For many artists, the process of recording and releasing a debut album isn’t a linear one. When Zuzu began playing in Liverpool it was clear she had something special, but after showing so much promise and receiving plaudits from further afield for her wonderful Scouse storytelling style, things seemed to transpire against her. 

It was as much a relief as anything, therefore, for fans to hear the news that she was finally able to lay down her debut album, Queensway Tunnel, released earlier this month. Northern Exposure caught up with Zuzu after a crazy week following its release to discuss the journey to the place she finds herself now.
“We put it out and we really had no idea what people would think of it,” she said. “All I really wanted was for people to like it.”
The record is a hugely personal one, so much of it comes quite literally from journeys from Liverpool to Birkenhead and back through the tunnel that gives the album its name. It’s one thing releasing a debut album, but another releasing one that is so personal to her.
“It’s definitely super-personal and I do think that adds to the weight of it. Music is the method I’ve always used to make myself feel better, and when we were picking the songs for the album I just wanted to go for the ones that pulled on my heartstrings my most.”
It’s not been an easy journey for Zuzu up until now. Tied to a record deal from her early releases, she’s had to cling to the prospect of an album through difficult times.
“I’ve been through the mill a little bit, and I was waiting to get out of the deal that I was in and it was really difficult. At that time I really thought “this is it” and that nobody would want to hear an album. But then my manager John (Dawkins) told me about this thing that Townsend Music were doing. It’s kind of a label, but the artist owns the record and they take a small percentage rather than you being trapped in a contract.”
“I was like “wow, that’s a thing?!” and me and John were like ‘well, let’s make a record!”
Zuzu is confident that this is indicative of where the industry is moving.
“There is a change happening, I do believe that. I think Taylor Swift and her battle to own her own music has really helped people understand what it is to own their own music. I don’t judge anyone for doing what I did – because you take every opportunity you get. All I can do is make wiser decisions moving forward.”
Her music appeals to all kinds of fans, but there is one special demographic that is unmissable at a Zuzu gig. It’s the young girl or young boy, maybe 10 or 12, standing up close looking towards her with sheer admiration.
“There’s so many kids that want to see us live and I don’t know why! I can’t pinpoint a time when it started happening, but gradually kids have just gotten into my tunes. People send me videos of their kids dancing to my music, and they’re just sassing out. Maybe my music or the way I perform is quite theatrical, but it absolutely melts my heart seeing them. I just want young girls and boys to be proud of their voice in the world, so I just love it when they come to our gigs.”
Zuzu heads out on tour next month, and 20 different bands and artists feature as support across the 13 dates. With the likes of Tilly Louise, Mollie Coddled and Gen and The Degenerates featuring, there’s a strong female presence, which isn’t always the case, but Zuzu thinks that there is progress being made in terms of gender splits:
“I don’t think there’s a lack of female talent, put it that way, so there’s less and less excuses. It can be hard to talk about. I’ve been fortunate to play some great shows, but as a woman you definitely face big challenges when you’re trying to break through and get that first leg up. I’m not an expert though, so all I can do is try and support other female artists in a genuine way.”
Zuzu admits that as much as anything it can be a depressing subject, but knows that as an artist her role is away from the online discourse.
 “I don’t know the answer to it, but all I know is as a woman we just have to do our best to make it a better world for other women too. Rather than have an argument on Twitter or something, I just want to practice what I preach.”
Zuzu will play in Liverpool at O2 Academy on Sunday 5 December (tickets here) as part of a UK tour that takes her from Brighton to Edinburgh, as Queensway Tunnel goes out into the world. It’s an album that is a delight and is 100% Zuzu. Her gigs are bound to be as authentic as ever and they’ll be special not only for anyone heading to see her but for Zuzu and those around her too. She held onto Queensway Tunnel when it seemed like it might never surface and now we’re, at last, able to hear what Zuzu has to say, straight from the heart. 
Zuzu will play:
1st Brighton Patterns
2nd London The Dome, Tufnell Park
3rd Bristol Thekla
5th Liverpool O2 Academy
6th Newcastle The Cluny
7th Edinburgh The Mash House
8th Glasgow King Tuts
9th Nottingham Bodega
11th Leeds Hyde Park Book Club
12th Birmingham The Hare and Hounds
13th Manchester Deaf Institute
14th Sheffield Leadmill 

Buy and stream Queensway Tunnel here.



Photo: Robin Clewley 


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