Zoe Wees can steal the show, even with her mouth shut. The rising popstar saw her childhood idol perform a party trick – belting out a massive melody without moving her lips – and was determined to try it for herself. “I can do it too!” she laughs. “I was shook!” Fast forward to now and Zoe now has two hits on her first two attempts at releasing music.
The singer has a fizzing, irresistible sense of humour, but behind her broad grin is a steely work ethic: in the studio, it’s serious. Born in Hamburg and raised by her mother, Zoe’s career so far has been shaped by the essential role that music plays in her life. As a child, Zoe was diagnosed with Benign Rolandic Epilepsy, a traumatic, isolating condition that can cause severe seizures. “I just started singing,” she remembers. “I began writing songs when I was eight because it was the best way to show everyone how I felt. I love dark songs, I love deep songs – my songs have always been about demons, or voices in your head. Music was my diary – it still is.”
Her raw, powerful debut single ‘Control’ confronts the emotional scars left by her illness. “My
epilepsy never goes out of my head, and I never knew how to accept it or move on,” she explains. One night before she was supposed to go into the studio, her anxiety peaked: “I was just really sad. I had something like five anxiety attacks. So, the next day, I said: I have to write about this. It was really hard, but music helped me to talk about it.”
The intimate, healing ballad is the ideal introduction to Zoe: it shows off her uniquely rich, soulful voice, but it also captures her knack for making her complex, emotional stories feel universally relatable. “It’s the best first song I could have ever released,” she says, grinning. Her fans agree: ‘Control’ has been streamed over 600m times, with countless listeners sending Zoe messages to thank her for her honesty. “That’s why I write about real shit. I feel really happy to tell people about what I’ve been through, because I know I’m not the only one.” On the day she launched her follow-up single, she made her debut on American television, performing “Control” on James Cordon’s The Late Late Show.
Zoe’s follow-up single, Girls Like Us, is unmistakably her. Packed with coming-of-age sensibilities, such as finding acceptance and fighting her own insecurities, listeners will instantly find warmth and comfort to her vocals & reflective, heart swelling lyrical content which never shies from honesty even when it’s not the easiest thing to do. Zoe explains “it’s not always good to think about how you look to the rest of the world. It’s much more important to think about how you feel inside. It is not easy to call yourself beautiful but being confident helps you to accept and love yourself.”
When Zoe announced her debut EP Golden Wings, she was nominated Apple Music’s Next Up artist for April 2021 (following Tate McRae & Holly Humberstone recently) and revealed a new song from the EPs tracklist titled “Ghost” which she explains “was written about letting someone get too close, even if you know they can hurt you. It’s about the feeling of being vulnerable to that person in a way that could basically destroy your life. It was also written in one of my first writing sessions so it feels special to release it.” That month proved another big moment for Zoe, making her second US television performance, this time on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and reaching a seismic total of half a billion global streams across her first two singles whilst also being the face of Spotify’s new EQUAL campaign.
The real formative moment came a year later, in less glitzy circumstances. At a school concert, Zoe performed Rihanna’s confessional ballad ‘Unfaithful’. After the show, a teacher of a different class came to speak to her. “He said, ‘We’ve got to work on your voice!’ It was so random; I didn’t think that teachers could be cool.” She bursts out laughing.
Together they worked on original material and a series of show-stopping cover songs that they posted to YouTube, Instagram and TikTok – gaining tens of thousands of passionate fans in the process. After she sang their songs, superstars like Lewis Capaldi, Dean Lewis and – best of all – Jessie J spotted Zoe’s powerful vocals and spine-tingling emotional clarity, sending her messages of encouragement. Jessie said, ‘Get it sis!’” Zoe beams. The co-signs boosted her conviction that she was in precisely the right place. “Dean Lewis told me, ‘I know it’s going to happen for you’.”
She then connected with award-winning Hamburg-based producers Patrick Pyke Salmy and Ricardo Muñoz who, in turn, linked her with fellow songwriters Emma Rosen and René Miller. Working on her own material in a real studio with professional musicians was overwhelming, she says. “It was unexplainable, but we understood each other from the first second. Like soulmates.
That’s why ‘Control’ is such a good song!” Since then, she released a powerful collaboration with American rapper 6LACK, titled ‘That’s How It Goes’.
Zoe’s open-hearted ability to share her truth and invite strangers into her inner circle underpins all that she does. On stage, she gives everything: “Last time I performed I cried,” she grins, shrugging. “It’s just the way I was feeling at that moment. I’m 100% me, always, and I love expressing my emotions through my voice. When I’m singing, I just sing. I’m not thinking. It’s like waking up when I finish the song – like, ‘Oh, hi!’”
Unsurprisingly, she already has an unusually deep connection with her fans. “I write to them a lot. I really take my time. You should see my DMs: the chats are so long! Sometimes people don’t have other people to listen to them, but I’m always here, whether it’s my music or my messages. If I can help people with my music, it’s just the best feeling.”
“Music will always be the way to express myself,” she says, closing her eyes and visualising the
future. “I’m never going to stop. Never ever.”