Though we're still getting acquainted with pop newcomer Chase Zera, the 23-year-old has actually been involved in the world of performance since she could barely walk.
The Sydney Northern Beaches singer/producer first found her love for music at the young age of three in gymnastics, before transitioning to hip hop, jazz and cabaret dancing in primary school. At the beginning of high school she realised that singing and making music might be her calling, as well as the perfect way to combine all three passions on stage.
Following her bold, bright first single of 2020, Bring Me Down, we've now been treated to Chase's follow-up, Saving Bugs, a glossy pop jam with a deeper message than you might first think. The singer chats to Cool Accidents down the Zoom line, her sunny demeanour reflecting the vibrant colours we see in all her imagery.
Firstly we’re living in such weird times and I know you’re in Sydney so it’s not too bad but how have you been during COVID and what are you doing to keep sane?
Yeah, I feel like I can't complain. It's been up and down in terms of being creative one week, the next week just letting myself see nature and watch TV and eat a bunch of food and not think about it. So I try to just listen to myself and my needs and go day by day, which I think has been the best way to do it. I'm missing performing a lot and I've just gone back to dance one night a week, and that's just like, I'll never take it for granted again! I've been writing a lot and I just feel like it's been a nice challenge writing about things that I don't have a chance to get inspiration from the outside world and experiences and meeting new people and all of that. So I'm really like, having to look inside myself for inspiration and digging deep into my thoughts and personality. It's challenging, but it's forced me to do that where I might not have ever done that before.
I wanted to go right back with you and talk about how you got your start in music, because I know that you actually started by dancing right?
I've always been a dancer and I found growing up when you're a dancer or an actor or a singer, you're going to have someone if not 100 people saying to you that you should be able to do all three for whatever you do, they all go hand in hand. So I sort of did lessons and everything and when I started school in year seven, you actually had to choose between joining the choir and doing an instrument. And I was like, ‘I've done a bit of singing in musical theatre. I don't want to lug an instrument on the bus every day.’ I loved it. I did singing lessons all through high school from there on. I started, you know, really getting into electronic music and DJing so then I started writing more music. Before I left school, I just knew that that's what I wanted to catapult myself into. I took up a bunch of workshops and YouTube tutorials and went to college and just did everything I could to make it happen. Because when I have an idea in my head, I'm like, ‘okay, it's on you to bring that to life now.’
I knew that going into music, I never wanted to stop dancing. I wanted it to always be part of it because dance is what brought me to music in the first place, you know, being around it all the time and like choreographing dances and learning, so I was like, ‘This is me and the most authentic way way for me to do music is to tie it into dance.’
What age did you start dancing?
I was a gymnast for the first 12 or 13 years of my life. I did a few hours a week. You know, it was all tunnel vision gymnastics. I loved the floor apparatus. It was the only sort of apparatus that had a dance component. So it was always my favourite, so when I left gymnastics when I started high school, I was like, I can’t go from 32 hours or however many hours a week of training to absolutely nothing. And that's when I went into dance and this whole new world opened up to me and it was like, similar but more creative and inviting and they just spoke to my personality more, and I just wanted to go every day and it happened from there.
Who would you say were your formative musical inspirations, who were you listening to growing up?
Oh my gosh, I've had every phase under the sun. The two that stand out for me when I say like formatively, Kylie Minogue and Lady Gaga, because they're the two that I grew up dancing to and I didn't just listen to the beat. I listened to the lyrics and they were the artists that every time they come to Australia, I would not miss their show. They're a part of me. So they were a massive inspiration and when I listen to their music now, it takes me back to when I was 12 and doing that dance in that costume and oh we did this dance to On A Night Like This in this costume. That’s just been my life, those songs are tied to memories for me. Dance aside, I am really into Otis Redding and Jeff Buckley and more downtempo artists that my parents were listening to, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, like on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. It's just a very different it's like two sides of my personality, one that loves to sit in a room on my own and write lyrics, and one that likes to be on the stage and perform and be glam. So I guess my project has been a massive combination of those two sides of me. So I still listen very much to both and give credit to both for music that I'm making now.
What does the name Chase Zera mean by the way? I read that ‘zera’ is the Hebrew word for seed or beginnings?
That's actually beautiful. And I had no idea about that!
I've always liked the name Chase. It always feels like if I was to have an alter ego or something, it would be Chase. To me it’s a strong empowering name, like a double entendre of chasing something that you're going after as well. Zera - I wanted it to be CZ, and I was very sold on having two names – Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa. And Zera sort of just came to me. I thought of a few other things like Zephyr because I love The Zephyr Song by Red Hot Chili Peppers but let's assume a lot of people won't be able to spell that.
It's a boring story, it just came about by a lot of brainstorming and writing things on paper and seeing what looks good. I knew that when the right one hit, it would just come out at me and I wrote Chase Zera on a bus actually, backpacking in Europe, and I wrote it down on this eight hour bus ride and I remember seeing it and just being so excited. I I feel bad that I didn't know the Hebrew meaning behind.
You dropped Bring Me Down recently and it’s such a bold first track for 2020, and your second song Saving Bugs is out now too! What can you tell me about that one?
I went to BENEE like maybe a week or two before, and she was going ‘oh, this song’s about a spider that I found in my room’ and I was like, I have never written a song about something so literal that has just come to my eyes instead of my mind. So next song I write, I'm going to take that approach and turn it into a metaphor instead of like conjuring up a metaphor in my head.
So I was laying in my pool on a lilo and I saw these little bugs floating in the pool, like upside down. I was like scooping them out and just putting them back on the tiles, stopping them from drowning. And I was like, ‘This is what it's going to be. This is happening for a reason.’ I started writing an a capella melody in my head, the first part I came up with was the first verse – “so you got yourself into a situation…” It was funny because I kept running from the pool out to my phone to record little bits and my mum’s like, ‘I don't even ask anymore.’
I just knew that day that there was something special about it and I think because I tried something new and was really excited about that. Also when I sort of thought about what saving bugs from drowning in a pool can represent, it’s like ‘I’m here to help you get out of this situation but it's you can do this on your own, you don't need me,’ I turned it into this tough love metaphor with friends, or like when people you love are going through things where you're on the outskirts and you're like, ‘I can give you advice, but I believe in you and I know you’re your own person so you don't need me, you can do this.’ I loved that take on it, like saving bugs just turned into this really beautiful metaphor of helping people and watching them grow after going through something traumatic. I still have the original voice memos in my phone.
What does success look like for you? What’s gonna make you feel like you “made it”? Is it a dope house, getting recognised on the street or collabing with a hero of yours like Kylie?
I've had a lot of thought about it and I really can't define it as one thing because I'm not gonna lie, things like that like collabing with Kylie and going on a world tour supporting Dua Lipa, or having like, Purple Disco Machine or someone remix one of my songs, those would be huge milestones for me but as amazing as those things would be and will be if they happen, I have always thought that success to me is waking up every day and being happy with what I'm doing and know that I'm doing what is true to myself. So it's like, those things will be great if they happen but I want it to be because I've made music authentically the way that I want to, and in a way that like, really shows who I am. So I think success is if I can get through my whole career and do it in a way that is really myself and isn't cutting corners or pleasing others. Success to me is if I can have a career with fans and being able to play live shows and be myself the whole way through that experience.
Writing & bringing to life my new single ‘Saving Bugs’ kept my spirits high throughout lockdown. I felt so fortunate & grateful to have a creative outlet that I could escape to. To paraphrase my very inspiring Nanna, ‘focus on what you do have, not on what you don’t have’. I can’t waaaaait for you all to hear this one.