London based singer-songwriter and producer Ciro Manzari, aka Zhero has released his second studio album today entitled “Zhero Presents”. Originally from Apulia, South Italy, the twenty-two-year-old artist wrote, performed and produced the record from his bedroom, doing everything from video making to branding strategies all by himself. Compared to the likes of Troye Sivan, Lana Del Rey, Halsey and Billie Eilish, Zhero creates beautifully cinematic pop music tinged with a vintage Hollywood Noir aesthetic and an alternative melancholic electro-pop sound. Inspired by ‘The Fall Of Icarus’, “Zhero Presents” touches on the themes of mental health, identity issues, spirituality and gender. A fast-rising and upcoming gem on the alternative pop music scene, Zhero is back and better than ever. Check out our conversation with Zhero below!
YMX: Can you tell us about yourself as an artist? Where are you now, how you started, and what are your goals.
Zhero: I’ve been singing since I was eight years old but my real passion with music started when I learned electronic production through GarageBand app on my smartphone age fourteen. I began songwriting later at age sixteen. I fell in love with a boy that didn’t love me back and that experience brought me to write my first album. My goal with music is to express positive messages such as: “find your real voice inside, be yourself and spread the love”, I think that’s what our world needs to hear the most right now. I think my fans understand that I’m not just a singer and that my real purpose is to share love, talk about serious social topics (mental health), change the world (be a voice for the LGBTQ+ community, ecological and animalistic movements) and to connect with other human beings.
YMX: Some of our readers might not be familiar with you yet, how would you describe your sound?
Zhero: My music has a dreamy and nostalgic electronic-pop sound, mixed with cinematic instruments and vibes inspired by Lana Del Rey and Troye Sivan. It’s pop because I’m always following the “radio quality” rules and make the structure of all my songs thinking of them as if they are mantras, (meaning they’re based on a constant repetition of some sentences or verses) but I also focus a lot on making the “cinematic climax” as well. I’d like to think that my music is perfect to listen to during a “late night ride” in your car, or as a soundtrack for some Netflix’s movie/series.
YMX: Who have been your biggest influences so far?
Zhero: I’m inspired by epic musicians and singers such as Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Queen and the lyrics of Bob Dylan, especially because of their character, stage presence and stories, However, I’m much more musically influenced by more modern artists/bands such as Muse, Lana Del Rey, Florence & The Machine, Troye Sivan and The 1975. I love listening to rock music but alternative, electronic and pop are definitely my thing.
YMX: You recently released “Zhero Presents”. Can you tell us how that project came about?
Zhero: “Zhero Presents” was born as a game for me, just a few singles that I wanted to release independently after my first album, just to see the public reaction. I wanted to earn some experience by releasing things online myself and learning the art of being an independent recording artist. I then noticed the songs had been listened more than the ones I released with the label in Italy. Many people messaged me on Instagram about my music and on their stories from all around the world. That was crazy for me. I then decided “Zhero Presents” had to be the title of my second album. “Zhero Presents” begins with Icaro, as the album is all about the “The Fall of Icarus”. This first track is musically inspired by cinematic music, the eighties and sci-fi sounds. Lyrically and structurally “Icaro” is presented as a sort of intro/lullaby in which “Dedalo”, the mythic father of Icarus, sings to his son, Icarus, before the Fall. This child-parent relationship is one of the main factors of the album, since the third track “Mama” is personally dedicated my mother.
YMX: 2020 has been a hard year for everybody, but the music industry and arts in general took a heavy hit. How did you guys cope with that, musically speaking?
Zhero: To be honest, since streaming platforms don’t pay a lot and I was about to play my first concert in London when the lockdown started, I don’t feel like I’ve been hit by 2020 the way many other people have. I actually had the time and opportunity to finish my second album, though I am sad for all the people who have seriously been damaged by the COVID-19 disease and it’s effects as an economical and social problem.
YMX: Do you consider important working together in a team, or do you prefer working alone?
Zhero: I made my first album with the Bobo Records, an independent Italian label. I learned from that collaboration that I need to work on music alone, at least for the whole composition and writing process. Of course before releasing I always need some “fresh ears” and suggestions from external people, however, my writing and production process is unique and it requires mental space for me to be able to truly say what I need to say, sound the way I want to sound and let go. I work a lot in teams and believe in teamwork during the whole video-graphical and branding part of a project. Even though my second album “Zhero Presents” was entirely written and composed by myself, the project would not be the same if Gaia Miolla, a dear, super creative and multi-talented friend of mine. Gaia helped me out with pictures, concepts behind the aesthetic side of things and the videos. I believe in this age all you require to make great music is passion, patience, a dear friend who has a similar vision to yours, a laptop and some basic music theory.
YMX: What are you looking for, in terms of promotion? What do you think could be helpful to promote your music around?
Zhero: I think the best place my music could be is definitely on a TV series or a movie. I always make my music thinking of the climax, situations, images, stories, scenes. I think that people who loves soundtracks (as I do) would love my sound and songs. It would also be great to be promoted through advertisements, TV, playlists and radio, since my music is still identifiable as pop or hybrid-pop music.
YMX: What does playing live represent for you? a way to make yourself known or a way to express yourself?
Zhero: I’ve studied dramatic arts for years as-well-as acting and I making some musicals. All these experiences influenced me a lot and now I have a clear vision of what I want to do during a live performance. I want to tell a story with each song, so the concert to is like a show, a kind of opera in which the audience can be “drowned” and be in this fantasy and cinematic world with me for a while. I went to Lana Del Rey’s concerts and Lady Gaga’s as well, and even though I’m more musically influenced by Lana, I’ve always dreamed of performing as Gaga does. She’s able to interpret characters and tell stories through movement, spotlights, choreographies and colors. It is complete, it’s not just about music, that’s what I love the most. It is a full experience that deserves to be lived.
YMX: Finally, what are your plans for the future? (releases, gigs etc.)
Zhero: So far I still haven’t organised any gigs because of the COVID situation but I seriously hope we will be able to make that happen as soon as possible. For now I am fully living in the present. I have many dreams and have really learned how to believe in myself. I know my future is bright, I am building it day by day. I have many hopes but few expectations. I hope I’ll reach as many people as possible and to be truly understood by them. I hope I will be able to change the world, to pass on a positive message. I hope I’ll make a connection with my audience and build more love and awareness with them. As I said previously, I think that’s what we need the most nowadays.
Check out “Zhero Presents” and follow Zhero below: