due to my background and history. When I started learning English, I was six. I learnt to read and write in english and was in private British and American schools surrounded by kids of diplomats or rather wealthy backgrounds.
Then at 14 I moved to France, I became a teeanger and went to public schools. I discovered a whole new world and a whole other part of me developed. This was felt in my songwriting – when writing in english vs when writing in French, you can feel those differences. I use more slang in French for instance, because I was a teenager when I moved there, whereas my English vocabulary comes from my childhood and school. My experiences were different, so the stories are different. Now both those parts of me remain me. The core messages fundamentally will always be the same, but they will just be expressed differently.
If K.ZIA will say “This is how I am, please accept me.” ZIA will say “This is how I am, and fuck you if you don’t like it.”
Can we expect more of ZIA in the future? Perhaps an entire album as her?
I doubt it. ZIA was discovered in this project and that’s why it was important to me to distinguish her like that. But the truth is, I think there is more than a duality within me. There are many more personalities within me, and I will just let all these energies express themselves through one canal rather than split them up more.
What was the hardest part of the album process for you?
The lack of time and money. Being an independent artist is great because I have full control over absolutely everything, and being a control freak it’s rather great, but it also makes everything a lot more tiring and difficult. Because I’ve had to finance things myself, limitations often showed up. For instance I would need 10 days in the studio to achieve what I wanted, but I could actually only afford six. You work with what you’ve got, but that isn’t always beneficial for the art.
And what was the easiest?
Having things to say, writing songs, creating.
You’re based in Berlin, a renowned hub for creatives. What impact has the city had on you as an artist?
It’s given more depth to my messages. Berlin has brought me awareness, political knowledge, growth and unlearning. This city helped me shape my opinions and define my values and mission.
Born in Brussels but now in Berlin, you also moved around a lot when you were younger. Did you actively pick up and digest the sounds you heard from the different countries you lived in? Or did you imbibe them subconsciously, and found that they appeared later in your work?
I think it’s a bit of both. It started subconsciously of course, because, like you mention, that simply is the environment I grew up in. So my subconscious fed off whatever it was confronted with, introduced to and interested in exploring. Then the second part came in the concise choices I made of keeping certain things in my current environment an artistic expression.
What would you be if you weren’t a musician?
A mom maybe or an actress. But luckily for me, I can still become those two things.
Nowadays the idea of ‘genre’ is incredibly blurred, but how would you describe your sound?
Emotional Afro-European alternative R&B.
What are you manifesting for 2022?
Growth as an artist and human, tours, health, expansion. And money bitch!