Artist: Zephaniah OHora
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Latest album: Listening to the Music
Personal nicknames (or rejected band names): Zeph
What was the first moment that you knew you wanted to be a musician?
I must have been 5 or 6 years old the first time I saw a Zildjian cymbal. A drummer named Ed Nicholas who played in the house band on Sundays at the church I grew up in preferred that brand. I was drawn to it because it had a big Z on it. I thought he was just the coolest. He always wore a pressed shirt tucked in and a nice pair of slacks. He had that hip easygoing, cool jazz drummer presence about him, and that’s when I decided that music was it.
What’s your favorite memory from being on stage?
One of the more recent memories on stage is when I performed at Neal Casal’s ‘There’s a Reward’ Memorial show at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, N.Y. It’s a stage that so many incredible bands and artists have performed on. Legendary shows that have gone down in history. And it’s a beautiful old theatre. So thinking about all those people who’d been on that stage and singing a tune to honor my friend Neal in front of a packed house was really something else.
What’s the toughest time you ever had writing a song? I’ve had a few tough times.
Some songs just can’t be written down fast enough. And other songs you labor over for weeks or months. In most recent memory is the song “All American Singer” off my new record. It was to me one of the most important songs I’ve written. There’s a couple ways to interpret that tune and it was important to me that it said what I felt needed to be said. Unlike a righteous Twitter post that you often see these days, it’s a recorded song. There’s no way to delete it or alter your ideas. It’s permanent. So it was important to make sure my thoughts were coherent within the song.
Which elements of nature do you spend the most time with and how do those impact your work?
I haven’t been spending a lot of time in nature. Sadly. I live in New York City so nature is scarce. However I am around an incredible amount of architectural history and beauty. There’s so much to see here, and so much you could walk right past and never pay any mind to. And then one day you finally stop to admire something you’ve passed by many times and realize there are so many stories within that building or space. I think that’s also simultaneously an analogy for life. I’m always trying to tap into some collective shared experience in my writing. I think architecture is a reflection or expression of human experiences and history so it directly shapes my work.
If you had to write a mission statement for your career, what would it be?
The mission I’m on is to create those moments in music live or recorded when you get chills or feel as though the narrator in the song is singing about your own life experience. It’s a lofty goal and one that’s pursued by many. That’s part of my greater goal of connecting with people and understanding my own unique experience in this life. And music is a great vehicle for that.
Photo credit: Jammi York