Singer-Songwriter ZOE NUTT Opens Up About Her Latest Single, ‘Like You’, Her Hearing Loss and Much More!
Posted On 20 Mar 2017
Zoë Nutt is a storyteller. She likes to tell stories with music and poignant and meaningful lyrics, but it’s perhaps her vocal interpretation of those words that brings her musical tales to life. Simply put, Zoë Nutt is a voice you will not soon forget. Raised in Knoxville, and a graduate of the songwriting school at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, Zoë has a way of quieting a room and hushing those voices in our heads that make it hard to sit and listen, so that all you want to do is hear the next thing she is going to sing. Cruz Contreras of The Black Lillies says, “Zoë Nutt has a voice as haunting and seemingly ancient as the East Tennessee hills she hails from. Her lyricism and delivery are poignant, fresh and promising. Like so many great artists, she knows how to mix the new with the old and create music with broad appeal while never compromising her artistic integrity.”
Zoë is an artist to her core. With a guitar by her side, her music is a reflection of who she is and how she observes the world. “I write music to connect with people who feel the same way,” she says. “My style is eclectic and reflects my interest in all types of music. My songs are about life, living and feelings, good and bad, that we all experience. If my music makes you smile, or even cry, that’s how we know we are not alone.” Also a Zoë fan, is Grammy nominated, award-winning producer Travis Wyrick (Dolly Parton, Charlie Daniels) who says, “Zoë combines a beautiful balance of more traditional sounds with a modern folk twist. You must hear her sounds to truly understand the beauty of her voice.”
With her first full album LIKE YOU, Zoë is happy with where she is and reflects on the emotion that went into making her first project. Zoë writes of her struggles with hearing loss, something she has dealt with her entire life.
“Like You,” is a melting of the heart, truthful song written in the form of a letter addressed to Zoë’s unborn children. “It’s a way of coping and coming to terms with my hearing loss. The tinnitus and ringing that I always hear, is played in the song,” she says. The album is full of songs that get right to the core of being human and all of the emotions that go with that journey. In the end, “Sweet Tennessee,” tells the story of Zoë, her family life on the Tennessee River, and spending time on the water. “It’s a big part of my home town culture. It’s a simple feel good story about a place that’s influenced me greatly.”
More about The Hearing Loss Association of America:
The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), founded in 1979, opens the world of communication to people with hearing loss through information, education, support and advocacy. HLAA produces the Walk4Hearing in 21 cities across the country, publishes the bimonthly Hearing Loss Magazine, holds annual conventions (the HLAA2017 Convention is in Salt Lake City, Utah, June 22 – 25), advocates for the rights of people with hearing loss, conducts educational webinars, and has an extensive network of chapters and state organizations across the country. For more information, visit hearingloss.org.
To Keep Up With Zoë Nutt Online:
Learn more about Zoe Nutt in the following All Access interview:
What are some words you would use to describe 2016 for you and your music? What were some of the highlights? What are you most excited about for 2017?
Words to describe 2016: The best yet! Trying. Stressful. Full of change. The end of my comfort zone.
Musically and otherwise, 2016 was a great year for me. It wasn’t all fun and games, but I learned a lot about being my own boss and the hard work needed to pursue a career in music. I’ve met some of my best friends and found band mates that have taken my songs to new heights. As a bonus, I was able to make a music video called “Like You” that addresses my progressive hearing loss.
I’m most excited about playing more shows and writing songs that make me want to eat beans and rice for years until I make a few cents off of my music. I’m hoping my hearing loss story empowers someone going through a similar situation as well as shed some awareness about hearing loss to those who don’t have it.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory?
Growing up I didn’t talk about what I wanted to do in life. And I certainly didn’t know being a musician or songwriter could be a career path. Growing up I would sing constantly, write quirky little poems and short stories, and draw whenever I got the chance. I envied musicians, but never thought I could do what they do. It seemed magical and out of reach for me. It wasn’t until college that I picked up a guitar and started writing songs. I have three very fond memories of music early on in my life. One being my first concert, Norah Jones, in Knoxville, TN. Singing Patsy Cline with my grandmother on her karaoke machine is another great one. But my favorite to talk about is riding in the car with my dad and brothers before school. He would always ask me what the lyrics meant when we listened to a song in the car, and he wouldn’t let you get away with a mediocre answer. Putting that sort of importance on lyrics is probably a big part of why I’m such a lyrically driven musician.
Let’s talk about your recently released powerful new music video for “Like You.” (It’s incredibly moving) What was it like filming it? Do you hope to make more music videos?
Thank you! I had a great time filming the music video in my hometown: Knoxville, TN. It was filmed by my good friend Ben Nelson. We had three main goals set out for this music video. One, to have an intro where I explain some of my story. Two, to shoot footage that emphasizes things that make sound, such as cars driving by or water dripping from a rain gutter.
And finally, it needed to convey my story without invoking a woe is me theme. My hearing loss doesn’t define me and I would be mortified if I put out a video that did just that. I have one other music video I’m very proud of, called “Antique Soda Pop Love”. It’s a quirky story that I filmed in Brooklyn with my hometown friends Ben Nelson and Craig Clayton. We ran around filming pay phones, playing in dive bars and dancing on rooftops. You can find it on my Youtube channel. I loved every minute of it. I can’t wait to make another.
