It’s not as easy as it looks — There’s a LOT more that goes into being an artist than just releasing songs, especially when you’re a one woman show. We’re talking about creating marketing materials like photo and video, promotion, pitching, content, strategies, building a story. I have so much respect for artists that make all the magic happen themselves. I now fully understand why major artists have entire teams dedicated to backing them 🙂
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Bri Zoli, a model, singer-songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who’s splicing genres with her unique edge. Blending her experience as a classically trained flutist and vocalist who performed at Carnegie Hall and throughout Europe as a teen, her celestial and angelic vocals bring you on a trip through moody and electronic soundscapes. Bri Zoli packs an unexpected emotional punch in her songs: weaving in soothing and relatable lyrics with haunting melodies that linger. Writing from life’s never-ending events, it’s up to the listener to form their own story around the poetry.
Behind the name: Drawing inspiration from her Hungarian roots, Zoli is short for Zoltana, an homage to her heritage and grandfather named Zoltan. Knowing her artist name had to be special, it took a couple years until something stuck. Bri Zoli was the perfect fit: Half her lifelong identity, and half honoring those who came before her.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Thanks for having me! I was born and raised in New York. Music has been a staple in my life from a young age — my mother had an electric baby grand piano in the house I grew up in and I was always so drawn to it. She was playing Beethoven by memory at age 9, and I think that really encouraged me to embody music and express my creativity from the start. As a kid I would play dress up with my cousin in my moms old clothes and perform for my family- dancing, singing, and all. I was obsessed with teaching myself piano to the point where I would sneak up to it late at night, quietly pull out the piano bench, and plug headphones in so I could play for hours. My mother always used to say she could hear me banging down on the keys as she was trying to sleep — guess I wasn’t so secretive after all!
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Music was always such an integral part of my life that it just made sense to pursue it. I was classically trained in flute and voice for 10 years, taking weekly lessons with a rigorous practice schedule. I participated in solo competitions, and I was part of county and all-state level bands and choruses. Looking back now I’m so extremely grateful for the achievements I conquered — I performed at venues like Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, and was a member of a youth orchestra that toured Europe, playing in the Mozarteum, Salzburg Cathedral, and more. Though I thought my path would be music education, I later pivoted my focus to my solo artist project, Bri Zoli. I do believe playing and singing pieces by the world’s greatest musicians had a lasting affect on how I approach my own work today.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I’ve been songwriting and working on my own music behind the scenes for quite some time, but ironically 2020 has been a year of achievement for me — I finally released my first two singles! I joined a songwriting club and am so grateful for being able to connect and collaborate with musicians virtually. Working so in depth with ideas in different genres and finessing each part of the song, down to each word, really made something click for me. It’s as if it gave me a new found perspective when writing for my own project and looking at my personal, vulnerable concepts from an outside perspective: how they translate, how the story is being told, and what is being achieved by my words. It’s helped me to look at my work and refine, refine, refine in the best way possible. This was a huge growth moment for me.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
A few years back I would definitely say technology and I didn’t agree with each other. Production programs and set-up was like another language to me, which made it more difficult to fully express my ideas to my collaborators. It’s as if I could hear and envision what I wanted to create, but didn’t have the tools to make that come to life. With much experimentation, actively paying attention in sessions, and dozens of demos later, I love creating in Logic and can seamlessly make all of this happen myself.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My third single is ready to go and will be released early this year, and I’m currently working on my debut EP!
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
I think rightful representation in every industry is extremely important. Specifically for film and television, these are extremely influential mediums and have the ability to persuade and shape ideals worldwide. If diversity isn’t reflected throughout these incredibly influential mediums, it plants a specific seed of ideals and narrows a nation’s overall beliefs which is dangerous. The problem with this is it doesn’t reflect the representation of real life. This disconnect is where problems brew. Our world is very diverse, so I think we need to aim for more of a balance from on-screen to real life.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
The #1 and most important piece to this puzzle is authenticity. It’s not worth it to spend time and energy trying to be someone else, or embodying ideas or personas solely because you think they’ll be well liked by others. If you are wholeheartedly and unapologetically yourself, people will gravitate towards you. Uniqueness stands out more than following along with the crowd.
