An Interview With Nashville Newcomer ZOE NUTT On Handling The Pandemic, Recording Her New Album and More!
Get to know the Nashville newcomer Zoë Nutt! Although struggling with hearing loss from an early age, the singer (now 27) wrote and recorded her newest album “How Does It Feel” in the wake of a cochlear implant surgery intended to save her from complete and total deafness. Released last month on July 24th, the collection rarely addresses her lifelong battle, but is blatantly informed by the maturity, self-awareness and artistic resilience as a result.
Produced by celebrated songwriter Tammi Kidd Hutton (LeAnn Rimes, Rascal Flatts) along with Ben Phillips (Chris Janson) and Greg Magers (Umphrey’s McGee, Lupe Fiasco), the album was created over a two-year period of losing her hearing as an adult and reteaching herself to hear. While in the studio, Zoë needed to hit pause on the recording process to have surgery. Over the course of the next 12 months following her cochlear implant surgery, she retaught herself how to hear, all while continuing to write this standout project. Despite this unspeakable hardship for a young creative with her entire career in front of her, Zoë persevered.
The result was a 10-track collection that uses infectious, gleeful melodies and ‘90s-era production juxtaposed against lyrics conveying the torrent emotions that accompany heartache, hardship and artistic resilience. It also features a guest vocal appearance by Brandy Clark and by Jaren Johnston and Neil Mason of The Cadillac Three.
Check out her song “Happy” Here:
Connect With Zoë Nutt Online Here: WEBSITE
Learn more about Zoë Nutt in the following All Access interview:
Thank you for your time. So given these unusual Covid-19 times, what does a typical day look like for you? How have you adjusted to these times?
Honestly not much has changed for me since the spread of COVID-19. I’m a songwriter who mainly works from home. The adjustment wasn’t as difficult as most. I’m also hearing impaired, so feeling isolated is a familiar foe. My day is filled with loads of coffee, virtual interviews and meetings for my new album, my dog Micky and lots of music. I can count myself very lucky to be able to work from home. Admittedly I’ve been working a bit too much in my pajamas and need to start truly dressing myself again!
What has been the hardest/most challenging part about being quarantined? Is your city starting to open up more now?
The hardest thing is that I do live alone, so the isolation that breeds from 5 months of shut downs has taken its’ toll on me at times. Thankfully I have family and friends I’ve “quarantined” with and can go see every now and then.
How have you been able to use social media during these unprecedented times? Are you finding that you use it even more now to stay connected to fans and other musicians?
With everyone being on social media more than ever these days, I find myself excited to get even more creative with my followers and the content I’m posting. I think people need that extra dose of camaraderie being that we’re so isolated from each other right now.
What has it been like having to reschedule your spring, summer and fall shows? What shows in 2021 are you are already excited for?
I was lucky to have Jaren Johnston and Neil Mason of the Cadillac Three as well as Brandy Clark featured on my record. I think it’s safe to say they’re at the top of my list for 2021 shows!
For me, 2020 was supposed to be a year full of shows, lots of handshakes and travel for my new album “How Does It Feel” releasing! Clearly that’s not what 2020 has turned out to be. I just released my album and, although I’m not playing venues right now, I’ve spent time I would have been singing into a microphone writing instead; which makes me all the more excited for 2021 and what it will bring.
Since we are all desperately missing live music, can you recall a favorite show of yours from the past? What do you think ultimately makes for a great show for you? What about a favorite show of someone else?
The first show that I wore headphones is probably my favorite show to date because it was this moment where I finally found something that helped me to hear on stage. I’m hearing impaired, so the floor monitors on stage are not enough. Most artists wear in-ears when they’re performing, but because I have a hearing aid and cochlear implant in-ears aren’t an option for me. Thankfully headphones can be a pretty cool statement piece!
I’m not sure what my favorite show of all time is, I’ve seen too many to just pick one! The Avett Brothers and Cage The Elephant would definitely be on that list.
A great show can come in so many forms, but I’d say there’s at least one common thread: engagement. I think people listen to music because they want to be heard. We all want to be heard and understood, something that songs cater to so well. To me, engaging with your fans and making them feel heard, even when you’re the one with the microphone, is a big part of making a great show.
Let’s talk about your single “If That’s What It Takes.” What was the inspiration for this track? How would you say that it compares to anything else you have worked on in the past? How does it compare with the rest of your new album, “How Does It Feel”?
“If That’s What It Takes” is a reminder that sometimes loving someone means letting them go. I started this song with my longtime friend and co-writer Cameron Newby. We were both dealing with break ups around that time, so the lyrics came naturally. Luckily we had the opportunity to collaborate with our friends and hit songwriters Tammi Kidd Hutton and Lynn Hutton to finish the song, and I couldn’t be more proud of how it turned out. My new record “How Does It Feel” is full of songs that juxtapose happy melodies with sad lyrics. In “If That’s What It Takes”, that blend of being happy for someone but sad because of them is what life is full of, the grey areas in-between. Like all the songs on my record, this doesn’t fit neatly into one genre. This song, although familiar, pushed me to flex my pop and country muscles while keeping with my inner quirk.
What was it like putting together “How Does It Feel”? Did anything surprise you about the overall process? Were there any unexpected surprises or challenges?
The biggest hurdle while making this album was losing my hearing. I have progressive sensorineural hearing loss and ended up having to take a year off mid-way through recording to have cochlear implant surgery. It wasn’t easy, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t have it any other way and think the songs are even better because of it. I spent most of that year in recovery writing and honing my craft while learning how to hear again. This new record, “How Does If Feel”, is asking exactly that… “How Does It Feel” to have your life turned upside down, to believe in yourself, to always chose happiness despite the circumstance? You, the listener, get to decide the answers.
Tell us about the making of your video for “If What’s What It Takes”? What would your dream music video look like right now for this song?
I actually just filmed a music video for “If That’s What It Takes” here in Nashville, TN. Due to COVID my videographer and I had to get creative with how to shoot a music video during a pandemic. We couldn’t involve multiple actors or a large crew and had to work within the confines we were dealt. This video is something that could only be born out of a time like this, which I think makes it all the more cool.
I am curious how your cochlear implant surgery has affected your songwriting or even your love of music?
I grew up with hearing loss, which has gotten markedly worse now that I’m in my 20s. I have lost the majority of my hearing at this point. Having the cochlear implant surgery a couple years ago has been a weight lifted off my shoulders. Since there’s a good chance I could go completely deaf in the future, knowing I have the implant to rely on is a relief. My cochlear implant doesn’t magically restore hearing so even after two years I’m still learning to hear with it. My hearing loss is progressive so it’s not unusual for me to wake up one day and not be able to hear anything for a week, or even a month. Couple that with learning how to hear with a cochlear implant and things can get pretty frustrating. All that being said, my cochlear implant surgery and hearing loss haven’t affected my love for music. There are times that it’s difficult for me to hear myself or my instrument. When my hearing gets bad I’ll pick up my guitar and not be able to distinguish any of the chords. Those days are tough, but ultimately I’m tougher.
If you could get into the studio with any artist today and collaborate on a new song for you, who would it be and why?
I am a big Avett Brothers fan so if I were able to collaborate with anyone they’d be my first pick. In my imaginary universe where I can collaborate with whomever I’d also love to work with Charlie Puth. I think he channels this boy band meets Prince sound that’s really intriguing.
Would you like to share anything else about yourself or your music with our readers?
Listen to “How Does It Feel” with a candle burning and you will see your entire future. Just kidding, that’s definitely an Almost Famous quote. Seriously though, go listen to “How Does It Feel”!