Keeping it real with Madame Z
So… ‘Madame Z’. For the cultured, art-loving historians amongst us, the name is likely to direct your thoughts to ‘Jacqueline Roque’, Pablo Picasso’s second wife and the most featured female in all his works. Picasso referred to Roque as ‘Madame Z‘ after her house, “Le Ziquet” (the little goat).
Or perhaps for readers well versed in theology, cultism, or the study of mysticism, the name might call to mind Mabel Skottowe, (mistress of English mystic and cult leader a, Edward Arthur Wilson, aka Brother XII) who, under the name ‘Madame Z’, worked Aquarian Foundation cult members without respite, to test their spiritual fitness.
Aside from an Irish Show Horse, there’s only one other notable mention bearing this moniker. She describes herself as “a creative spirit, floating through this rare experience we call life”, and seeks to share her gifts and story through her music, spreading love, light, and inspiration.
She’s a musician, lyricist, poet, prolific songwriter, and huge supporter of other musicians, regularly promoting artists she’s discovered along the way. She’s widely respected by her peers, sufficiently so to have had her very own imposter account on social platforms (that’s when you know you’re on to something, surely!). It’s our pleasure to introduce ‘the real’ Madame Z. Let’s get into it…
“Being an independent artist isn’t easy but staying true to who you are and never giving up on yourself is what truly matters. People will always remember how you made them feel, especially when you’re filling them with hope, light, and love…”Madame Z
Welcome Z!! Let’s clear up the name first of all, shall we, (and to get it right, on BandLab and social platforms you’re ‘@therealmadamez’…we don’t accept fakes). I’m assuming you’re not naming yourself after a twenty-year-old Irish mare… is there a reference to Roque and Skottowe?? How did you manage to get all the way through the alphabet before deciding on ‘Madame Z’?
Sooo, haha!! That’s really funny, and I’ve heard a little about both (Roque and Skottowe) from people who have asked me in the past. It’s actually totally unrelated. My last name starts with a Z. Actually, the first half is “Zip” so I got called Zippy a lot growing up (and a lot of other weird stuff). But I’m small (ok, 5’5”) but was always small as a kid and I ran track/cross country/ROTC. I was always moving! Anyway, I started my own custom/sculpted cake business during grad school because my kids were little, and it was better than the waiting tables and bartending that I was doing at that time. I had control over my hours and money, an entrepreneur. A childhood friend of mine told me I should call it “Madame Zippy’s.” So, I did. I don’t do cakes in that level anymore, or rarely… usually for my kids. Grad school took me into the corporate world, but when I started building music as an independent artist, only a few years ago, I thought “Madame Zippy” was just too silly so I cut the “ippy”. Just Z now. Someone was calling me Zelda for the longest lol. Probably not the answer most people expect?
Well, it’s genuinely been a question I’ve wanted to ask you for a while, to be honest. Now, you suggest that you’ve only been “building music as an independent artist“ for the past few years. What was the driving force behind that decision, and where does your interest in music stem from?
Music has always been a part of my life and somewhere, even at a young age, that I could run to where I could freely express the deepest parts of myself with no judgmental interjection. I was raised in a very religious household, and I’ve always been a ‘black sheep’, asking questions that shouldn’t be asked, pushing the limits. For my entire life people have been trying to fit me into a box that worked for them, one that “made sense”, and you just can’t fit a round peg into a square hole (believe me, they’ve tried!). That being said, my dad was a drummer, a total hippy in a former life so I’m definitely his daughter, and he played a bit of guitar so growing up I would actively see him play in bands or write and sing songs on the guitar.
That comment about people trying to fit you into a box that worked for them, and trying to fit a round peg into a square hole is interesting given your music, songwriting, and the songs you cover are particularly varied in style and genre. Can you recall the type of music you were raised on as a child, and to what extent has that influenced you?
We had an old record player that my parents would often play old records on. A lot of Amy Grant! But my dad had his Zeppelin albums safely stored away so there was a mix of influence over the years – remember, this was all pre-internet. CDs weren’t even on the table yet. My mom was always a lover of music, but especially musicals. I could probably still quote all the lines for “The Sound of Music” and “Fiddler on the Roof”! So, expressing myself through song and rhyme has always come naturally to me.
