ZAVA: More to the Story

Taylor Harrington 9/6/2021 3:00pm EST

ZAVA’s unique sound has led him to the main stage of Kansas City Pride twice, and the artist always puts on a show that leaves the crowd dancing and asking for more. ZAVA’s story is one of perseverance and self-love, and we can’t wait for you to get to know him a little bit better!

Thank you so much for joining us today, ZAVA! Can you tell us how you came up with your stage name?

Yeah, for sure. I am half Iranian, my dad is from Iran. I had released music under my own name for a while and then I kind of got to a point where I was like, ‘Okay, my name is so long and my last name is so boring to some people.’ I needed something that was a little bit catchier. I was doing some research one night on the internet and the first four letters of my last name, A-V-A-Z, I discovered means “voice” or “song” in Persian, which I never knew before.

That’s amazing!

I texted my dad and was like, ‘Wait, is this real?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, that’s what it means.’ and I was like, ‘Why did you literally never tell me this?’ Persians read from right to left, which is opposite, so I flipped it, and that’s where ZAVA came from.

I love this story!

It’s so cool to have a little bit of my family in there, you know?

Yes! So ZAVA, when did you first get into this industry and realize that you have this gift for spreading joy through your music?

I actually grew up doing theater. I loved singing for as long as I can remember, but I think theater kind of became that creative outlet for me to perform and sing and dance and do all those things. It wasn’t really until after college that I kind of was like, ‘You know what, let me just really explore singing and songwriting.’ In 2014, I really committed to my music and started writing my first album that I then released. From there, I just was like, ‘Okay, yeah, this is it for me. I’m 100% in. Sold. I love this so much.’ Even though there are a lot of challenges that you face in the music industry, I just love it so much.

You recently performed at the Kansas City Pride Festival for the second time, congratulations! Before you’re getting on stage, how do you get amped up to perform? Is it the coffee?

Listen, okay, I always joke that I could be Dunkin Donuts sponsor. I didn’t get it this morning, but I usually do. Honestly though, I kind of just have a routine of stretching, vocalizing, and just getting my body ready. I’ll put on some music that gets me really high, you know what I mean? I just get in the zone, but then right before I go on, I always take a breath to be aligned and centered.

I call those my “woosah” moments!

Yes, exactly! One of my dancers actually does this thing called the star pose where you stand and you put your arms up and out high and you just hold it. It’s supposed to garner all this energy to yourself. It’s such a powerful pose. The first time she did it, I was like, ‘What are you doing?’ She’s like, ‘You should do it with me.’ I was like, ‘Whoa, this actually works.’ It’s crazy.

That’s an incredible thing! I want to talk to you about your song, “Wrong”. Everybody that has ever had a feeling for another human being can relate to it.

I actually started writing “Wrong” in 2018. I wrote about this guy that I was dating and it was the first time since a previous breakup that was really, really tough in the sense that it took me a long time to fully heal and come out of that chapter. So, I met this guy and we just had this crazy attraction and chemistry. It was the first time that I had felt that teenage-dream feeling that a lot of queer people just don’t have that experience growing up in high school, or, you know, I never had that romance. I was just feeling all those like butterflies and things that you hear about and that you see in movies, and you hear in songs. I started writing the song “Wrong”, and I was probably halfway through, and then we ended things. I was like, “Okay, let me just put that away, because it’s just too much”, but in the middle of quarantine last year, I just was so bored. I was let flipping through old songs and just seeing if I could find anything, and I came across “Wrong”. I was like, ‘Wait, this song is the song kind of slaps! I want to pull it out of the vault and bring it back to life.’ The song is essentially about me and my own experiences, but I think a lot of people can relate to dating and finding romantic love. It is just so hard. Dating is such a challenge, especially these days, because there are so many options, there are all these apps, and I think that it’s easy to kind of lose sight of the fact that real love is possible. It’s possible to find someone that can match your energy and where you’re at. There are so many songs that talk about the bad stuff about love, or tragic heartbreak, but I was like, ‘You know what? Especially for queer people, I wanted to have a song that really gave people hope, including myself, that it’s possible to feel these things and that you are worthy of feeling them. I just wanted to celebrate that through the song.

“Wrong” does such a great job of that! How can people find your music and follow along with your journey, ZAVA?

On social media, all of my handles are @thisisZAVA, and I’m all of the streaming services and all that fun stuff, too.

This is just me being a bit of a Gossip Girl, but have any of your exes reached out to you after hearing the song?

Honestly, I wish! That would be so juicy, but they have not. It’s not like we’re like not on speaking terms, but honestly, they probably don’t even listen to my songs, you know? Which is totally fine because that’s the cool thing about music for me. One of the reasons why I write is that it’s honestly more for me just to have that sort of closure and owning that experience.

Who are your musical influences?

I would say The Spice Girls are definitely number one. I also grew up listening to Whitney Houston, she’s iconic. Throughout my life, I would say that Lady Gaga has been a huge inspiration. Currently, though, I’m so inspired by artists like Victoria Monet, who writes a lot for Ariana Grande, and her music is incredible. I really think it’s always just been people who are writing music not really for anyone else except for good vibes and whatever they’re feeling.

Absolutely! Do you have any upcoming shows or any new music that you would like to share with us?

I had written all of these songs throughout the past couple of years and things just kind of started opening up again, so I did a crap ton of performances and releases this summer. Pride was my last official big performance, so I’m kind of in this place where now I can start to live life and explore new sounds and figure out where I want to go from here.

That’s so exciting! It’s just the beginning for you, ZAVA!

Originally from Edison, New Jersey, Taylor won the 2005 “Middlesex County Caring Award”, and hasn’t stopped caring since. When she is not writing or hosting More to the Story, Taylor can be found chasing her two mutts around Athens, Ohio where she currently resides with her husband. Moving to Appalachia has made a huge impact on her life, and she can’t wait to share some of her stories, laughs, and (mis)adventures with you!

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