Within twenty minutes of speaking to Lolo Zouaï (pronounced zoo-eye), I knew four things about her. She was born in Paris. She’s been singing since she was seven. She’s a Too Short stan—so much so, that in 2012, she used a fake ID to sneak into his album release party for No Trespassing. And she’s focused as hell.
We meet in the basement of KidSuper, the retail brand turned creative community. Zouaï moved into the space’s second floor during a time when she was in dire need of new beginnings. “KidSuper helped me start over," she says. "The guys there reminded me that everything I needed to succeed was within me.”
Despite a recent relocation to Brooklyn, Zouaï admits it took her a while to call New York home. “I see the world as my home," she explains. "I don’t want to limit myself to one place.” She avoids genre definition by incorporating sounds from the various places she’s lived, sometimes mixing French and English in her lyrics. Her vocal style blends French classics like Edith Piaf with Arab influence from her dad’s Algerian roots, bittersweet nostalgia served with Bay Area heat.
Her breakout single "High Highs to Low Lows" has over five million streams worldwide. Without any formal promotion, the song hit half a million plays on Spotify in less than a month. The lyrics depict the struggle of a rising artist navigating a difficult industry and, she explains, they're based on her experiences. “It captures everything that was going on in my life at that point—I think that’s why people connected to it.”
When she was 19, Zouaï boarded a first class flight to LA with stars in her eyes and hopes of landing a record deal. She was ultimately ghosted a few weeks later by the massive pop star that had flown her out. “I took a bite, that’s a gold-plate,” she laments in "High Highs," describing the naïveté and disappointment disguised as opportunity. Add in a few producer issues, sunk costs, and dwindling hope, a fed up Zouaï had reached her tipping point.
“I kept getting all these signs that I was destined for something bigger, so I realized I'm just going to trust and bet on myself and one day people will hear it,” she says. Zouaï started recording and producing in her bedroom, channeling her fears and emotions directly into output. “I had a rough time because I didn’t know what I wanted to say in my music yet,” she admits.
In the midst of juggling music and several restaurant jobs, she found New-York based producer Stelios and the two instantly connected. They spent endless nights in the studio developing a narrative and laying the foundation for her current sound. Now, Zouaï is preparing for her first headlining tour spanning four countries. She’s quit her day job, too.
A few months ago, two fans recognized her at the Paris airport, eager to know how her family had made it to the United States from France. She was candid with them—out of sheer luck, her parents had applied to and won the visa lottery in the '90s. The move opened up a slew of opportunities for the singer, who attributes her “dream big” mentality to growing up in California.
In the era of overnight social media stardom, Zouaï’s has had a different trajectory. She started performing at school talent shows and worked her way up to putting out songs on SoundCloud, picking up guitar to supplement her words with chords and melodies. Her first song was a rap written in the first grade, called "School’s Out." Now, she's pursuing music full-time,
The singer structures her time simply these days: gym, studio, chill, rinse, repeat. I ask her what we can expect next. She stops and looks down for a second, trying to verbalize a passing thought: “In the end, music is about [the artist], but it’s also not. It’s about other people and making them feel things.”
“My priority right now is just making great music.”
See Lolo's upcoming tour dates and buy tickets here.