GETTING CREDIT

ZANILLYA

The Aruba-based, Netherlands raised singer, rapper and producer speaks on her new single 'Million Reasons', working with her partner Humphrey Dennis on her forthcoming EP and the importance of being honest about mental health in her music.

What were the initial inspirations for your latest single ‘Million Reasons’?


Humphrey Dennis, my partner and I are both in love with Afro House and future R&B and we really wanted to make a track that felt emotional, but you could dance to at the same time. We had released our sophomore single ‘For You’ which we both loved so much and in a sense ‘Million Reasons' is a baby of that track. 
 

How was the process of creating the track?


We had a vibe that we wanted to bring to life. We then made a sketch and the words came to me instantaneously and we recorded the demo version in less than 30 minutes. And what you hear on the record is actually the first take. We then made like five versions until we found the one we went for. 


As a heavily visual artist, how was directing the video for ‘Sacrifices’ and how was it to balance working both in front and behind the camera?


To me it feels really natural to direct my own work as I’m always part of every aspect of my artistry. I have been since I was a child. I always have a direction I want to go in with my music, video’s, styling just the whole aesthetic and feel. To me it is all connected to my emotions and vision. On set, I sometimes felt a bit frustrated when the shots or lighting wasn’t exactly as I wanted it, but, working with other creatives there will always be some form of coming together and trying to see the same vision. 


"I just always express what’s going on in the moment within me."

What did you want to explore, lyrically and sonically, within that track?


When creating I mostly don’t set out to say anything, I just always express what’s going on in the moment within me. Which always results in what comes out being a message and revelation to myself. Sonically, we wanted to make a song that felt vulnerable, sad but up-tempo at the same time. We wanted it to work in various settings. 


What can we expect from your upcoming EP and how has the process been of working on your debut project?

The EP is really a snapshot of where I was mentally and emotionally in the last years. Working on the EP was an intense process as I was not in the best place while making it. It was really hard at times to get out of bed, but we did our best to work on it until I was happy with it. We both grew immensely and found ourselves in ourselves and in our music. 

 

You freestyle a lot of your lyrics, do you find working this way makes your music more personal and intimate?

Yes, because it’s really my deepest and subconscious feelings and thoughts. 

"I was looking for a producer to make a track with for a contest ... We ended up falling love and winning the contest."

How important was it for you to explore mental health on this EP and how important do you think it is for others to be open about it in their art, in order to remove the stigma surrounding it?

It became a release when I heard Kid Cudi being open about his mental health back in 2016. I never felt more understood when I heard how he was expressing these dark thoughts and feelings I was feeling on the inside. I then decided to not feel the shame any longer and share how I truly felt in my music. I still have a hard time accepting myself at times but every day it gets better. It is extremely important for artists to be open about their mental health as we have a long way to go. The world is changing, and the more people talk about their mental health more we can normalise it and heal. 


How did you first come together with your production collaborator Humphrey Dennis and how is the process of working with one another?


I reached out to him as I was looking for a producer to make track with for a contest, I had enrolled in. We ended up falling love and winning the contest. We have been working and living together ever since. Working with him is really incredible as he is very patient, and I am very impatient, so we match and balance each other out. I think god made him for me. He has been my rock during my struggle with grieving my dad and fighting of my demons. Through it all, he is still standing next to me and I truly believe that we have a one of a kind bound and love. Therefore our music making is even more special and I think it can be felt. 

Being based in Amsterdam, are there any local artists you would recommend?

At the moment we are living in Aruba but there are definitely a bunch of amazing Dutch artists. I really love and admire Rimon and a Dutch rapper/ singer named Willem. They’re both incredibly talented. 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you go about bringing together all of your wide-ranging influences in order to make something wholly authentic?

 

I was raised with all the genres I bring together in my music, so it’s really a natural process. I don’t think about it, it’s my intuition that guides me where my interest goes.  

Do you take inspiration from other artistic mediums other than music such as film/fashion etc.?


Yes, definitely movies A LOT, series, fashion and books, I love books. 


Which artists first inspired you to get into music and who is inspiring you today?

I have to say my dad first and then definitely Prince. I always have a lot of artists in rotation. Lately Burna Boy, Frank Ocean, Mac Miller, PartyNextDoor, Kanye and Santi from Nigeria. I love almost everything that comes out of Nigeria. And being in Aruba now Soca Music definitely inspires me. Have you heard 'Split in the Middle' by Freezy and 'Good' by Patrice Roberts? Man these songs give me a bunch of happy island vibes. I might create a whole Soca album next lol. 

 

"I don’t think about it, it’s my intuition that guides me where my interest goes." 


What artist, single or album helped to get you through 2020?


Darkoo single ‘Juicy’ was on repeat every day to get ready for the day. TemsDamages’ helped me get through the fall, Snoh Alegra’s single ‘Whoa’ was on a daily repeat, 'Loyal' by PartyNextDoor and Drake, Lauryn HillGuarding the Gates’ pulled me through a lot, and ‘Commando’ by King Promise was my go to song when I needed to get uplifted, 'Ava' by Pip Millett was the song I cried to, 'Blonde' by Frank Ocean is always on to just be in my feelings and lastly Mac Miller's album ‘Circles’ really impressed me and helped me get through some hard moments. 


If you guys had to recommend five artists to your listeners, who would they be?


Santi, Pip Millett, Mustafa, Anaiis and Tems.


What’s coming up for the rest of 2021?

 

I shot a new video on Aruba which I directed myself again, the EP is coming soon and more music. I’m also working on a visual performance. For 2021, I’ve decided to just make music and release it. Let go of the fear and be. 

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