Holler Country Music

Interview: Zandi Holup Discusses Black Deer Festival 2024, Lana Del Rey and More

June 13, 2024 3:52 pm GMT

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When Big Loud announced their new signing, Zandi Holup, in September, it accentuated the label's commitment to exploring country's folkier and alt-leaning outer edges.

Following the world-dominating success of its more mainstream artists, Big Loud had the pick of the bunch - so the fact that they decided to recruit Zandi speaks volumes as to the potential she possesses, exemplified on her debut single, ‘Gas Station Flowers’.

With a signature rasp, a penchant for vulnerable, straight-talking introspection and a hazy, atmospheric ambience, Zandi Holup is in many ways the model 2024 songwriter.

Her ability to flit between folk, indie-pop and alt-country seamlessly, all while holding fast to her honest, eye-catching lyricism, has ensured the expectations are sky-high ahead of her forthcoming record. This weekend, Zandi will offer UK fans the opportunity to hear a sneak preview of some of her new material at Black Deer Festival.

The Pennsylvania singer-songwriter teases that attendees can look forward to hearing some lighter tones to balance out the sombre mood of ‘Gas Station Flowers’, “I’ve added more upbeat songs to my set, but don’t let the fact that you can now dance at my show deceive you. Most of them are still pretty dark. I’ve been on the road a lot this year with so many great artists, and their shows have inspired me while putting a band together. I’ve been playing solo acoustic for a while so it’s a whole new arena to be able to play with a band. I always hope to take whoever is listening at a show on a musical journey through the full emotional spectrum”.

Following a stellar set at C2C Festival 2024 in March, Zandi Holup is happy to be returning for her second performance across The Pond, “I love the UK! The crowds at the shows were extremely respectful and engaged. I felt very connected playing for everyone, and I am so excited to be coming back for Black Deer Festival”.

Following her run of festivals, it seems Zandi Holup will be heading back to the studio to put the finishing touches on her eagerly awaited album, with Zandi continuing to tease unreleased tracks such as ‘Cowgirls Don’t Cry’, ‘Get a Man’, ‘Blue Blood’ and ‘Mary Jane’, all of which have quickly blossomed into fan-favourites.

“I am currently in the studio working on my record”, Zandi confirms, “It will have quite a few songs on it! Several of the ones [I've teased] will be on there. I really appreciate people being patient with me. I am just trying to put my art into a form that feels true to me and that I think people who follow me and listen to my work will enjoy”.

A recurring theme throughout the demos and snippets Zandi Holup has been sharing is a refreshing willingness to delve into thorny themes surrounding mental health and sobriety.

As a result, Zandi's music acts as a powerful form of catharsis for listeners - and it seems it serves a similar purpose for the artist herself, “I began writing songs at 12 years old. I used songwriting as a form of emotional release. It was my way of letting my pain out as a young girl. My songs were like a diary and a way to work through trauma. I have always had an extremely visceral and brutally honest way of describing my emotions because it’s the way I know how to process them”.

Part of this artistic direction is being completely open with fans outside of her music as well as through her lyrics, with Zandi Holup taking to Instagram in February to reveal she's been sober for two years, after developing severe liver failure due to a toxic smoothie. She touched on how this unexpected turn of events ended up carrying a silver lining, and helped spark her decision to relinquish alcohol for good. It's this rawness that inspires many of her followers and listeners.

Zandi muses on this bond with her fans, “Sometimes I question if I overshare in my songs, but it’s the only way I know to write. Songwriting is healing for me, and through sharing my own journey, I have been able to connect with other people on their journey and be there for them in a way where they feel heard, and that is the most important thing to me as an artist - making people feel seen and heard”.

Due to the fact that Zandi Holup's primary focus is on being truthful and unwaveringly real with listeners, rather than attempting to fit her music into any kind of box, it gives her the freedom to experiment with the sound that envelops her striking lyrics.

Fans have drawn comparisons with other artists that are redrawing the boundaries between folk, Americana and country, such as Noah Kahan, Zach Bryan and Zandi's label-mate, Stephen Wilson Jr. - another Black Deer Festival performer.

Zandi reflects, “From the time I started writing, I just always wrote from my heart without thinking too much deeper into what genre that sound was. I think that music is becoming so genre-fluid. I grew up listening to folk music. My dad and aunt both write folk music, and that is where I picked up my finger picking style. Growing up I listened to country as well, but also bluegrass, outlaw country and traditional singer-songwriter records and honestly everything in between. My sound really is just a conglomeration of everything I enjoy listening to”.

Another genre-blender venturing into country is Lana Del Rey, an artist that shares Zandi Holup's appreciation for sincere and candid storytelling, as well as a proclivity towards misty, ethereal instrumentation that defies any attempts at categorisation.

Given these crossovers and Lana's foray into country, would a collaboration ever be on the cards? Zandi affirms, “Absolutely! I love Lana. I think people compare me to her because a lot of my songs are sad and so are hers. I tend to write more of my hurts instead of my triumphs. Some people may see that as weak, but I believe there is strength in vulnerability and Lana really inspires me in that way. If I can inspire just one person the same way she does me, then I believe I’m using my gift as God intended. Two Northern sad girls on a song would be my dream”.

Zandi regularly references how blessed she feels, and frequently speaks of her craft as a ‘gift’, with the prodigy citing her spirituality as an integral aspect of her journey so far, “My faith has absolutely been a huge muse for my writing and just who I am as a person. I would not have made it this far without faith. I think my record has many nods to my higher power that I sometimes don’t even mean to give, but it’s just the truth. When I begin to write, it just spills out of me. I want everyone to feel included and loved when listening to my music, so I try not to use language that would make anyone feel left out, because I respect everyone’s beliefs”.

Once again, Zandi Holup's dedication to authenticity radiates through her words, a quality fans are keenly anticipating getting to witness in-person at Black Deer Festival. And if getting to see Zandi once in Kent wasn't enough, the ‘Wait For You’ crooner is set to return to the UK next month in support of Morgan Wallen's momentous BST Hyde Park 2024 performance with Riley Green, ERNEST and more.

For more on Black Deer Festival 2024, see below:

Written by Maxim Mower
Content Sponsor
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