Julia Zahra

Just days before the release of her brand-new album Remedy, we talk to LGBT+ artist Julia Zahra, the youngest ever winner of The Voice of Holland (2013), about her reflective lockdown. This past year has been challenging, she tells us from her Holland apartment, “I’ve learnt so much about myself. I live with my girlfriend, and we had to ask ourselves some questions, like ‘what do you want to do in life?’ All these things started bubbling up. It’s been great in that sense, I had to reflect, but it’s been tough being inside so much, not being able to see people, not being able to hug everyone – it’s a weird year, a tough year. Let’s hope we’re out of it soon.”

It’s been tough on the LGBT+ community, where queer people have been locked down in unsafe spaces. Have any LGBT+ fans reached out to you in these difficult times, and if so, what do you say to comfort them? 

I don’t know if LGBT+ people have reached out to me specifically with those kinds of problems, but on social media I’ve come across a few people who just didn’t know what to do anymore, were so stuck in their minds, they’d lost all hope. You just have to try and let people see there is still a little bit of hope, that every day you can find something new to make you spark again, make you want to see the light again.

Your album, Remedy, is out Friday 5 March. How excited and delighted are you? 

Very, very, very, yeah. It’s been a ride, it’s taken a long time, I’m ready. There have been lots of good reactions to the singles, so yeah, I just can’t wait.

Where did you write and record it? 

I recorded most of the demos at home, and that’s mostly where I write, but I recorded the album in a really nice recording studio in Haarlem. I spent a few days with the band there, all the musicians I wanted on the album came along. After that, I wanted to tell a little bit more of the story through the production, so asked a friend to help me. He’s a student at the school where I’m also doing my studies. He’s a creative producer, so we just started working on sampling, taking from different vinyl, just to make the story more complete – and not just tell it with lyrics.

Speaking of lyrics, the first line of ‘Old Habits’ is “take a seat, this table is for conversation” which sort of sums up the whole album – it’s a conversation.

Yeah, if it made you feel that way…

Don’t know if that’s what you were going for!

It’s perfect! In my opinion, you can always take a seat at the table, I’m always open.

And you always have been open about yourself, you’ve not felt the need to hide who you are.

No, I don’t think so. I have been a little bit neglectful of myself in the past, put other people’s needs in front of my own, I’ve been working on that the last few months. The album was really important in that process. But yeah, you’re just who you are, and I really don’t think you should hide or be ashamed of who you are. That’s just your basic right. 

You auditioned for The Voice of Holland with a Britney number – have you seen Framing Britney Spears?

I have, I’m still a bit shocked. I’ve started accepting the fact we don’t really know anything. You think you know the popstars and what they’re doing, you see pictures everywhere, but you just don’t know the whole story. It’s sad, looks really tough for her, and I hope she’s ok.

The Voice of Holland

Have you got anything on your live show schedule yet?

Unfortunately, it’s still so uncertain. I do have two or three live streams booked, but I really miss being on stage and seeing people. I hope we can get a little bit of an idea for what the future holds soon. 

Is finding motivation for live streams harder than it is for in-person shows?

Definitely. To me it feels so unnatural. Even if you’re not the one on stage, just being together, seeing the same artist and riding that vibe… that’s what makes a concert. I can’t imagine a future where that’s not possible. 

What live spaces do you especially miss?

There is one where we closed our first small club tour a year and a half or two years ago (and where I was going to do my release show for this album). It’s called Paradiso Noord, in the north of Amsterdam. It was the perfect amount of people and such a nice vibe the first time we played there, so I really hope to go there again. I guess any venue with people in it works for me, I would play the tiniest bar right now!

What else is on the agenda?

I’ve just been writing new music. We don’t know what’s going to happen in a few months’ time, so I figured releasing new music is the only thing I can do. Whether we get to play or not, I should just write new music and release it. So, hopefully by the end of the year there’s going to be another album. I’m really glad to have contact with the UK, that’s been amazing. I hope I get to go to England after travelling is possible again. Smaller steps than I’m used to in terms of playing and travelling, but I hope there will be much more new music soon and we get to play a little bit. That’s all I ask.  

Remedy is out 5 March


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