By Jordan Yeager
Indie rock singer-songwriter Zoey Leven sits in a booth at Timbertrain Coffee Roasters in downtown Vancouver, flanked by her mom-turned-momager, who’s sipping a latte. The 18-year-old always knew she’d be a musician. Growing up in the Disney Channel era, she wanted to be the next Selena Gomez – and really, who among us wasn’t inspired by the likes of Gomez, Hilary Duff, and the Jonas Brothers? Dreams of international superstardom saw Leven’s aunt giving her piano lessons as a child. Singing lessons followed, and once Leven realized she could combine the two to compose her own songs, she started chasing those dreams full throttle. She began competing in singing and songwriting competitions at age 12. Now, in her final year of high school, Leven just won the Nimbus Battle of the Bands.
“Once I wrote my first song, I was like, this is something I could actually do with my life,” says Leven. “The dream has changed a little bit [from the Selena Gomez days] – a little more realistic, now that I’m getting more familiar with the industry and what it’s really like. I’m on a small record label, so the goal is to get a booking agency, to book shows to get me more well-known, and maybe be an opening act for a bigger name.”
That small record label is Amalien Records, and they discovered her after she placed third in a Vancouver songwriting competition. They recently released Leven’s promising premiere six-song album, Messy. Leven is a multi-instrumentalist and usually hires a drummer to keep the beat while she records vocals, guitar, bass, and keyboard on her own. She credits her family for her talent.
“My mom’s side is very musical. My nonno was a very musical guy. He would go play the accordion at Italian banquets in Burnaby growing up, and everyone knew who he was. So I say that I got my musical abilities from him, and maybe it skipped a generation,” says Leven, looking at her mom with a sly grin.
Leven knows perseverance is key to success and has performed in competitions,local venues and breweries for six years. She finally feels like she’s beginning to break into the business.
“All those years doing competitions, it never really felt like I was going anywhere,” says Leven. “In the past year, I met my record label guy, and he introduced us to all these different connections and possibilities. It just blossomed from there. I did a music video, which was a first time, cool thing. It was pretty surprising seeing it come together and watching it for the first time.”
“We didn’t get to watch it with her for the first time,” adds Leven’s mom, Lisa. “She’s like, ‘I need to watch it first, by myself,’ and then we get to watch it without her, by ourselves.”
“None of this would be possible without my support system,” Leven says, gesturing towards her mom. She says the best advice she has ever received “is probably from my mom. Nothing is guaranteed in this business, and you shouldn’t get discouraged from that. Even if people promise you something, it’s not a 100 per cent sure thing, so just don’t go in with any expectations.”blues, indie rock, Messy, Zoey Leven