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Jazzy songstress Billie Zizi exposes vulnerability on sophomore album ‘Moon of Honey’

By Brittany Rudyck
Billie Zizi embraces vulnerability in her sophomore effort. Photo: Courtesy of Billie Zizi

Billie Zizi embraces vulnerability in her sophomore effort.
Photo: Courtesy of Billie Zizi

EDMONTON — Without a doubt it’s been a long and winding road to Billie Zizi’s burgeoning career in “gypsy jazz.” Zizi’s initial flirtation with music transformed into dedicated commitment over the last seven years leading to her sophomore album, Moon of Honey.

Initially, Zizi planned to work in international development and set out to travel and volunteer with the Canada World Youth program in her late teens. Upon returning home she discovered her dad had booked them a gig at an art gallery opening.

“When I came back to Canada, I had no idea what I was doing,” she laughs. “My dad was like, ‘Oh, I got us a gig!’ I told him I wasn’t really good at guitar and he basically said that it didn’t matter. So we did this gig playing background jazz music and I really liked it. I practiced really hard and then I got into the Grant MacEwan music program.”

Nearly eight years later, Zizi has toured the country by rail, has put out one full-length album and is set to release her second. Moon of Honey marks a very important shift artistically for Zizi who wrote the album from a much different place than the first.

“I was very devastated during the recording of this album. I guess I’m proud I did a thing when I was sad,” says Zizi.

The results speak for themselves. The new record is a dreamy meander through Zizi’s heart, taking the listener places they may have been unwilling to explore within themselves. Hopeless romantics will love the subtle loneliness in her voice, while guitar nerds will love her dirty solos, dripping with hints of Wilco and soaked in reverb.

A huge fan of music since she was a kid, she isn’t afraid to take cues from artists she admires, including one Icelandic icon. “When I was writing this album I listened to so much Björk,” Zizi reveals.

“I made myself listen to more Björk than I thought I could stand. It was kind of an experiment. I would go on a run and listen to her last album, Vulnicura. I listened to that album so much that I was sick of it and almost hated it,” she laughs. “But I feel like I got a deeper understanding of it listening to the whole thing every day.”

Not only does she draw inspiration from artists like Björk, she also draws deeply from the family well. Her father, Cam Neufeld, is a respected musician in Edmonton and around the world. He played a huge part in both of Zizi’s albums as well as educated her in the plight of the professional artist.

“I think I’m really lucky because I had a healthy perspective on what it is to be a working musician right off the bat. I didn’t have any misconceptions about how glamorous it was or if there was any sort of money or fame. I grew up going to a lot of music festivals and I was exposed to a lot of music. I think that helped create my musical roots, my palette and my artistic propensity, in a way.”

Neufeld will be joining her onstage for her upcoming album release show, which she assures will be magical.

“I have a little bit of synesthesia, so sound comes across as shapes to me,” she muses. “So, when we’re onstage and everything is connected, I get this music bubble that’s all over me. I don’t really see it. I just feel it. It’s like this light halo and at the risk of sounding new-agey, I think the music is really something you can meditate in and ascend to be connected to something that’s bigger and so much more important than the sound.”

Catch the groove at Billie Zizi’s album release at the Needle Vinyl Tavern in Edmonton on October 21st with the Sumner Brothers and Karimah. Check her Facebook for confirmed dates throughout Western Canada during late October and early November.

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