Did you find that in writing “Like You” and filming the video for it were very helpful and almost therapeutic? How did you first get involved with the Hearing Loss Association of America? Do you plan on continuing to be involved with the organization?
Once I started showing people a demo recording of “Like You” with the intense ringing in the background I started to feel a little better about my situation. People were finally starting to understand what I was going through! And at the time, I wasn’t able to handle the ringing or extreme loss of hearing very well. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t think. For a long time I’d cry in the shower till the water went cold because the white noise helped me forget about the ringing. The resonance of a bathroom made it easier to hear myself sing. Writing this song helped put my frustrations and fears into something positive. It was also a great reminder to myself that I could tackle this and pursue music all the same. Filming the music video helped push me out of my comfort zone and share a story I was nervous about sharing.
I got involved with the Hearing Loss Association of America by researching various hearing loss organizations. It was important to me that I partner and help a charity throughout this process. Right now you can download the “Like You” single at Noisetrade and all the proceeds with go to HLAA. We’re currently planning some exciting ways in which we’ll keep working together throughout the year. I plan to work with as many charities and organizations as I can. Please feel free to reach out!
What has it been like learning to write, play and record music with your progressive hearing loss? Have you considered reaching out to other musicians with it as well and seeing advice and support?
I’ve always had some degree of hearing loss. I went complete deaf in my right ear by the age of 8. The hearing loss in my left ear, along with tinnitus, has been in the past year or so. So it’s been the norm for me. I was classically trained, and almost finished a degree in classical music. I’ve always trusted my technique over what I can and can’t hear. It’s definitely gotten harder with this new loss of hearing. Although, the biggest difference before and after learning I have progressive hearing loss is my attitude towards music. I’m on a bit of a timer and I plan to make the most of my time playing music while I have all my hearing. I’d love to start reaching out to other musician like myself. I’ve already started to have people reach out to me with theirs stories.
What was it like releasing your first full album? How long had you been working on these songs? Where did the inspiration for your sound come from? I’m curious to know how you go about putting together a song when there is ringing in your ears? Is it not constant? Do you continue to get better at blocking it out?
Releasing my first album, Like You, was a great feeling. The songs were written over the course of a year. Many of them after I started having progressive hearing loss and tinnitus in my left ear; but, the album is not centered around hearing loss. It’s really a timeline of my life over the course of that year, and a search for my sound. I didn’t start writing songs till I was in college and wanted to audition for Belmont’s Songwriting Major.
Writing when you have tinnitus can be difficult at first. I come from a big family with three younger brothers so I can tune out most anything! The more I fixate on the ringing, the worse it gets. It was extremely trying at first. I couldn’t sleep, let alone think. Yes, the ringing is constant. It’s always there and always very loud and high pitched. It was very frightening at first. But once I was able to put my focus on something else, like writing a song, it eventually became easier to live with.
Where can people see you perform next? Do you hope to head out on tour in support of your album, “Like You”? (Come to LA please!)
I have a tour schedule up on my website and Facebook page, please go check it out! As of now my band and I have focused on the South East. We’re based out of Nashville, so a lot our shows are in Tennessee. So far we’ve announced two festivals that I’m very excited about:
Rhythm n’ Blooms Fest April 7-9th Knoxville, TN
Riverbend Festival June 17th Chattanooga, TN
We have a little tour in March through Tennessee and Virginia, and plan to start booking many more. We’d love to come to L.A., I’ve never been! We’ve been introducing a lot of new tunes, testing out music for a future album. Please come out to a show, we’d love to say hi!
Who are some of your favorite musicians? What musicians would you love to work with in the future? What storyteller musicians do you really get inspiration from?
I’m a big fan of Norah Jones, The Avett Brothers, Brandi Carlile, Beck, and Jack White. I’ve looked up to them for a while now. They’re masters of simplicity, put on killer shows, and write songs that really hit home to me. I’d love to work any of them in the future. While it would be a dream to work with one of my heroes, there are some amazingly talented musicians in my community that I would be stoked to work with too.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people take away from your songs?
You’re not alone. I think that’s why people go to live shows or buy an album. People want to make a connection with someone, they want to know they’re not alone. Now, I don’t think people say that out loud or recognize it all the time, but it rings true for me. I just want to connect with people through my songs. I love that feeling when I play a song and someone tells me what it meant to them. Whenever I go see a show and hear a song that hits me, somehow I don’t feel so alone. If anything, that’s what I want someone to take away from my songs.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone that has a disability but also wants to pursue music and be a musician? What has really helped you persevere?
Don’t look at a disability as something negative. It’s NOT. You’ve been given a perspective on life that not everyone has. Embrace it and go after what you want. I don’t want to be defined by my hearing loss, as I’m sure you don’t want to be defined by your “disability”. Don’t let it do that to you. Life is too short. The same goes for anyone really. You have a view on life that no one else does, don’t let your struggles define you.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
I’d love to meet you at a show! If my band and I aren’t playing in a town near you, invite us to your town, we’d love to make the trek.
If you’d like to support my music or The Hearing Loss Association of America go to this link to download the “Like You” single for free. http://noisetrade.com/zoenutt/like-you