By Pollo Del Mar
The swirling bass and soaring vocals of Zoe Badwi’s “Release Me” sweep listeners back to a time when dancefloors were populated with divas proud to be queens of the club scene. According to the Australian spitfire, that’s exactly what she had in mind when writing the 2008 hit.
“Release Me” topped Australian club charts, turning the one-time actress into an ARIA-nominated pop music sensation. Follow-up “Freefallin’” became her first Top 10 pop hit. Now Badwi is out to capture the hearts of fans around the world -- starting with the LGBT community.
Performing “Release Me” and current hit “Free Fallin’” in clubs across the U.S., Badwi recently headlined the White Party, one of North America’s biggest gay circuit parties. Just prior to the experience, she agreed to a little face-time with “The Queen of San Francisco Media” and Guidetogay.com's most glamorous Pollo Del Mar. The two met moments after Badwi's vocal warm-ups and tech rehearsal.
Zoe, you are absolutely amazing live! I had no idea…
Thank you! People think I’m a “mimer.” Never! Never, ever, ever. That’s a compliment, I’ve learned to take it. I used to be so offended. They say, ‘You sound exactly the way you do on the CD!’ Well, you’d want to hope so, wouldn’t you?
You have to admit, that’s uncommon in the music industry these days.
Yeah, but to each their own.
I was recently backstage at the Britney Spears “concert,” if you will…
(Zoe begins laughing.)
I had an amazing time, but it was quite obvious Britney wasn’t singing like you do!
Yeah, I didn’t stay very long at the her concert in Australia. It was like she couldn’t even bother being there, but she’s done well. More power to her!
You sing house music, but most of today’s “house” is nothing more than remixes of commercial pop songs.
I grew up on artists who took pride in performing house music – people like Inaya Day…
I absolutely love Inaya Day!
Me too! It makes me think of Amuka, Ceevox, Kim English. Those women chose to sing “house” music, which is what you’ve also chosen to do.
Yes, because that’s what moves me. I love old school beats where, even before the vocals begin, you’re moving. It’s like you can feel the funk, I guess. It’s in there, even though it’s slamming, it’s a little bit nasty. That’s what I like. Then when the vocals hit, it’s so much power. You can just feel the emotion drip out. How can you not get on the dance floor? That’s what I wanted. I wanted to be that. Hopefully I have.
Even in the best remixes today, it feels like the “build” is missing. Today a friend and I were listening to “Release Me,” and I said, “Wait! She’s about to take you there!”
(Laughs.) I’m very lucky. I work with some amazing producers. TV Rock are Australian producers who are taking over the world as well. When I wrote “Release Me,” they sent me the bed of music, and I wrote the lyrics. It wasn’t exactly as it is now, but we said, “Let’s give them ‘a moment.’” That’s what we called it. It’s like, “This is your moment to shine!” It’s that “Raise your hands! Raise your hands! Whoooaaaaa!” at the end. It’s like, ahhh – release. That’s what it’s about, I think.
How is touring the United States different than performing at home in Australia?
I guess I’ve been performing in Australia for a long time now. I’m very lucky, because everybody knows my stuff there now. It’s like, “Oh, Zoe’s coming!” I performed [in the U.S.] last year for Allegria, and I was quite nervous. There were 7,500 people, and I did “Release Me.” I thought, “Are they going to know me?” Before I went on, they said, “The crowd’s not super receptive. If you want them to shout out things, they’re not going to.” But I went out, and they all sang it! I had a ball! Now to know people like “Release Me” and my new single “Free Fallin’,” hopefully -- fingers, toes and eyes crossed -- hopefully it all keeps going.
In Australia, you’re a Top 10 “pop” artist.
Yes, and I never meant to be pop. I think the pop world needed a little dance. They needed a little dirt, a little grit.
That’s David Guetta’s doing. When I met and hung out backstage with him several years ago after a show, he was an underground house DJ. Now he’s the hottest producer in pop music.
He opened the door, I think, for everybody. Now all the big ones – the Rihannas, the Britneys – they’re all doing house music, or forms of it. I’m like, “How am I going to compete with that?!” But I’ve got my spot. I’ve got my niche, and I can do it! I know I can, I really do. I love it! You’ll see when I perform, I absolutely love being onstage. I love people dance and have fun. I get carried away by it, where I don’t ever want to get off, so I put on a real show.
Despite being a big pop artist in Australia, in other pIaces, you’re primarily doing gay club events. What’s that experience like?
To be honest, playing for gay audiences is really the best. They’re there for the music. They really love it! A lot of straight clubs, they go just to be seen, to try to pick up a girl or the girls are there trying to snag a husband. That’s really what it’s about. I think in the gay community, it really is about the music. For a performer, that’s the most refreshing part! I just feel really lucky that the gay community likes me. Who would have thought? Thank you!
You seem surprised. Do you have other gay influences?
Well, I’ve got gay friends, obviously, but I didn’t write my music with any one audience or genre in mind. I just wrote what’s in my heart and what in my mind. I guess I’m kind of a fun, happy-go-lucky girl, but I guess everybody has dark days. I really always want to say there’s a way through it. You can get through it. Music helps me, and I want to do that for other people. As silly as that sounds, as cliché, it’s true! I mean, release it! Raise your hands! Get it out! Have a good time.
You’re headlining the White Party, one of the world's biggest circuit parties.
I know! (Zoe’s face lights up, and she begins to clap.) How exciting!
It’s the circuit party to end all circuit parties!
I hear it’s the party of the world, to be honest! That’s what people have been telling me. It’s like, “Get ready to rumble, because it’s on down there!” I’m bringing my mum, and she’s going to have a ball!
It’s going to be you and your mum…
And 70,000 other people?
Gay men -- dancing mostly naked, in fact.
Great! She’ll love it. My mum is going to be right up for it! She’s flying in especially from Australia. She’s like, “I’m not missing this one!” I can’t wait! I’m going to have a ball. This is going to be the one! I just played Brazil. It’s supposed to be a gay event, but it was all kind of straight -- The Spirit of London Party. It was 65,000 people. They don’t even speak English there, but they all knew all the words, all the backing vocals. I just got a video today of me singing there, and I welled up! I thought, “I’m so lucky.” Yeah, it’s just been amazing – but I hear the White Party will even top that!
Swedish singer Robyn is also performing at White Party.
Oh, don’t even get me started! “Every Heartbeat” – oh, what a beautiful song!
I just interviewed her as well. Incredible!
Oh, what did she say?! Did you tell her about me?! (Giggles.) I did the big Pride in Sydney, and Alexis Jordan and Wynter Gordon both did that as well, and I think we’ll all be at The White Party. I guess girls rule! I’m going to give it a whirl!
Well, you know the gay boys love their girls – their dance divas!
Yes, and I have a lot to give! Oh, it’s just so exciting! I know I say that a lot, but I really am! I just can’t wait. What am I going to wear?!
You’ve just released “Freefallin’,” already a Top 10 hit at home, in the U.S. Are you focusing only on singles?
No, I just finished the album! I keep listening back and changing a few things, bits and pieces, fine-tuning some things, but yes. I’ve got 12 songs I love. That’s what I wanted it to be, every track that I love. It’ll be out in Australia in July, so it will hopefully be out here not long after. It’s got lots of house tracks and fun party tracks, but there are also some surprises. There’s even a ballad and a few quirky songs. You’ll get to see a lot more of me!!
Check out the EXCLUSIVE soundcheck video!
For More Information, Visit: http://www.ZoeBadwi.com.au
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