THE PHRASE “one-to-watch” gets thrown around a lot – especially for young artists. Described on many occasions as this very notion, Lolo Zouaï’s career until now has far surpassed any expectation after a string of hits such as High Highs to Low Lows, Desert Rose and Give Me a Kiss, opening for Dua Lipa’s recent Future Nostalgia Tour and equipped with Grammy award-winning song-writing capabilities.
Speaking to the 27-year-old when she arrived back from Paris Fashion Week in a London studio, the artist sits down with an iced coffee to speak to Glass about how her career has developed since playing around on GarageBand to most notably, the introduction of a new chapter in her discography – PLAYGIRL.
Let’s start from the beginning. Going back to your childhood, do you remember what your earliest memory of music was that had an impact on you?
I think dancing to Daddy Cool with my dad – so it’s pretty wholesome.
How did your obsession with music develop from that Boney M song to pursuing it further?
I was forced into piano lessons and I was really good at them, or I was good at piano but I wasn’t learning music. I realised that and then I think that I discovered it myself in middle school on my iPod. You know, like T-pain, Akon, that ere. But in high school, I started to play guitar, and I was always a good singer, like I would get the solos in school but then I started writing songs and I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I have like, lyricism too’.
When was the first time that you were really proud of the song you had written?
I think when I started producing my own songs in New York, I was searching for producers and I was like, you know what, if I can’t find anybody, I’m just going to make it myself. I had already learned how to do that through GarageBand on my iPhone and I knew how to work a computer, so I was like ‘I can do this’. I made this song called Dream In whilst I was working at a restaurant. It was very Sade-esque, it was really sexy.
Moving to New York to pursue music and then waitressing on the side, how raw were those early days?
I was living with my mom in a one bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side in New York. My room was so small that the mattress flipped up and I was selling clothes on Depop. Then I’d go down the block to Bareburger to work and make milkshakes. I was a block away and I was late every time but I didn’t really care. It was a fun job and just the way to make some money, but I think that when you’re working at a restaurant and you want to be something else, it’s a motivation to get out of there.
Coming from French-Algerian heritage, how do you think your own culture has found its way into your career?
When I decided to embrace being Algerian, being French, and also being American in my music, instead of being like, I’m just gonna make songs about love, I realised it was more interesting. There are so many musicians and how do you stand out? It’s by being yourself. Being unique. When I decided to put French into Highs to Lows, and then Desert Rose – and rose is one of the most pivotal songs for me, because it just explains so much – I think that’s when it clicked. That’s when I realised that the music I was making had more value.
Your debut album had a distinct sound, almost at times edging on soulful, your music now is very different. What triggered that evolution?
I think it was just the pandemic. I made so much moody music in 2020 and then I was ready to do something more fun, more conceptual and less moody. I actually think Blur is really similar to Brooklyn Love. People who are like, your music has changed. I’m like, not really.
I’ve never really put out all the the same thing. But this new sound, I guess, I’m just experimenting more with different sounds in my production and I don’t really think about the genre – especially with Galipette and Scooter I wanted to do something really different and slap people in the face by making something that challenged myself.
Touching upon another evolution, your image has changed, tapping into futurism and also the Y2K aesthetic. What inspired this change?
At the beginning, I just wanted to establish myself as a human like, this is me and then I knew it was time to grow. And I grew up a lot. I was just thinking about Gwen Stefani and who she was, even musically we’re missing that vibe in pop right now and those were some of the best times. She was super stylish, I mean, there were some issues of cultural appropriation but aside from that, she was creative and I was really inspired by how she mixed fashion with music.
Doing a lot of fashion shoots let me experiment with looks that weren’t necessarily my image, but made me want to do more. Like I wanted to bleach my eyebrows for so long, like since high school but I’ve been too scared to do it. So I was like let me just do it and I loved it. Not being afraid to take risks, and being self expressive, like dyeing your hair however you want, or getting piercings and just wearing whatever the fuck you want is what makes somebody cool. It’s just being yourself. Not being afraid of the judgement.
Do you think you’re now coming into a phase in your life and as a musician that is more carefree?
Yes because I’m very silly in real life, and yes I do have this really stressed dark side too but I’m mainly like a goofy person. So I’m like, Why isn’t my music really matching that.
What did you want to leave behind from everything you’ve previously done, and introduce to your fans with this new album?
Bringing out songs that I was afraid would be considered like too pop. And then I’m like, pop is good music.
Pop is just technically popular music.
So technically, I don’t make pop [laughs] Just kidding. I’m not really leaving anything behind, but rather evolving from this easy trap production, actually that was never easy but for this album, specifically, it died. I’m not saying I’ll never do that again but I still hear that music on the radio and I’m like, How can we how can we evolve from this? I know that it still works and maybe I’m fooling myself and I should have done it but then you won’t be happy with. I have to just do what feels right for me artistically.
Being on tour with Dua Lipa, how was that been and did she give you any advice?
It was so surreal, because I got the offer in 2019 right after my album, and tour. I was so excited. But then the pandemic was really hard. But doing this it brought me back to being like, I want this. Watching her work and seeing all the people that it takes to make this show happen, it’s so inspiring. I spoke to her a bit and she just told me really to believe in myself, like more than anybody else.
by Imogen Clark
PLAYGIRL album coming this Autumn.