Slowly but surely breaking into the music scene, singer-songwriter Zhané James has a voice that will haunt your waking dreams. She just turned twenty in the middle of August, but don’t let her age fool you for a second. Her lyrics have a deep wisdom to them. Zhané takes the raw passion and frustration from everyday life and weaves it into alluring melodies.
However, she wasn’t always so confident and dynamic. Growing up in Douglasville, Georgia, Zhané struggled with stage fright as a young child. Overcoming the anxiety of performing in front of people and growing to love music, she sang in front of her church congregation at just 13 years old. Now, Zhané sings “to relieve the pain”, as her Instagram states. Her single “Running Blind” is out on VEVO now.
How long have you been recording music?
I recorded my first song acapella at the age of 15 on software. I received my first Macbook Pro in high school and learned how to use garageband.
What is it like starting out as a new artist in the music industry?
It was intimidating at first, being that I didn’t know my type of music style yet. I was still finding myself.
Tell me about your latest single, “Blind Running”. What was the inspiration behind that song?
I was inspired to write “Blind Running” my sophomore year of college. I was starting to see who my real friends were. (The fake ones) just used me and added unneeded, extra stuff on my plate. A lot of (my) college experiences were exposed throughout the song and most of my lyrics were from being angry.
Has this been a solo endeavor? Or do you have friends and family helping you with your music?
It’s been a solo endeavor on my end of writing songs and recording myself. Sometimes my mother will help support financially and keep me focused in college. No one helps me with the actual writing process though. There are some things my parents have never heard before.
How would you classify your sound?
I would classify my music as R&B. My music is pretty demanding. My sound can be grimy and rough at times but I am able to change it up as I am currently working on some soft melodies.
What are your favourite artists and/or bands?
My four favorite artists are Beyoncé, Migos, H.E.R., and Jhené Aiko.
Describe your creative process. How do you go about creating new music?
My creative process is a little different every time. Sometime I can go straight into writing lyrics to an instrumental and other times I'll have to mumble or hum a tune that gets stuck in my head until I find lyrics that match the subject and rhymes for the word play on the track.
Do you feel that silence, chaos, or something in between is the perfect fuel for your creativity?
I'd have to say Chaos is the best fuel for my creativity. I do the best and push myself the most when I'm angry or completely fed up. (However), silence or a walk in the park is really good fueling energy for my creativity also.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for me currently is college level classes on campus in the mornings until the afternoon and then work until the evening. When I get off work, I occasionally make funny Snapchat videos with my friends, go to a school event, or most likely write and record music in my room.
How do you want your music to affect people who hear it?
I want my music to affect people in ways that they will relate of course. I want them to actually feel the meaning of the lyrics, not only hear it. I want people to know that they aren't the only ones who go through certain situations in life and I want my music to help people through situations whether it's a happy, sad, upsetting, or frustrating situation. All people go through ups and downs. A lot of times, music is the best way to calm a person or let them know that it's okay to be sad, it's okay to feel hurt. Just don't let emotions take over your day or your life.
What makes your music different from other artists with similar style and sound to yours?
What makes my music different than others is that I write about real life problems and situations. I don't just write about money and clothes, etc. If you listen closely enough, you can hear facts about me in my songs. My music tells a lot about me.
Which places do you want to visit?
I dream of traveling to Bora Bora, Italy, France, Tokyo, Sydney, and Dubai.
How have your friends and family reacted to your musical pursuits?
My friends know almost every word to my songs and my parents have seemed to pick out certain lines that stick with them. I’m guessing they have favorite parts. For the most part, everyone is very supportive.
Your Instagram bio says you "sing to relieve the pain". Could you elaborate on that?
I came up with that saying on my Instagram when I was going through a painful, heartbreaking situation. I almost gave up on everything here while in college. I started singing about the way I felt and the music just made me realize that I really had more going for myself than I realized. I couldn't just throw away two years of college. Singing is what held me together and kept me from some emotional breakdowns. I just kept it real with myself and said "I sing to relieve the pain". Because that’s exactly what I did and continue to do. I pushed myself harder than ever before. That’s when I made my first music video "Blind Running", which was shot by my blood related cousin, Drew Mitchell.
What keeps you focused on music and not bored or frustrated with it?
The thought of my music reaching other countries all over the world is an insane accomplishment to me and that’s what keeps me focused on music. I wouldn't say that it's the writing that gets me frustrated. Recording is what frustrates me the most. I tend to redo parts over and over and over again until it’s perfect to me.
Are you working on a full album?
I am currently working on an EP. I haven't started on a full album yet because I feel like I have to get some more things lined up with more support and promotion. I want my album to be as perfect as possible.
Do you exercise or diet to stay healthy?
I do exercise weekly but not everyday of the week. I’m from down south so I'm not really one to diet with all the fried food and collard greens my family eats. Plus, I'm a pretty tiny girl. I’m trying to gain in my lower body area, not lose it.
What would you say to budding artists trying to break into the music industry?
I would say Keep Going! My first videos I made got about 26 and 50 views, respectively. Then I started promoting more. Soon, other artist pages as well as fan pages started shouting me out and helping spread the word about me. That’s how I am breaking through!
All photos were taken from Zhané’s Instagram page.
Laurrel Allison is a writer and editor who hates avocados and can’t do yoga. From the States though she may be, she prefers giving in to wanderlust beyond her home country.
Laurrel is a content creator for various online publications. She is known to enjoy taking a cuppa, playing video games, as well as watching You’re the Worst.