I’m not really anti-any kind of music, I had my rocker and metal years in the mosh pit getting body jewelry kicked out of my face (I was a rager!) and hip-hop and R&B have always been one of my true loves. I had my hardcore rave days (many stories there for another time…) which is what brought about my love for electronic/EDM music and many fusions from there. I love opera, folk music, jazz, the blues, many different types of “world music”. Ethnomusicology was probably the best college class I ever took and literally changed my life forever. It opened my eyes to so many different types of music and various approaches to different music. I’ve heard people comment that I’m a “total rocker” or my ethereal tone is “where it’s at” but I honestly think I connect with many, many genres/subgenres of music and they all influence my own evolution as an artist and will continue to do so for the rest of my life (at least I certainly hope they do!).
Really eclectic tastes then! And, it sounds like singing and writing aren’t things you’ve only been doing for the past couple of years. Can you tell us a little bit about that ‘evolution’ as an artist, and how you’ve developed as a vocalist and songwriter over the years?
To be completely honest, I was never super confident with my singing abilities at a young age, even though I’ve always loved to do it. And I love performing. It awakens this fire of emotion inside of me like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. During middle school I briefly sang with a quartet, a group of girlfriends I knew from my church’s youth group (and actually took vocal lessons from one of their mothers for a short time!) but I received a lot of criticism from the other girls and never felt like I was doing anything right- it was discouraging. This singing ensemble was rather short-lived as all the joy I had for singing quickly evaporated.
I’ve always been a writer, a true lover of literature and poetry, publishing my first poem in an anthology when I was 15. I also started acting in theatre as a pre-teen (community theatre mostly) which progressed into my theatre program in high school and before I knew it, I was rolling through various plays, musicals, and national theatre/debate competitions. I looked into going into theatre in college since theatre was literally my life at that point… no joke, my first tattoo, when I turned 18, was of theatre mask skulls. I was that level theatre geek, but the majority of students involved in the university program were extremely unwelcoming and I quickly went back to feeling like the black sheep again.
Unwelcoming, or intimidated? You give off such a confident vibe… how did you deal with those challenges; unwelcomed by those students, and feeling like the black sheep again?
I switched my major pretty quickly. The guy I was living with at the time was a big metal head/musician and heavy into the music scene. I went to high school just outside of Nashville, Tennessee so there certainly wasn’t a shortage of venues or shows and it was pretty easy to fall into something music-related on a weekly basis. I found myself playing with a few different bands (jazz, metal, I’m really a lover of all music!) but looking back I realize how much I was still just a scared little turtle, hiding in my shell during those years. I’ve only recently come into a place where I feel really confident (most days…?) in who I really am as my true self, as a musician, and in many other aspects of my life…and if anyone has a problem with it…well, I simply have zero fucks left to give. Take me or leave me, but I refuse to change who I am for anyone.
We’ll take you!! I’m a firm believer in not having to change who you are for people, they either accept you, or they don’t. Thanks for being so open about your struggles Z, and it seems like now’s a good time to ask what advice might you give to other artists, musicians, and songwriters reading this?
Being an independent artist isn’t easy but staying true to who you are and never giving up on yourself is what truly matters. People will always remember how you made them feel, especially when you’re filling them with hope, light, and love… and I think that’s really what ‘musicianship’ is all about. Community. Being part of the greater whole. Leaving the world (hopefully) a better place than we came into it. We all must start somewhere, and most of my music sounds terrifying in the beginning! Over time you’ll improve, you’ll evolve, you’ll be inspired by various life events and experiences. If it’s what you love to do, you’ll make the time. But don’t ever give up on yourself or your art. It’s what makes you ‘YOU’. Write about what you know. Write about the beauty around you. Or the misery. Or the joy. I’ve written songs from simply sitting in nature (including my upcoming single!) – it’s really about experience and finding inspirations in the day-to-day, especially in places where many people often overlook it. I think there is always something you can pull inspiration from.
