Wonderland.

BOILER ROOM × BALLANTINE’S TRUE MUSIC

Boiler Room x Ballantine’s True Music are bringing back live music with their global event series, In the Round.

Boiler Room x Ballantine's True Music In The Round: London Zilo

Vicky Grout/Boiler Room x Ballantine’s

Boiler Room x Ballantine's True Music In The Round: London Zilo
Vicky Grout/Boiler Room x Ballantine’s

Thus is the new normal for live-gigging, Boiler Room x Ballantine’s True Music makes it’s triumphant return for a series of (socially-distanced) events reuniting lovers of music both IRL and URL for In The Round.

Kicking off right here in London on the 14th of October last month, Banku music pioneer Mr Eazi and London-based singer-songwriter Zilo joined forces for the initiative’s first offering, which is set to see a variety of artists take to the stage and perform to their family, friends and fans for the first time since the pandemic began.

Reuniting us with fellow gig-goers on Zoom, or via the organisation’s tried and tested YouTube Livestream, In The Round’s intimate gigs are set to take place across the globe – everywhere from South Africa to Brazil and Spain, ultimately hoping to celebrate the global feeling of positivity and conviviality in the arts, and reconnect us all to the freshest sounds till the clubs stage a comeback.

After In The Round: London, we managed to catch up with the enchanting Zilo herself, picking her brain on sonic influences, her own dream lineup for Boiler Room x Ballantine’s True Music and the future of the music biz. Take a look…

Boiler Room x Ballantine's True Music In The Round: London Mr Eazi performance
Boiler Room x Ballantine's True Music In The Round: London Zilo Performance

Vicky Grout/Boiler Room x Ballantine’s

Boiler Room x Ballantine's True Music In The Round: London Mr Eazi performance
Vicky Grout/Boiler Room x Ballantine’s
Boiler Room x Ballantine's True Music In The Round: London Zilo Performance

Hey Zilo! How was lockdown for you – the first one?
It was cool, I am an introvert so I spend a lot of time inside anyway so I found out my normal way of being was quarantine, so the being inside part wasn’t really an issue for me. It’s been a process, It’s been a journey, I think it’s been like that for a lot of people, up and downs but I would definitely say the highlight or just the thing I noticed the most over this period of time, even more than usual being someone who’s pretty introspective anyway you really had no option but to self-reflect and spend a heck of a lot of time thinking.

What have you been up to over the past few months with your music and your art?
I created a bunch of stuff at the start before the whole COVID thing, and also during with a collective of my friends with Play Nice, we created a body of work in that time which was really awesome, but other that than I hadn’t really been creating much because I work when I’m in the mood to and I did so much at the start. I was just doing multiple things throughout the past couple of months I would say – in the last month a half I’ve been doing more music stuff, but other than that I’ve been making some jewellery, just like random stuff. I like to do multiple things.

How did you get your start in music?
I started off singing at school in a gospel choir which was cool. I love gospel music and the teacher at my school just threw a bunch of people into a choir, I didn’t really know I could sing it was just like ‘Everyone brown or black, get into a choir!’. All my friends were going so I was like okay cool! I started singing and knowing that I enjoyed doing that, and then I randomly went to a studio with one of my homies when I was 17 or 18 and just started working with a producer. I sort of fell into it. I’ve always been quite an expressive person through different creative mediums and I was more into writing and painting, stuff like that. Music was just another thing like ‘oh this is a cool way to express myself’ that I ended up really enjoying.

What was it like playing at Boiler Room x Ballantine’s True Music – In The Round?
It was the first and only performance I’ve done this whole year, which is cool! I was supposed to perform early in the year but it got cancelled obviously because of the whole covid thing – but to be fair I was honestly cool with the idea of not performing at all, mainly just because I really enjoy the creating aspect of music more so than that. I mean I enjoy performing if I get the opportunity to but my real passion lies in creating and bringing an idea to life, that’s what I enjoy. So yeah, with this performance it was cool that it came about with Boiler Room x Ballantine’s True Music, I was grateful to be a part of what could be the new way of how shows are going to be, as someone who really enjoys and embraces change and figuring out problem-solving, that’s another thing that I like. This event was testimony to that, an idea and a vibe, like cool this is what’s going on, how can we make it work still? So for that alone, I knew I would enjoy being a part of it, but it was cool. It was different, everybody was in a mask, everybody had to be separate. I think it’s going to encourage and inspire a lot of other types of events, it can still be done in a cool way that can connect with a bunch of people who actually get the privilege to be there but it can still translate to a wider audience.

