Cape Town - It’s an icy autumn day in Cape Town and while my Uber rushes to the One & Only where I’m about to interview Karen Zoid I listen to her latest album on my iPhone.
“Don’t point that thing at me/I’m just a messenger, don’t you see?/Take a step back/Calm yourself down," Karen sings as a beam of sunlight reflects off one of the glass skyscrapers and falls onto my lap for a brief second.
*Biep* My chain of thought is interrupted as a Twitter notification from The City of Cape Town’s account pops up on my screen replying to my earlier complaint about a electricity outage in the neighbourhood I live in.
“Drown out the noise/When you open your eyes/Open your ears/Open your mind.”
I look at my watch, worried that an unexpected traffic jam could make me late for this interview.
*Biep* Another notification pops up on my screen. Facebook this time. Someone liked my status; “Interviewing Karen Zoid! – One & Only Cape Town”.
I make it on time and meet Karen in the warm and cozy lounge of the five star hotel. She looks flawless dressed all in black with perfect hair and makeup.
I switch my phone to silent and put it aside. For the next 25 minutes it’s all about Karen and her music. No Twitter notifications or Facebook event reminders.
Karen on releasing an English album:
“There’s a lot of noise out there and sometimes we need to break away from that,” Karen says almost as if she knew of the social media spectacle that played itself off in the cab on the drive over here.
Drown Out The Noise is all about escaping from this "destructive seduction" of the information overload that we have to deal with in the modern world and was written and recorded over a period of a year. It is her first English album in seven years and Karen absolutely loved being back in studio.
“It was time for an English album again. I’ve been working on a lot of Afrikaans projects lately, which I absolutely love, but I needed to do something for a wider audience this time,” Karen explains the decision behind her latest album being in English.
“I was ready for this. I could have made a nice acoustic album. Or just a single. But I wanted to go big. In a time where there is so much uncertainty and everything is stripped down and the focus is on saving money and keeping it small I wanted to go all out. There’s definitely a hunger for it,” Karen explains.
Her latest album is indeed an indulgence. Like a creamy chocolate smothered éclair you bite into after you’ve been craving something sweet and delicious for weeks. In a time when everyone is looking for the quick fix or instant satisfaction Karen has taken it upon herself to serve up a full course of flavoured decadence that will leave you feeling completely content.
“Have you seen that Take Me To Church video by David LaChapelle with that bad boy ballerina, Sergei Polunin? That’s what I want with this album. The realness…the theatrical…the fullness. I just wanted to express myself completely just like Polunin in that video. Like a dancer.”
Karen on the dark themes on the new album:
There’s a definite dark theme that runs through the album as Zoid touches on some serious issues including the death of Anene Booysen in the song Justice! Justice!
“I wrote about what I was feeling. About what touched me. In this day and age it’s difficult to really stay in touch with yourself. It’s a challenge and there’s a lot of stuff you have to contend with to get there. But we can do it. We have to stay in tune with our true self within.
“One of the songs on the album, Nightingale, is written for dear friend who lost her mother to cancer. It’s a special song for me and close to my heart. It’s not easy to put your emotions out there. In public. For everyone to see. But you have to do it even though you know what you might get back.”
There’s no doubt that the songs on Karen’s album touch nerve and heart. Delicately arranged the songs reveal true emotion without leaving the listener feeling depressed.
“It’s just the right amount of classic rock, powerful ballads and moving compositions,” Karen explains.
Karen on collaborating with Zolani and Francois:
“It was great to be able to collaborate with other artists on this album. I love co-creating stuff with other musicians,” Karen explains as I ask her out about the success of the Toe Vind Ek Jou YouTube video which features on Francois’ new solo album.
“He’s such a great guy. It was such a nice experience. Francois opened up to me and it made the creative process easier. Musicians should write more of their own stuff instead of letting other people write it for them.
“That process is so important and I believe everyone has that ability. You just have to listen to what comes out of your mouth,” Karen explains as a takes a sip of her coffee.
Karen also collaborated with Freshlyground’s Zolani Mahola on a song dedicated to Madiba. Troublemaker was a very emotional song in the making as Karen and Zolani was in the studio working on the song when Nelson Mandela passed away.
The real Karen:
In-between talking about her new album Karen shares stories about her personal life, her son and her TV show, Republiek van Zoid Afrika. The conversation flows so naturally that for a brief moment I forget that this is the first time we’ve met.
“The album is very personal to me. It’s packed with my own experiences and feelings. Music is my escape. It takes me away from everything,” Karen explains.
Just like our 25-minute-talk Drown Out The Noise is indeed wrapped up in Karen’s inspiring perspective of the modern world that will have you re-evaluate what’s really important in life.
After the interview we say our goodbyes. On my way out I check my phone for the first time. A whole string of notifications appear on my home screen. I resist the urge to check what the digital world was up to while I escaped from it for a few minutes.
When you drown out the noise you become still/You become whole/When you drown out the noise.
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