From Sandwiches to Sony Records: Insight on Zaia's big break.
Updated: Jun 5, 2020
Isaiah Eastman, 22, better known as his stage name Zaia, is an emerging artist from Atlanta that you should definitely pay close attention to. In late 2018, he was contacted by a Sony Music representative who was interested in signing a record deal with the young artist. At the time, Zaia was working at Jimmy John’s, and the opportunity proved that all the work that he'd been putting into his craft for years would finally pay off.
Written by Caitlin Whisby
Zaia. 📸 Credits: Cristiaaandiaz (Instagram)
Atlanta Recording artist Zaia's latest single, “Demons”, is an ominous track that focuses on a toxic relationship and the subsequent feeling of wishing to break it off as you start to realize your significant other may have “demon-like” qualities.
Like many artists, Zaia’s musical journey began on Soundcloud, where he released his first song “Petals.” He began making music when he suddenly found himself with plenty of time after being suspended. The suspension came as a result of a fight he was involved in, when a student threw a water bottle at him. Consequently, he was kicked off the basketball team. So, in his new free time he searched type beats on Youtube and began writing lyrics to the instrumentals. His stage name is a play on his name Isaiah, with him simply removing the I and H out of it to produce Zaia.
Zaia is a bit of an introvert, he enjoys spending time by himself. However, being that he is an artist, he has to work to bring himself out of his shell in order to promote his art.
You said in an interview that you don’t like going to parties but you have to promote your music, what type of music would you say you create? For what type of scene?
“My music is like a chameleon, you can listen to it in the car, at a party… I try to be versatile so that you can listen to it wherever. I don’t like going to parties but I don’t go because I’m a homebody. I never really went to parties, I tried to have my own but only two people came up and I was like, damn. Then I went to one and I tried to make an offer but it didn't work out.” “I feel like in the future, I would like parties though.”
After releasing his first song, Zaia began meeting other creatives who were also interested in making music. These friends were a pleasant turn from high school, where he felt like he didn’t belong.
His friends served as his motivation to perfect his newfound craft. The first friend that pushed his creative drive was fellow artist, Atlanta Xay.
“At first it was Xay, and then he introduced me to his friends. Eventually, I met my manager and it was me and him. Really, it’s not that many people. It’s really just me, Zay, and Bones, Bones and I got bullied in high school, on some real shit.”
After graduating from high school, Zaia attended Chattahoochee Technical College for a short while before ultimately making the decision to leave.
In an interview, you said that school wasn’t for you so you dropped out. Would you say this decision to drop out came partly from your wish to pursue music further?
“Ultimately, I was like, I believe in my music and I do photography as well, I realized that school wasn’t for me… the only thing I was doing was struggling, just a whole fuckin’ struggle.”
Five years later, Zaia has three EPs, several singles, and multiple collaborations under his belt.
What inspired your latest single, “Demons?”
“Really just shit that happened to me, just me thinking about thoughts or things that happened to me and living in the emotion that it makes you feel… Demons eating at your mind, your bad thoughts, just festering. It was a take on that.”
The accompanying music video is equally as ominous, with Zaia being haunted by his crazed love interest. She takes on inhuman qualities with her floating in the air and having white eyeballs, absent of an iris. The video is reminiscent of a horror film, which was Zaia’s intention.
How did you come up with the idea for the music video?
“Demons gave us an ominous feeling, something that would be scary or in a horror movie. A team came up with images and a mood board, stuff that would be in movies.“
What movies did you draw on for inspiration?
“The Exorcist, Hellraiser.”
How was the floating done?
You’re going to make me give up the secret 😂.
“The floating scene was done on a green screen, she laid down on it and it was edited in post.”
When it comes to your music, what is your favorite part of the music-making process?
“When it’s done. When I’m making it, it’s kinda stressful, like I know when I'm gonna have fun on a track and I know when I want a track to have meaning. Sometimes you can get writer's block, sometimes you gotta walk away from it for a second…the stressful part is when you start doubting yourself so when you're done, you're like “I made this. I listen to my stuff all the time. You gotta be your biggest fan.”
Every writer has a specific approach to how they create music, Zaia is no exception. In his writing process, he prefers to grasp the vibe of an instrumental first then write accordingly.
What type of music do you listen to?
“A lot of everything, funk music, soul, r&b, music that my parents put me onto.”
Is your single Demons foretelling of a new project?
“I’m definitely working on a project, I don’t wanna call it an album until I know that everyone is looking. It’s definitely a project, though, it has nine tracks on it.”
Though Zaia feels that his music has greatly evolved from his Soundcloud days, with him now having access to producers as opposed to his previous action of taking beats off of Youtube, he still feels that his Soundcloud music is a good place to start for an introduction to his sound.
“I want people to see where I came from, then I want them to go through my new shit on Spotify, and then work through it in between.”
Finally, what does Lotus Rosery represent to you?
“Lotus Rosery is a platform for artists to shine. I was able to open for my friend, Lord Bones… at a time when people weren't looking. It’s a platform that gives you a chance to share your shit with people. It’s giving people a chance in the city and the city should value that.”
WATCH "DEMONS" NOW
STREAM ZAIA's LATEST ALBUM - VERY ALONE ON SPOTIFY