Quick Q and A with Zöe Lewis

Zöe Lewis is one of the most unique musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness in concert.  She’s full of life and conveys her love of music and, more importantly, she exudes her love of life from the stage.  It’s impossible not to love her back.  I dare you!  Zöe is a most talented multi-instrumentalist and creative songwriter and makes fans wherever she plays!

To learn more about Zoe Lewis, visit her website.

Check out this video to get a taste of Zoe’s music.

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 I absolutely love the description of you as “a band in a body” that is included in your bio. You’ve been involved with music since you were a child.  Can you imagine what your life would be like if you did not have music in your life?

I would have a huge missing piece if I didn’t have music. I’ve always played music. Since I was little I was picking up things to play and writing songs.  I simply had to!  I used to take a picture of a keyboard on holiday with me and play fake keys because I would miss my piano so much. When I was older and traveled the world I started playing all sorts of portable instruments. I was in Africa and Latin America and there the people make music with anything they can get their hands on. I love this! If you have a gourd from a tree, some beans or and old piece of tin you can make music. Now I play over 20 instruments and keep collecting more.

You’ve been called “Part Huck Finn, Part Julie Andrews.”  So what attributes of each of these characters would you say inspired this description of you?

I love both of these characters. I grew up with Julie Andrews films with her crisp voice and cheery outlook on life. She’s also quintessentially English.  Maybe a little of her seeped in, throw in Huck Finn’s sense of adventure, add a little of Fred Astaire’s romance, some Noel Coward, a growl or two from Tom Waits and Louis Armstrong, some gypsy swing from Django Reinhardt, some words from Paul Simon and you’ve got me.

I’m fascinated by the fact that you were a Hammond organ, piano and synthesize for a Latin jazz band in London.  What was that like?

In my first “proper” band I was hired as the keyboard player. This was great for me and got me much stronger on accompanying singers and taught me how a pop song was built. Latin grooves were hitting London at that time and we were trying our best to play them. I was blown away by the great rhythms I was learning. It was so different to anything I’d played before. I loved it!

I’ve also got to ask about playing with an elephant orchestra in Thailand.  That’s not something that you hear about every day.  What in goodness sake is an elephant orchestra?  And how did that come about?

I love stories and when I hear a great one I head towards it. I try to follow my dreams as much as possible. A cellist friend told me about the elephant orchestra of North Thailand. I wanted to see it for myself so I jumped on a plane and suddenly I was jamming with 8 elephants on my ukulele as they played marimbas and gongs and even harmonicas! Most wonderful!

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You’ve been known to do a workshop called “Music in Our Pockets” which teaches people to hear music made by all kinds of things—including ordinary items found in your pocket like spare change, keys, etc.  How is this received and can you describe the kind of music that was produced by your workshop participants?

I believe music can change the world and it does all of the time. I love to encourage people to play music. So many people think they are not good enough but when they try, they have a fabulous time and it works! As I mentioned before, you can make music out of all sorts of non-traditional items. That’s what I try to show in my workshop. You can even make music from the percussion instruments you find in your pocket: your keys, coins or on your body. When I traveled the globe people would grab anything that was handy and jam with me. All it takes is the desire to do so. I’m very happy there’s a ukulele craze right now. I’ve been playing the uke for years and now people are discovering it and can’t put it down and strum with friends and learn tons of songs and forget about sitting at the computer for a moment!

Tell us about your new musical called Across the Pond. How did that come about and what’s it all about?

I’m very proud of this piece. It’s my second musical and now I’m bitten by the bug! Coming from England and having lived in Provincetown for the last 20 years, I often think about the meaning of “home.” I have traveled to so many places that I quite often feel at home wherever I land but then I have a strong pull to my roots too and a new anchor on the tip of Cape Cod. I guess this is common for expats but the more I chat with people they all have fascinating stories of what “home” means to them. This musical is set on a plane half way between Heathrow and JFK and a delightful array of passengers contemplate these questions high in the clouds. I have an amazing cast and Donna Drake, from the original cast of A CHORUS LINE, is coming from Broadway to direct. It opens on May 30th in Provincetown.(www.provincetowntheater.org)

You’ve definitely got a cabaret vaudevillian side to you.  Have you always been a student of music that was popular way before you were born?  Do you feel that it’s important to expose people to this kind of music lest they forget or lest they have never heard it in the first place?

My ears go to music that moves me and I just swoon to all of the old 1920s and 30s tunes. They lend very well to the piano and I adore the sentiments, beautiful melodies and simplicity of the songs. We’ve been doing a show called ZOE LEWIS AND THE BOOTLEGGERS, a night of prohibition era jazz, and everyone dresses accordingly. I like to mix theater with music. It makes for a more entertaining show and I’ve been doing this more lately. I’ve been exposed to lots of cabaret in Provincetown and I’m sure it’s seeped in and I adore the old carnivals and circus times, working show men and vaudevillians and I like to embrace this in my show. It’s the “job” of being an entertainer. This is my profession, my bread and butter and I go around making people tap their feet and smile, tell a few stories and help them forget about their troubles for a moment.

Zoe will be playing at the me&thee in Marblehead, MA on May 10.

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