The last time we spoke to Aussie pop diva Zoë Badwi, her single ‘Freefallin’ had just entered the top 30 on the Australian singles chart. At that stage, she’d already tucked the mammoth No.1 club single ‘Release Me’ under her tiny belt and was on the verge of scoring her first top ten mainstream hit. A word she used consistently throughout that conversation was “excited” and said excitement was altogether infectious.
Cue our latest chat with the singer to promote her debut album. Us : “How are you?” Zoe : “I’m very excited!” You can see where this is heading.
“Well I think you knew what the answer was going to be there,” she giggles. “I can’t even contain it. I’ve had interviews all week – even ones on camera and I’m pretty much showing every tooth in my mouth with my smile. I’ve got my copy in my hands now. I got it last week. I was being interviewed on camera at the time and I just couldn’t keep my eyes off it.”
She goes on to tell the tale of said TV interview – in which she spied a finished copy of her debut album for the very first time.
“They gave it to one of the interviewers while I was sitting there,” she says. “Then they asked if I’d mind if they could pass it over to me and I said, ‘Mind!? Give it to me!!’. Don’t get me wrong, I set it all out, chose all the pictures and the layout, so I knew what it was going to be like. But it’s surreal. If you could put blood, sweat and tears into anything, it would be an album. And when it finally arrived in my hands…”
As mentioned, Zoë’s album comes off the back of a remarkable run of success. Club anthem, top ten hit, top 20 follow-up and a new single that’s been released in two guises – one for the clubs, one for radio. To top it all off, that top ten hit ‘Freefallin’ has now been released in 28 countries across the world.
It may have taken on a life of its own here in Australia, but Zoë reveals that it took a heck of a long time to get the campaign rolling.
“(It was) six months before it broke here and a lot of people didn’t give it a go. There was only one radio station – which was 2DayFM – who really believed in it and pushed it and from there, they really made everyone else catch on, so it’s all about radio play to get your songs broken. They thought the song was amazing and I wasn’t going to stop them.
“I thought it was a great song – I really did. That’s not even being biased, I just thought it was great,” she says.
A great song these days seldom comes with a video clip of equal greatness, but the promo for ‘Freefallin’ (below) was strong, stylish and most definitely sexy, filmed in what looked like a seedy Sydney rail network underground lair.
“Oh I love that video. I just think it’s beautiful,” Zoë enthuses. “We had high hopes when we were reading it on paper. We had no idea how it was going to all end up, because it seemed quite far-fetched. But it all came together so well.”
Zoë’s latest single ‘Carry Me Home’ is a cover version of a track released by German singer Sarah Connor. We decide to touch on the backlash from Sarah Connor fans about Zoë’s version after she was peppered with abuse in chat forums and on fan sites because of it.
“I got so much hate mail from Sarah Connor fans,” she admits. “It’s not like I ripped the girl off and stole her song – we’ve gone through all the right channels and she’s happy for it. It’s so funny how people think you’re out to cut peoples’ lunch. Not at all. This was very much a case of ‘I think your song’s brilliant, would you mind if I sang it?’ and she said ‘I’d love you to’. Then people started saying that it was a Sarah Connor song. I know. I DO know. She doesn’t hate me, but you can.
“We heard it in the back of a cab in America and I just loved it,” she says. “I don’t know, it took me to another place and I thought it was cool. I had ideas as to how I could do it. It was never the aim to do a cover, but I just loved the song and so did Grant Smillie. I just think it works for us. So we’re still plugging away at that still – it takes ages.
Zoë’s debut album was released into stores last Friday. Given the singer has experienced big hits on both the charts and in the clubs, we asked her how she went about choosing songs that would satisfy both a club and chart audience.
“I wasn’t conscious of it,” she admits. “I wasn’t really writing it for other people. I was just writing it for what I liked and what felt right to me. If I like the song, then I’m going to love performing it and I think that’s one of the most important things. So I think that’s how I went about the album. I didn’t really have a genre or a type in mind.”
The decision as to which tracks would make the final cut was even more difficult.
“Oh it was SO hard,” Zoë stresses, revealing that each of the songs holds special meaning to her in one way or another. “It really nearly tore my head in two, because I’m so close to the song because I’ve written most of them. So I had to stop listening to them, I went away, came back and then the songs seemed to sort themselves into the right spot. It was hard too because the backings of the songs kept changing. Sometimes I’d say I wanted the song on the album and then we’d do some final tweaks on it and I’d get it back and I wouldn’t like it anymore.”
While most of the tracks on the album are quite danceable, one of them strips all the dance beats, all the synthesizers away to reveal a raw, honest, tender ballad that deals lyrically with a love lost.
“It’s pretty raw for me. I sang that track at the album launches last week and it’s so personal,” Zoë says. “I guess you’re baring your soul when you sing songs like that, so you have to get out of party mode and into another.”
But we venture a little further in asking who the track’s about. She answers very sheepishly.
“It was just about…” She’s interrupted by us laughing at her sudden defensive tone.
“STOP IT!” she yells. “Well I guess it’s about old flames coming back into your life and trying to tell you the sorry sob stories. Too late, buddy – you’ve had your chance. Drop off!!”
The subject of a breakdown in relationships also inspired the album’s next single ‘Until You’re Over Me’, our second favourite track on the album (behind ‘Freefallin’). It also featured in Zoë’s set at her album launch events in Sydney and Melbourne last week.
So what’s next for lil’ Miss Badwi? Well there’s the small point of a national tour and another single, sure. But given that this album (above) is now in the bag, out and about for all to see (and hopefully buy), has she already started work on the follow-up?
“No way! It’s only just come out!”, she exclaims. “I’ll be touring extensively – and I’ve got promo every day, so I haven’t really had time to sleep, let alone think about another song. No, I tell a lie – I actually did write another song two weeks ago. There may be a moment in time where I think of something. The writing process for me comes together when it’s meant to without it being forced.”
Guess we’ll all have to wait a little longer for any more new ZB material, but in the meantime it’s most comforting to know that we have such a strong collection of pop/dance tunes (and one cheeky ballad) to love and call our own.
ZOË’S ALBUM ‘ZOË’ IS AVAILABLE PHYSICALLY AND DIGITALLY NOW.
HER LATEST SINGLE ‘CARRY ME HOME’ IS ALSO AVAILABLE DIGITALLY.
CATCH ZOË ON HER NATIONAL TOUR. CHECK HERE FOR TOUR DATES.