- 18 Feb 21
After the release of her debut LP 'Project Prologue' in 2020 and a string of commanding singles, London-based artist Zoey Lily has now joined TOMMY JEANS ‘Music Takes Us Further’ campaign alongside fellow creatives and activists. Lily talked to Hot Press about her inspirations, life as an independent musician and the use of social media as a tool for progress.
Burgeoning singer-songwriter Zoey Lily has used her soft vocals to create bluesy pop tracks over the last number of years, but has since used her voice to attract attention to social justice issues with the help of designer extraordinaire Tommy Hilfiger and his latest campaign. How did her musical journey begin, and what led her to her current stage of artistry?
"My love for music comes from my dad. I’ve been surrounded by music pretty much all my life, he’d either listen to music or played the guitar himself. He loves soul, jazz, funk and rock 'n’ roll, so that’s what I was used to as a child," Zoey reflects, diving into her influences.
"As a teenager I started listening to more pop music and writing my own songs. I listened to Sia, Chris Brown, Eminem, Frank Ocean, Beyonce and Rihanna, but I never imagined that I would become an artist myself. When I put out my first couple of tracks, I was really inspired by Lana del Rey. I loved the mixture of her sad melodies with hip-hop beats on her debut album, and appreciate her poetic lyrics to this day. Nowadays I listen to a lot of FKA twigs, Sabrina Claudio, Jorja Smith, Benee and modern rap and trap music. I'd love to work with twigs and Vince Staples, and producers like Fred Gibson and Kenny Beats."
The COVID-19 pandemic has halted her progress as an audience-driven musician right when she was just beginning her journey to the stage, it seems.
"I’m not the most experienced live performer but each time I’ve played live so far has been magic," Lily says. "I miss being able to connect with people face to face and to feel the energy in the room. I'll be doing an IG live performance for my EP release, which I’m super excited for. Being able to stay in touch with people and keep sharing my art through social platforms during the pandemic has been essential, without social media it would have been difficult to stay connected and remain present as an artist."
Zoey's mellow vocals and vulnerable lyrics recounting emotional experiences offer a Billie Eilish-tinged tone when combined with background synths and dark beats. The honesty within her music alludes to a diary of honest statements, appealing to a young audience who crave authenticity. Lily's voice works magically when paralleled with hip-hop and electronic genres, as explored on her latest single, 'Say Less'. Does she feel underestimated as an artist, despite her obvious versatility and drive?
"A possible misconception about me is that I’m this nice, cute girl with no backbone. I’m naturally a very nice and caring person and I think sometimes people mistake that for weakness and don’t take me as seriously as I’d like them to. I can be quite tough especially when it comes to my music and running my business as I think it’s impossible to be successful in this industry, especially as a female, if you’re not but I’m still growing into that role. It’s very important for me to build my own team with people who have my best interest at heart, understand my vision and want to build this long term."
Lily released all of the tracks of her full-length LP Project Prologue as singles before its 2020 drop.
"I decided to put them together on a project because they all felt like one creative phase of me," the singer-songwriter says of the work's genesis.
"I learnt and developed so much as an artist and person over that period of time which is why I decided to call the album Project Prologue. Finishing off the songs was the most difficult part because there was always that one thing that I still wanted to perfect but I got there in the end."
"My next project is the release of the ‘Dancing On My Own’ EP, which is due to come out in the spring. Most of the tracks from the EP were finished during the pandemic," Lily continues.
"I was quite fortunate that for me the pandemic and lockdowns meant more time to fully focus on myself and my music. Since I have a small studio set up at home I was able to continue working on my music and the self-reflective period has helped me with my creativity. I’m really hoping to be able to play live shows again at the end of the year but I guess we’ll have to see what happens."
The independent singer-songwriter used her platform to drive social change last year, teaming up with Unicef, WWF and Color of Change to donate 100% of the proceeds from her track 'The End'. Artists of her generation are increasingly under the spotlight of social media, but often utilise the tool to draw attention to important causes. While many musicians on the rise separate politics from their art, others feel that mindset is impossible to withstand given the current chaos around the world.
"I’d definitely say there’s a lot of ongoing conversation about environmental and social issues in my generation probably because we know we’re going to be directly affected by climate breakdown," Zoey says.
"Social media is a great tool to create awareness and to speak up about these issues. I think in the past, pop artists especially were expected to stay out of politics and not take a stance on important matters. Nowadays, a big part of being an artist is what you stand for. As a creative, it’s important to use my platform to share knowledge and to make my followers aware of political and social issues which require more attention."
Joining Tommy Hilfiger's new campaign alongside an eclectic mix of creative talent - including musicians, poets and activists from diverse walks of life - the 'Music Takes Us Further' project builds upon the brand’s deep rooted music heritage.
"I was contacted by a team member of the brand shortly after I released my single ‘The End’ - which is a song about the destruction of the planet at the hands of humanity," Zoey explains. "I was extremely excited to be offered the opportunity to be involved, it was the perfect match for me since it combines my interests in fashion as well as sustainability and social responsibility. Being part of a global campaign like ‘Music Takes Us Further’ is empowering, because our voices can do much more when united."
Check out the brand new TOMMY JEANS campaign here.