About writing… tell us about your process, and what motivates you to write.
I get asked a lot about how I approach songwriting. The truth is, I’m a walking musical. Life is literally a constant song in my head and I’m forever recording half-broken lyrics on my phone. I have dozens of half-finished a cappellas sitting around in various stages. That’s how most of my songs start out. I write all my own lyrics, except for occasional covers. Most of it sounds like screeching cats in the beginning as I play with melodies and the lyrics. It’s like molding a sculpture over time or painting the Sistine Chapel- only in the end can you really stand back and say “Wow! Look at this beautiful masterpiece I’ve created!”– even if it may have taken years to come to fruition.
It’s really what I’m feeling and the words just kind of find a way. It’s how my brain works (probably all those musicals from an early age finally paying off…!). When I’m writing to an instrumental, I approach it very much the same way; ‘How does it make me feel? How did the other musician(s) feel when they were composing it?’ If I don’t vibe with something, I won’t write to it. Again, music is subjective, it’s not anything personal to the other artist(s), it’s just the way I roll. I can’t force anything- everything comes from how I’m feeling in that moment, or from some other moment in time that I can pull from.
In terms of what motivates me… Everything. Experience, curiosity, Mother Nature, and the everyday beauty that surrounds me. My family, happiness, sadness, heartache, love. LIFE! Music is my therapy. It’s where I can 100% be my authentic self and I don’t have to play by anybody else’s rules.
We’ve talked already about your diverse musical influences and how you’ve evolved as an artist… but if I were to ask you the impossible question; describe ‘your’ style of music, the stuff you typically lean towards when writing… what would you say?
That’s tough. Every song I write, create, even covers – are different. I pour in my heart and soul, sometimes that’s dark and more on the grungy or metal side. Sometimes it’s ethereal and almost operatic. Sometimes it’s R&B and hip-hop influenced, other times I’m leaning heavily into EDM. A lot of my songs do have a heavy rock influence. I love music because it’s personal, extremely subjective, and you have the ability to put endless ideas and thoughts into song and melody. Music is universal, it heals, it defines cultures and generations. A song is like a thought or feeling of a specific moment, forever frozen in time. If you listen to my debut album, Down The Rabbit Hole, you’ll find it’s really an amalgamation of so many genres and life experiences. I think if my music can make the listener feel something and they’re able to share in that connection if it touches them in any way…I think I’ve succeeded as an artist and creative talent.
Stripping music out of the equation for a moment, you’ve previously mentioned having ‘a busy schedule’ in some of your videos and seem to have a wide range of interests. When you’re not making music… what other things do you typically fill your time with?
Aside from my “music life”, I’m also a mom, a corporate businesswoman, an amateur chef, and at one point in a prior life, a professional baker. I have a master’s degree in a geographical field, but my educational background is mainly in cultural geography and anthropology, which I am eternally grateful for because it has helped to completely transform the way I see people and ultimately view the world. It has allowed me to travel (the country and internationally) and have experiences that I may otherwise never have been fortunate enough to. I come from very humble beginnings and traveling/seeing the world was a luxury I only dreamt about through National Geographic magazines as a child. It has given me added humility, a deep respect for other cultures, languages, and diversity as well as added empathy (although I do admit I’ve always been a highly sensitive empath anyway!). I’m also a total yogi- it completely centers me. I live to skate (rollerblade), it’s the closest I come to flying….as long as I don’t burn out! It’s hard for me to sit still for very long (we’re talking even the length of a movie) so I’m always moving and I have an insatiable appetite for life!
Ok, now onto some music… we’ve talked a lot about it, so let’s hear some! You mentioned you released a new track recently. Let’s have a listen and maybe you can tell us about it
All That She Wants is my newest single release (August 31st) and is a rock/electronic cover of the song Ace of Base made famous in the early 90s. This cover developed on BandLab (a song I’ve always wanted to do) and I had SO MUCH FUN with this one! I don’t do a lot of covers but this one was calling my name. It’s really such a fun, upbeat song! This was a collaboration with Turbomaus and Mauro S. They really brought this one to life more than I could have ever imagined.
