Q&A by Jess Brinham

Lolo Zouaï Talks Trippin on Tour and Airport Style

@lolozouai

‘You know one of my first songs on Soundcloud was called Trippin. I put it up and it got me this huge opportunity.’

Although her sound upon first glance seems like your typical, of the moment pop stylings, don’t be tricked by first impressions. Lolo Zouaï’s music is fresh as you like, truly authentic, and totally original- from her lyrical prowess to her multilingual flexing. Catchy pop hooks and relatable to all content topics, penning modern classics seems to be a sixth sense for the young but rapidly rising star. The child of French-Algerian immigrants, Zouaï, who sings in both English and French, contributed songwriting last year to H.E.R.’s Grammy-winning self-titled album, a noteworthy feat itself. When it comes to her self released, which is written by her own hand jams, she mixes vulnerability and cultural exploration with casual brags and witty one liners. Each track on her newest album truly feels like her own expression, and a window into her own way of thinking.

With a lust for adventure and trying out new cities manifesting at an early age, Zouaï moved to pastures new on her own steam as a teenager. It seems her desire to know the ins and outs of different cities has only been amplified and assisted by her career- touring and playing shows in a variety of locations, it’s only natural that she has great insight and anecdotes about the best spots in America and worldwide. We spoke with her to dig a little deeper.

Who you are, where you’re from and what you do?

Im Lolo Zouaï, and I’m from San Francisco but I live in New York, and I’m a singer-songwriter, producer, crazy lady.


I know you’ve moved around a lot as a kid, can you elaborate on that for us?

So I was born in Paris, France, my mum is from the countryside in France, and my dad is from Algeria. They applied for the visa lottery, which is an online application which I think is free, where you can sign up to become an American citizen. Anyone can do it. I feel like a lot of people don’t know about it but I’ve met a lot of people who have won it. My dad won it and we moved to San Francisco when I was 3 months old, with my older sister and my parents and I just grew up there. I was so lucky to grow up there in the 90’s and 2000’s cos it had a lot of energy, now it’s kinda changed but it was amazing. After high school my mom got relocated to Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville is a good music city, so I went to college for one semester. It was this crazy change of culture, such a culture shock. I went to this Christian school, and my dad is Muslim but I grew up in a secular household cos of my mom so I was definitely shook. I didn’t really enjoy it, so I dropped out and moved back to San Francisco on my own at 18 and started working in American Apparel. I was there for about 6 months, but then I just felt like I need to go somewhere so I left and moved to Paris, France. I lived with some family at first, and worked at American Apparel in Paris. I was in this tiny room only about 9 square metres.


Not many people have even travelled that much in their lifetime, especially not in their formative years. How has that changed your identity and character as an artist?

I’m not afraid of moving or travelling. Travelling is the greatest gift that we have, and not everyone can do it because it costs so much to take a plane, but what I was doing was just spending my money on a flight and just working a lot to be able to experience it. After that I moved to New York which is where my life really started. It’s had the biggest impact on my career and that’s when I decided I needed to start taking myself seriously and recording and making music.


What are your childhood memories of travel?

I think one of the most memorable trips was going to Algeria when I was 15 or 16 because first of all, I had a shaved head on the side with a dollar sign (I was obsessed with Too Short) so as you can imagine I had to cover that. I remember going and it was such a big culture shock because women were supposed to stay in the house, and I wanted to explore and see everything. I realised there were no driving rules in that place as well, everyone drives crazy. It was also amazing to see my Grandma, even though we don’t speak the same language she taught me how to wash clothes in a bath tub!

As an artist, you’re travelling around a lot, can you tell me about your most recent trip before London?

Just recently I did a 22 city tour in America and Canada, so we were in the tour bus and were basically going to sleep and waking up in a new city every day. It was kinda stressful. I didn’t have time to explore every city, but I would wake up and be like alright I’m in Seattle or I’m in the middle of nowhere! That was my most recent travelling experience, but I also just came from Paris. It’s weird because I’m French but I don’t know how much I identify with French culture because I didn’t grow up there so it’s hard for me to adjust. It’s weird because I can speak the language so people assume I know, but I don’t know. I think the most different for me is food culture, they’re always watching everybody.


You’re obviously in airports a lot, what is your go-to airport look?

Someone told me airports are the place you should look the best cos there’s the most amount of people but I can’t do it. I just think it would be Doc Martens, cos they’re the heaviest so I don’t have to put them in my suitcase. Some sweatpants, and a hoodie - And a bun.


Do you have any wild or crazy airport stories?

Ooh, this is recent. I just got flown out for something (something private!) and we were in the AirFrance lounge, and she comes over like ‘would you like a facial?’. First of all... champagne in the lounge, this amazing meal (they even have little Hagen Daaz ice creams)... but then I go get a facial in the airport!

"I always think about that when I can’t figure it out, or lose inspiration. I think about being 16 years old and going to the beach and wanting what I have now."

What place can you have the most fun in?

Probably Brooklyn, in New York. People go out really late. I don’t really go out in New York any more but back 2 years ago I was definitely having a wild time!


What’s the craziest its ever gotten for you when you’ve been travelling a new city?

I was in Austin, Texas and we went out to this bar with loads of men in cowboy hats playing country music. It was pretty much line dancing, but this man grabs my hand and starts teaching me to line dance and he kept saying to me 'you’re not doing it right' and I was just like 'I’m from the city!' It was cute and memorable.


Has one city more than any other city inspired your music?

I would say San Francisco, because that’s where I grew up and where I started writing music. I lived right by a beach called ocean beach, it was not warm, just very foggy and cold. It was the place I would go to too come up with lyrics, and if I was feeling jaded or empty I would go there to feel. I always think about that when I can’t figure it out, or lose inspiration. I think about being 16 years old and going to the beach and wanting what I have now.


When you going to a new city, do you have anything you love to do when you land in a new place?

I love boba, like milk tea! If I wasn’t a singer I think I’d be a world boba reviewer, in an alternate life. Chat time is really good and its worldwide so go there.


Who is your dream guest to take away with you, dead or alive or real or fiction?

I really don’t know but I can tell you my dream trip! When I’ll know I’ve made it. I want to rent a jet, a private plane, and get all my best friends, because they all live in completely different cities, and fly them all to my jet! Then we all take that jet to an island, and we just enjoy.

Photography: Bonnie Opheila

Check out Lolo Zouaï's Guide to Paris

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