For most, 2020 was a year of calm and stillness as everything came to a standstill. For German-born singer-songwriter Zoe Wees, it was the year she became a breakout artist. At just 18-years-old, she wrote a hit in her first session with professional songwriters titled “Control” that beautifully voices her struggles with anxiety and epilepsy. Delivered with honey-smooth vocals that give you all the feels—like air mic lip-synching feels—it comes as no surprise that “Control” has amassed over 250 million streams globally. At such a young age, Wees has the ability to turn raw and vulnerable experiences into something beautiful that others, regardless of generation, can connect to.
Her sophomore single “Girls Like Us” is a vulnerable and raw exploration of the impossible beauty standards set for women. Wees puts her insecurities on display in a way that is relatable and empowering. The song’s immense success led to a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and a #GirlsLikeUs TikTok challenge with over 377.1 million views. She is killing it and with the release of her debut EP Golden Wings, she shows no signs of slowing down. Below, we catch up about her musical influences, the craziest moment of her career so far, and the advice she has for others struggling with anxiety.
Who were your musical influences growing up that inspired you to pursue a similar career path?
Definitely Jessie J. I listened to her song “Who You Are” when it came out a few years ago and it just changed my life immediately. I was in love with her and the way she wrote. Since that day it’s Jessie J.
How old were you when you started singing and writing?
I didn’t have a day when I realized I want to be a singer, or I want to write songs. I kind of grew into it. I have pictures [of] when I was three [years old] and I was playing the piano. I always loved music.
You started off posting cover videos online, do you have a favorite out of all the covers you’ve done?
[Looking back] I didn’t cover it the way I wanted, but “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi, he’s amazing.
Have you had any mentors throughout your career and how did they impact you?
I had a few people around me that really inspired me, especially [my] team. As we started, I saw how they were all working hard, and I pushed myself to work harder and harder every day. And I had a teacher that’s my manager now.
What do you hope your fans take away from your music?
I hope people see that with my music I want to help them and make them feel less lonely. I know all these struggles—that’s why I never write happy songs. Every time I’m sad and I listen to happy songs, it makes me feel even [sadder]. When I’m sad and I listen to sad songs it makes me feel good because I know I’m not alone and that’s what I want to do with my music. I want to make people feel okay. It’s alright to be sad, you have to fall down on your knees to get up again.
Is there a meaning behind the title of your debut EP Golden Wings?
My single “Hold Me Like You Used To,” that came out [on] the EP, I wanted to call it “Golden Wings” but as a team, we decided to call it “Hold Me Like You Used To” because it’s more relatable. I wanted to have the title somewhere and I thought the EP named “Golden Wings” is perfect. “Hold Me Like You Used To” is about my great grandmother [who] passed away. My mom once said [this], [and it’s] in the song, “mama always told me that the ones that leave, they look down on us with golden wings” and since that day, every time when I think of golden wings, I think of my great-grandma.
What is your relationship with social media like?
I try to keep my distance. When I’m working I love being on social media but if it’s a day off and I just want to chill, I’m never on social media. I feel like we all have to keep our distance because social media can be dangerous, but it’s [also] a very good way to connect with people and to show people what you’re doing.
What has been the craziest moment of your career so far?
Definitely, the “Control” release and the James Corden performance because that was my first time on U.S television. You see all the big artists there and then you see Zoe Wees from Germany, it’s just so crazy! I’m honored and I’m grateful.
Through your music you’ve been very open about your struggles with anxiety and epilepsy. What advice would you give to someone experiencing those same feelings right now?
I always wanted to give up but [if I did,] I wouldn’t be here anymore. It’s worth it to fight and I know it feels super worthless like nothing is going to get you out of it and you’re going to die from it, but you’re not because I’m here. I made it and we’re going to make it together. It’s just so important to see that you’re not alone. Always keep in mind to never give up and to always fight.
How would you describe your personal style?
I feel like it’s unique because I haven’t seen too many people walking around with green, pink, yellow, and red hair. I like to feel comfortable in what I’m wearing, it’s sometimes funny, and it’s kind of ugly [laughs]. People might think, oh that looks so ugly, but then they want to do it too—it’s inspirational.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Remember to be you, Zoe.” It’s so true, remember to always be you, never change for anyone else, and don’t compare yourself—that’s so important. Because if you do, you’re never enough. So just always compare yourself to your yesterday’s self to make things better today.