At just 18 years old, German singer-songwriter Zoe Wees is creating a global imprint with her powerful vocal range and soulful nature. Making her debut in March 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with her standout single “Control,” Wees uncomplicated the dialogue surrounding mental health battles as well as highlighted her own deeply personal struggles she faced with epilepsy as a child and the scars that experience has left her with.
Nearly a year after her debut single, Wees continued to rightfully cement herself into the mainstream atmosphere with her equally empowering yet emotionally raw sophomore release “Girls Like Us.” Showcasing the vulnerability young women face on a daily basis encompassing their emotions and personal appearance, “Girls Like Us” serves as a solidarity trope for women in every corner of the world standing united in the fight against societal standards and limitations, strongly in place due to the negative effects and unrealistic lifestyle promotion across social media platforms.
Now, with the upcoming release of Wees’ debut EP, Golden Wings, slated to drop May 21 via Capitol Records, the emerging artist is relaying her personal narrative to create a relatable, inspiring and safe space for her fanbase. Despite never having played a live show, the five-track EP offers a rose-colored insight into Wees’ world, her struggles and the optimism she gained from her experiences.
“Control” was released at the very start of the pandemic. You wrote the song from a deeply personal experience, but I think it also resonates with a lot of people who suffer from depression and anxiety and really the global atmosphere that we’re all in right now. Did you ever imagine that a song you were writing from such a personal place would have such an effect on your listeners?
I never saw that like this. Many people really can relate to the song and the lyrics. As I wrote “Control,” I knew that maybe I’ll be able to make a change. It’s about epilepsy, and it’s about me fighting with anxieties. And I feel like everyone in this world is fighting or struggling with anxieties one day or is right now. So it’s extremely relatable. And as I wrote it, I wanted to write it that way so people can see that they’re not alone because when I was in that situation, I felt like, “I’m all alone.” I felt like I was just wondering, “Why is it only me?” But I mean, I was wrong. So many people are fighting with that. So maybe we can all do this together.
When you were younger, how did you deal with that situation? What helped you get out of those dark places?
I feel like it was my music. I found my way in my therapy to accept this and to change my thinking and everything. People are still looking for a reason to stay in this world because when I was in that situation, I felt like I [was] ready to die. But here I am because of my music, and my songs should be the same to all the other people who don’t know how to deal with that.
You mentioned that the track details the depression, sadness and anxiety that you were feeling while dealing with epilepsy. Were you using your music and being a creator to pull yourself out of that, or were you using the influence of other artists who you looked up to?
Both a bit, but I feel like if I wouldn’t write songs and if I wouldn’t be able to write to make music, I wouldn’t have made it. Music is just my life. 99% of my life is music, and the other 1% are the other ones that still keep me going. But it’s just music, for real. It’s hard to really realize it, but music is my life, and I’m full of music and creativity. My brain never stops working.
A lot of outlets have referred to you as a future pop star and a powerhouse. How do you feel hearing those things and seeing the reality that you could be on a similar path to Billie Eilish, where she’s very young, and now she’s winning Grammy awards? That could be you in a year or less.
The thought of that is crazy. You can get anywhere you want to if you work hard and believe in yourself. I’m working every day. I’m never not working, actually. We’ll see what happens in the future, but I take every day as it comes. I just try to not think too much because otherwise, I’m going to freak myself out.
Despite the deep-rooted sadness and anxiety in “Control,” I believe it to be really empowering that you’re able to talk about those emotions and about the struggles that you had. Your sophomore single “Girls Like Us” is also really empowering. The single explores not only self-doubt but self-love, which I think is so critical, especially for young women right now.
Yeah, you’re right. I wrote the song “Girls Like Us” before I learned to accept myself. And when I look back at what I wrote, I can’t really relate anymore because I feel like I got stronger. The song made me stronger. And I feel like when I look back, maybe I’m able to make other people think differently.
As an artist, what are you hoping your listeners take away from each of your songs?
I just want everyone to know with every song that I ever write, you’re never alone. And even though it seems super hopeless, I know that feeling. There’s always something that’s going to get you out or someone. So please never give up on yourself. You’re never alone.
In the “Girls Like Us” music video, which is so powerful to watch, it shows you not only removing your makeup, but you’re also crying during the process, which is so moving. That’s part of being vulnerable and exposed. How did you overcome that vulnerability, not only while you were on set but when you were gearing up for the release of the video?
I didn’t think about this that way. Those tears were real, and I really cried. It’s normal, you know? And why not? This moment was a very strong and brave moment for me because I never show myself without any makeup. It was a brave moment. And I felt like if I can do this, everyone in this world can do this, too. And I just wanted to bring that back.
It is really hard, especially with the way that social media is now. You see young women always made up with their hair and makeup. And it’s really a problem. It’s really hard to look past that and not judge yourself or compare yourself. There’s a lot to the conversation of allowing women to feel comfortable in their faces.
Everything seems extremely perfect. And that’s a problem because it’s only social media. And, of course, it’s fake. It’s not real, but everything just seems perfect. And you just got perfect around you, and you don’t feel worth it anymore, and you don’t feel like you deserve what you have. It’s horrible to think about that, but I hope one day it all gets better and normal because the way social media seems. It’s 110% not that way. They don’t wake up with beautiful hair and with makeup on their faces and the clothes looking good in the morning. That’s bullshit.
How do you personally and in your career empower yourself to create and push your boundaries?
My team empowers me a lot. I got only hard workers around me. It shows me that you have to work hard for your dreams, and it’s my motivation to get through life. And then I got my mom and my friends. I got the perfect people around me. They’re trying to protect me. They make me feel good in the way I look, and it just changed the way I think. If you see yourself in the eyes of your loved ones, you’re only beautiful, you know? It’s just my loved ones that keep me going.
You can read Zoe Wees’ full interview in issue 393, available here.