Now, I am someone with incredibly poor memory, though I remember places I’ve been by the meals that I’ve eaten there (weirdly), and music also pulls in memories in the same way… I remember first listening to the original by Ace Of Base whilst sitting in a friend’s car on the way to a house party… this is an absolutely fantastic and fierce cover… thanks for triggering those memories!!
You also referenced ‘Down The Rabbit Hole’ earlier. Let’s spin that, and again, if you can give a bit of context?
Down The Rabbit Hole was my debut album that was released during 2020, despite my uncertain feelings with it being in the middle of COVID! I thought about delaying the release, but we had built up to it for so long and my thoughts were “well, everyone still needs music…and more now than ever!”, as emotions were all over the place at that time. I was really bummed; all shows and promotional events leading up to its release were cancelled, but it is what it is. I’ve come to expect the unexpected, that’s part of life. The album was created through BandLab, with a handful of musicians contributing, although The M Project and Steve Keith were really the creative masterminds behind the music and production you’ll find throughout the album. I am forever in their debt and owe them my full gratitude for being part of such an enormous project. I hope all of you will take a journey Down The Rabbit Hole with me. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback!
We can’t let you go without the ready-fire round… likes and dislikes. Fingers on buzzers, starting with things that get under your skin… Go!
Bigotry. Racism. Narcissism. Roasted red peppers. Backtalk from my kids. Intolerance. Men making decisions on what women can or cannot do with their bodies. Pumpkin pie… pumpkin (spice) anything. Bayer Pharmaceuticals. Sadness and depression. The dentist. Being pregnant. Tornadoes. Candy corn. Patriarchy. The number of missing and murdered women and children are overlooked in the United States and Canada, particularly those of indigenous descent (MMIW). Human trafficking. Orange candies. Terrorism. Segregation. Missing White Woman Syndrome. Hypocrisy. Laziness. Pride. Homophobia. Taking down other people to get what you want. Inequality. People who leave grocery carts in the middle of the parking lot. Lack of morals. Heart of palm. Chocolate mousse. Disappointment. Unreliability. Being bipolar. Abuse. The destruction of the oceans. Offshore drilling. Serial killers. Fake people. Trauma. Selfishness. Arrogance. Genocide. Extinction (especially that we as humans have/continue to cause). Global warming and pollution. War. Nazis. Stereotypes. Migraines. Self-Righteousness.
Wow, that’s a great (big) list!! Let’s finish on a high, same deal. Hammer out some things that you find uplifting.
Cake. Ice cream. Frogs. Camping and nature. Rollerblading and Lilacs. Long drives through the countryside or mountains, kindness, humor, the sounds of my children laughing (ha… most of the time), being a mom, being a musician, the beach, kayaking, scuba diving, summer thunderstorms, fireflies, yoga, hiking, traveling and sunshine. My cats. Geography, cooking, equality. TACOS. Linguistics. Sunsets. Nudity. Acceptance, love, and openness. Waterfalls. MUSIC (to state the obvious…). Constructive criticism. Intelligent conversations. Watermelon. Gardening. Lemon dessert anything. Creativity. Halloween. Delicious food. Tattoos. The universe. Planet Earth. A good book. Bowling. Happiness. Dendrology. A smile on a shit day. Chess. Compassion. Baking. Small acts of kindness. Ghost stories around the campfire. A good challenge. BandLab. Oxygen. Freedom. Rainbows. The gift of life. Loyalty. Being a woman. Good health. Art. Our current ability to so readily access and create music on a global scale. Civil rights. Shooting stars. Romance. Comedies. Authenticity. Seafood. Friendships. Christmas lights. Employment. Having a roof over my head. Puzzles. Learning about different cultures and civilizations.
Excellent! It’s been great getting to know more about you and your background. We really appreciate you taking the time Z, and looking forward to what’s coming next. Also, we want to thank you for the work you do in promoting other artists on your ‘Song of the Week’ YouTube videos. It’s great that people show that kind of support for each other!
Our readers can find Madame Z via the Linktree social link here, and please do feel free to comment below.