How did it all come together?
Oh it was mad. My booking agent, shoutout to him, put me forward and it just went from there. “Why not? When is it? Yep, ok cool, I can do that!”. I’m really mood-led and emotion-led with everything I do creatively, and if it feels like something in my heart or intuitively I feel like I want to be a part of it I’ll do it, and if I don’t I won’t. This was one of these things where I was like for sure, especially because of the whole ethos and the whole message it was going to try to portray and convey to people as well. I like uplifting people and spreading a bit of love and positivity so I was just like ‘Oh I get to have a little chat as well? Oh ok then!’.

Boiler Room x Ballantine's True Music In The Round: London Zilo Pose
Boiler Room x Ballantine's True Music In The Round: London Mr Eazi

Vicky Grout/Boiler Room x Ballantine’s

Boiler Room x Ballantine's True Music In The Round: London Zilo Pose
Vicky Grout/Boiler Room x Ballantine’s
Boiler Room x Ballantine's True Music In The Round: London Mr Eazi

Who would you say your influences are?
I take influence from a lot of different things, experiences. I just tell stories to be fair, so I think that literally anything I create is bound to be a cocktail of a bunch of influences, I can’t necessarily pinpoint a specific person, I just take in a lot from being observant and I speak and tell stories and see what comes out.

In terms of art and artists that I like tend to be ones that use colour in a really interesting way so I really like Patrick Heron, he’s really cool and a Director I really like is Tim Burton, he’s really cool, really wacky. I just like people who express themselves in ways that are a little bit unconventional because I find that interesting. In terms of music, all different, just any sound that moves me. I like the whole ’90s/’00s sort of era, but my family listens to garage, reggae, all sorts.

If you could curate your own Boiler Room x Ballantine’s True Music event, who would you put on?
That’s a good question. Like anyone? I’m going to do a shameless plug for the homies and I would probably say if I could put one together for Play Nice, that would be really awesome. Just bringing everybody together and showing what we do, having a jam. Or I don’t know, just have one big jam session with people I think are cool, just me and my friends and anyone who wanted to join. We could have a thing where people just come in and share what they want to do but yeah I’d say my friends first.

No Beyoncé then?
I mean, okay, if I was going to do one like that, I’d say Frank Ocean, that could be cool. Frank Ocean Boiler Room set. I’m just going to say him and leave it at that. I feel like that would be a really cool vibe, he’s quite incognito as well and he could do something really cool…

What are your thoughts on the live streaming ‘new normal’ of music? Do you think it’s sustainable, do you want it to be sustainable as an artist?
Stuff like this works quite well for me because I’m quite happy to do stuff somewhat remotely – and with less people, its what I personally enjoy. I think the Internet is such a widely used thing and such an amazing way to connect with people that having things live streamed is even more of an opportunity for more people to be a part of it. The people who joined the Zoom call for this event came from all around the world and with certain artists and certain performers, people might want to go and visit them but they might never do a show in their city, they might not tour, so I think this actually gives more people the opportunity to come, which is awesome.

But I also understand actually having a show where loads of people come, especially with huge, mainstream artists, touring is the heart and soul of what a lot of artists need financially, and also because that’s the main part of what they enjoy – so I don’t know if they would have the same opinion. It might not be the best thing for certain types of artists but for artists like myself, I’m just trying to connect with people and that can be done in the flesh online. I’m definitely interested to see how it progresses because it’s very current and just the way things are going. A lot of things are happening over the internet, we’re having a meeting, it’s great, I don’t need to get on a train and meet you for twenty minutes. People can do things in the comfort of their own home and the connection is still there and that’s the main part of what music or any kind of creation is for me.

What do you hope the next year will bring?
I hope next year will bring more blessings. I hope people will understand or learn how much they can do for themselves, I hope people start to see the importance of coming together and making connections and living their truth and their best life and that change is good. Just got to embrace it and keep it moving so I hope that next year brings more blessings and more lessons.

You can watch Zilo’s Boiler Room x Ballantine’s True Music presents In The Round: London performance below…

To find out more about Boiler Room x Ballantine’s True Music presents In the Round, head to truemusic.boilerroom.tv

BOILER ROOM × BALLANTINE’S TRUE MUSIC

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