Interview: Zie Zie On Growing From Nothing to Something
From quitting a carpentry course and spending his days recording tracks on his phone to boasting over 1.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify, rapper and songwriter Zie Zie knows what it means to grow from nothing to something.
His love for the fans and dedication to creating music for them and not his critics has led to chart-topping hits such as Low Life, Sensei and Fine Girl and multiple collaborations with Aitch, S1mba and King Critical.
The rapper attributes his success to his hard work and refreshing carefree attitude. Although everyone is entitled to an opinion on his work, Zie Zie doesn't allow negative comments to break him down as an artist, a mean feat in the world of 24/7 social media.
We caught up with Zie Zie on the set of our latest Hoodrich campaign to discuss his success, goals and why failure doesn't scare him.
When you were a young kid what were your dreams?
When I was a young kid my dreams at first I wanted to be an actor because I was really into a lot of movies so my thing from year five to six I was really ambitious about being an actor.
Have you ever done any acting? Been to acting school?
The only acting I’ve done was just in GCSE Drama which I got an A* in. When I went to college I was thinking of a more permanent job to actually make money so I didn’t really pursue my dreams in drama at college. I studied carpentry so I didn’t get to star in any skits or movies.
What did your teachers tell you to do as a career at school and what would you say to your success now?
My teachers used to tell me I’d be a bin man in the school. I was quite a naughty kid I used to irritate my teachers a lot. I feel like the way my teachers used to talk to me and how I used to communicate with them has made me who I am today because even though there was a lot of teachers who put you down and say you won’t be that great it just motivates you to be someone and now I’ve actually become someone I never thought I would it's just a good feeling.
Because of where you are now, what would you say to the teachers?
I wouldn’t gloat but I’d just be like ‘I told you so’. I knew that I was going to be successful in some aspect and now I am I’d be like I told you so.
Describe a normal week in your life three years ago.
Three years ago I recorded a song called Low Life because It was just a thing where I wasn’t doing much I was in the block with my friends not doing anything just talking to girls, that was my life, talking to girls on a regular basis. I wasn’t even thinking about a job because I was happy with my life and I wasn’t too grown and as I got older that’s when I started thinking about jobs. But three years ago chilling at home, chilling with my friends talking to girls on a day to day basis that was my normal week.
What’s it like now?
Hectic, I’ve got two managers so they’re always at the back of my ears and there’s a lot I've got to do. There’s no more me being able to chill because there’s always something that I have to do or got to get done. Like recording, I record every day I wouldn’t use to do that I used to record on voice notes with beats in the background just to listen to myself. But now because I’ve got a nice set up at home I just record every day. Press shots, interviews so yeah it’s a big difference.
Is it a tough industry to succeed in and why have you been successful?
I feel like its only a tough industry to succeed in if you overthink it. If just have fun with it as you do at the beginning and as long as you’re still having fun and your fans are liking the music you’re putting out you’ll always keep yourself motivated. If you let little stuff like comments or views get to you that’s when it starts breaking you down as an artist so you’ve always got to keep your guard up and always stay positive.
I think I’ve become successful because I’ve got that I don’t care attitude, in a sense of everyone’s entitled to their opinion but it's not a thing where I have to take it on board. If I want to do something and it feels like it makes sense I will do it and I think its that mindset that’s got me to where I am.
What was the moment you thought ‘I could do this as a career’?
The moment where I thought I could do this as a career was when I had my first ever show. I put out this tune end of 2016 called Shawty and I just wanted to see the reaction and then as the year went by I was thinking I think it’s about time I perform. The song, that was my first song, it did like 100k in two weeks and that was really good for my first ever tune. I was really nervous about asking people what booking fee I could charge so that was a moment where I didn’t really know how to come about it and I went about it well and it went quite good.
Is that the moment where you realised you needed management and people around you to help market you right?
In the beginning, it was just me by myself and my manager who is still my manager now so at that point when they accepted the offer we gave them I was like okay, people are willing to pay that for one song then I’ve definitely got a future in this.
Compared to when you started in music to now how have your goals changed?
I feel like my goals have changed as in the beginning I didn’t really take it as seriously as I do now. So when I first started it was put music out and if I get a good reaction I’d put more out. I wasn’t even thinking about shows and all of that stuff but as it went on I started taking it more seriously. So my goals changed in the sense of I really want to be a global artist. I want to have fans in all different parts of the country and be someone to inspire people to be able to achieve their dreams.
How did your environment growing up affect your sound?
Because I’ve always had that I don’t care attitude I grew up in South London, I used to live in Surrey so it was two different types of places but even though I moved to South I never really changed my personality. From South, there’s a lot of drill music going on but I’ve always been into pop music, even when I was younger I used to listen to Justin Bieber and The Script all those different types of people, I think that even though I was from somewhere my mind was in a whole different space when it came to music. I don’t feel like my environment sculptured my music it was more of a thing where what was in my head and what I was watching and listening to.
Has the environment you're around now affected anything to do with your sound?
The only environment that’s changed or affected my music is my lifestyle. The lifestyle I’ve got now compared to back in the day has definitely had some influence on my music. If you could start again from day one what would you change, if anything? I think I would change and tell myself to take it more seriously at the beginning rather than later on. I was very naïve to certain things you needed to know about the business which I know now. I would definitely tell myself to be more serious from the beginning.
Outside of music whose journey do you relate to?
My mother. She’s a strong woman and she’s been through a lot. Me growing up with her and seeing what she's been through has sculpted in my head that I need to be the same, in the sense of not letting things get to me, always doing what I want to do and staying positive and motivated.
How has seeing your friends and people around you succeed or fail shaped your own mindset?
It’s changed my mindset in the sense of you can only help to a certain extent and you giving off a lot of time and effort to help your friends, or if they fail and you’re there for them its hit and miss. You can tell someone to do something but at the end of the day the choices that they make are their own and everyone's got to make mistakes to understand how to do something good. When it comes to them making mistakes I would let them know not to do it again and learn from it but if they do it again that’s on them you can’t keep telling people how to live their life if they don’t want to fix their life themselves.
Are there any mistakes you’ve made that you’ve really learnt from?
Yeah, there’s loads of mistakes because with me I think before I speak and think before I do but I’m usually more of a spontaneous guy when it comes to actually doing stuff so I’d rather go through mistakes to learn from them, there’s nothing wrong with trying things.
Are you afraid of failure?
I’m not afraid of failure because the way I’ve programmed my brain is to think of the worst before good things because regardless if something bad was to happen you wouldn’t know what to do because you might not be expecting it. So, I always expect the worst and hope for the best. I don’t think about failure because if you want to do something you’ve got to remove all the stops and make sure you accomplish it and if you were to fail you know how to deal with it.
What does the phrase From Nothing to Something mean to you?
If you know what it's like to have nothing, then you’d appreciate having something. When you’re coming from nothing everything that you gain or all the greatness’s that come into your life later on which is something you’ve always got to appreciate.
Would you rather be overpaid or underrated?
I’d rather be overpaid because with me, even though I’m in the industry, I wouldn’t say I’m as professional as everyone else as when I got into music it was more of a business aspect of things because I’m talented and I’ve actually gained fans from what I do it’s like a balance because being famous is quite stressful because you don’t have much privacy. As an artist, I’m already quite underrated but I like my privacy whereas some artists might go outside with their Mrs or family and they might get stopped by fans and sometimes it might be a bit too overwhelming when you just want a nice relaxing day so I'd say I'd rather be overpaid than underrated.
How far have you got left to go?
However far I can take this is however far I will go. Whether it's another ten years twenty years you can't really tell the future you’ve got to go with the flow.