An award winning media company committed to sharing the perspectives of people of colour from marginalised genders

Zilo is the rising artist crafting stories out of introspection

28 Jul 2019

Photography by HypeMari

Londoner Zilo is many things: a poet, a painter, and a musician. But more than anything, she is someone who knows that for her, everything – in art, music, and life – is limitless.  

Zilo has been making original music for years, and continues to garner an audience from across the globe. Her first big single, ‘Know That I Want You,’ was released in 2017, followed by her debut 2018 full-length project, The Nature of the Beast, which featured hit singles like ‘Keep Up Wimmi.’ and ‘Don’t Waste My Time.’ Zilo’s songs possess a rare honesty, and listening to her music feels so personal, it’s as if the artist has let you read from her own diary.

The artist effortlessly plays with the heavy themes of love and self-reflection all the while imbuing each song with unabashed vulnerability and a lighthearted goofiness that makes her stories relatable, heartwarming, and fun. This past year, she has spent time touring, songwriting, and releasing new music.

“I found out that I can sing sort of by accident”

As her sound suggests, Zilo is supremely chill to talk to, and her thoughtful insights suggest a wisdom beyond her years. What’s more, the artist possesses boundless creativity and the sort of quiet ambition that can only stem from a deep understanding of oneself.

Interestingly, Zilo shares that she didn’t realise she wanted to pursue music until later in her life. “I was definitely not one of those people who always knew I wanted to do music, and I found out that I can sing sort of by accident,” the 26-year-old recalls, “I randomly joined a gospel choir in school and sort of fell into it.”

And she never looked back. Since then, the artist has released a steady stream of singles leading up to 2018’s, The Nature of the Beast. This year Zilo has been releasing a new stream of singles, the first of which, ‘Be There Soon’, debuted earlier this month. 

Zilo’s music is eclectic in theme and style; while the same percussive beat and soothing, textured harmonies drive almost every single, the artist also adds a masterful nuance to every song. Numbers like ‘Her’ have almost a techno-sound while ‘Adore’ is funky and uptempo, almost resembling a Motown ballad. Zilo also plays with various themes throughout the record: while ‘Cherry’ and ‘Pretty Certain’ tease the artist’s love life, numbers like ‘Don’t Waste My Time’ are more personal, and speak to her self-growth. The collection has a beautifully self-reflective tone, which makes perfect sense since Zilo is involved in every step of the music-making process. 

“Maybe it’s a Gemini thing, but I can’t only do one thing or I’ll get bored”

“Maybe it’s a Gemini thing, but I can’t only do one thing or I’ll get bored,” she quips, “So I always knew I was going to have to do multiple things, that’s just what I need to be stimulated. I feel like I know exactly what I want in my music and my art, and it beats telling people what to do.”

It seems this is a message the artist has taken to heart; what sets Zilo apart from other musicians is her ability to not only do multiple things, but blend them together to create art that speaks to all the senses. The artist seamlessly translates her love of poetry into gorgeous song lyrics and has turned her knack for painting into cover art for her albums. The result? Art that is deeply and uniquely her.

The culmination of the artist’s creative balancing act are her music videos, which translate the artist’s musical messages into stunning and breathtakingly personal visuals. The artist’s first video, ‘Keep Up Wimmi,’  beautifully showcases her many talents, beginning with her vibrant freestyling and later including stills of her paintings. 

“Putting so much of myself into the ‘Keep Up Wimmi’ video was very intentional for me,” says Zilo. “I wanted the first big video I release to show off who I really am. I’m goofy and friendly and I wanted people to know that.”

Whether she’s strutting down the streets in funky outfits or offering an old white lady a ride on her scooter, Zilo is effortlessly herself. The artist’s authentic way of storytelling shines through in all aspects of her work. Her songs on The Nature of the Beast utilise heartwarming and thought-provoking lyrics to touch on themes of love, friendship, and self-growth. In her newer music, the artist takes her proclivity for storytelling one step further by exploring new sides of herself through alter-egos.

Zilo elaborates on her songwriting process when we talk about her newest single, ‘Be There Soon’. “It wasn’t about anyone in particular, I based that song off of one of my alter-egos,” she admits, “It’s so fun to do––I’ll say, ‘that Zilo can do whatever she wants’. I’ll give them different names and everything. The more I write, the more my alter-egos have come out to play, and they genuinely just feel like an extension of myself.”

For Zilo, songwriting is a way to get to know herself better. Creating art has always been something very personal for her; she started out making songs with her best friend in his home. As her career took off and she needed to work with more people, however, creating art could sometimes leave her feeling drained.

“I’m pretty introspective and I spend a lot of time in my own head. As a songwriter, it can be difficult to write songs about things that have happened to you if you’re not somebody who goes out and does a lot of stuff”

“I’m pretty introspective and I spend a lot of time in my own head,” she says, “As a songwriter, it can be difficult to write songs about things that have happened to you if you’re not somebody who goes out and does a lot of stuff, so in my new music I really tried to have different conversations with myself and then show that through storytelling.”

Zilo is fresh, honest, and just getting started. The artist says she plans to continue releasing new music throughout the summer and, in turn, share more of herself – all versions of herself – with her listeners.

Follow Zilo on Instagram.