#2 You get what you put into it — This is a huge one. Most likely, opportunities don’t fall into your lap without putting in the work, consistency is key. Putting yourself out there and consistently sharing your talents with the world, little by little, will start to pay off.
#3 Be your own advocate and put yourself out there — In an ever saturated digital world, there’s never been a better time for accessibility. Taking initiative, connecting with people in your industry, and networking is most of the time in our hands as independent artists.
#4 It’s not as easy as it looks — There’s a LOT more that goes into being an artist than just releasing songs, especially when you’re a one woman show. We’re talking about creating marketing materials like photo and video, promotion, pitching, content, strategies, building a story. I have so much respect for artists that make all the magic happen themselves. I now fully understand why major artists have entire teams dedicated to backing them 🙂
#5 Embrace and nurture your energy — As creatives, we all know this comes in waves. Some days or weeks can be incredibly inspiring as we pour everything we have into developing new music or creative projects, other times we’re too stuck to think up a melody. I remember to tell myself that having these ups and downs is totally okay and part of the process.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Protect your energy and listen to yourself! If something isn’t working out, don’t push it. Move on to the next idea or song and come back to it later. I’m the queen of working on multiple projects at once, it helps me thrive and fuels my energy. To me, burnout happens when something is constantly pulled at that can’t be pulled at anymore, in that moment. It’s always good to take a step back from your work and come back to it with fresh eyes. This allows time for new perspectives to develop, and you might end noticing something that wasn’t clear before.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Mindfulness. Of ourselves, of others. Taking a step back and having awareness of a situation or what’s going on. I think historically we’re in a place that so desperately needs to work on this.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I totally agree! I would say my friend, Ben Cina, musician and producer, and my boyfriend, Brandon Aviram, photographer and videographer, have been nothing but helpful to my success and I’m so grateful! I met Ben at the ASCAP Harry Chapin Songwriters Workshop we were both in back in 2019, though we met previously through mutual friends in the music community. Since then, we’ve worked together on my first three singles and he’s been a great friend to lean on for music industry advice, production, and more. Ben’s really believed in me since the beginning and helped me get my start with releasing music. I also don’t know how I would’ve done it all without my boyfriend, who’s helped concept every shoot for my singles as well as directing my first music video for my latest single, “Lullaby.” We’ve collaborated on a ton of photoshoots before the start of my artist project, so working together on this was nothing but natural. We both directed the music video for Lullaby and I did all the editing, so it was really fun to work on such a big project with him. We’re currently planning content, shoots and a music video for my third single which will be released early this year, and I’m so excited to share it! Shoutout to his technical skills as well, he somehow always gets things to work when I can’t 🙂
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Staying present. I personally struggle with this concept, it’s often hard to not think about the past or worry about the future, and with this mindset we miss out on what’s in front of us. It’s my biggest fear to look back and realize I was never really there to enjoy the moment. I look up to Alan Watts and what he preaches, he dives into this concept a lot. I highly recommend all of his books, but especially, “The Wisdom of Insecurity.” This was written 71 years ago and is still extremely relevant today. “This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” “I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.” — Alan Watts
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
It’s so hard to just choose just one person! One of my greatest influences as a kid was Regina Spektor. I was mesmerized by her music and the heart-wrenching emotion she would give to each of her songs and the way she could tell a story. Regina really inspired me to learn piano too, I would play her songs on repeat and learn by ear. When I write my own music now and start at the piano, I can absolutely tell she’s influenced my style. I saw her live at Jazz at Lincoln Center probably 10 years ago, and I still remember it vividly to this day as being one of the most intimate and beautiful concerts I’ve ever experienced. Funny story about this though — my friend and I took a train into the city, we ended up being late, and missed the start of the show. When we got to the entrance of the venue we could hear her voice echoing the halls. We immediately started sprinting through the venue following her voice with tears down our cheeks because we couldn’t believe it and didn’t want to miss a second more. I still remember the feeling of hearing her so crisp and clear and live. That was one of the best nights and I’ll always remember it.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow me at:
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!