Nika Roza Danilova aka Zola Jesus is a young singer, songwriter from Wisconsin. At the age of only 23 she has released three EPs and three full-length albums and also collaborated with some big names. After supporting Warpaint, the XX and Fever Ray on US tours straight out of college she has since embarked on several of her own headline tours playing gigs and festivals all over the world and in the UK in 2011. This summer she’s back making her only UK festival appearance at Latitude Festival, Henham Park, Suffolk (12-15 July).
Will: Are you looking forward to coming back to the UK and playing Latitude festival this year?
Nika: Yes, I haven’t been there in awhile so it will be good to return.
W: Does it feel like things have changed since the start of festival season last year?
N: Honestly, I feel like they should have, but I’ve been touring pretty much endlessly since then so it also feels like I never really stopped.
W: What’s the gig/festival that really stands out for you in your career as being memorable?
N: My first UK tour was really a milestone. I was so naive and just doing things based on intuition, had no one really to guide me. I felt very courageous back then!
W: Who do you see as being your biggest musical influences? Have the people you listen to and get influenced by changed much over the last few years?
N: Being a music fan and a musician are two completely disparate things for me. I listen to music avidly but never from a standpoint of “this is what I want to sound like”. You need to trust what’s inside of you and let that come out organically, never let other’s experiences and creativity inform your own.
W: What have been your favorite tours that you’ve done so far? Any bands you’ve particularly enjoyed playing with?
N: My most recent tour of Scandinavia and Eastern Europe was blissful. I got to visit so many interesting places. They had to pretty much pry me from Finland, I didn’t want to leave!
W: How did you find it trying to make it as an artist while still studying for your degree? Did you ever feel you wouldn’t be able to succeed in both?
N: It was extremely challenging. But I knew I was going to succeed, I had to. There was no other option! It’s at those moments you pull from your stores of blinding dedication and just push through.
W: After playing with M83 and Orbital, are their any other big collaborations planned?
N: There are other things I’m working on.
W: Is it true your first album was recorded in your apartment? If so, is it strange now having to record in big studios?
N: Hah, I’m still recording in my apartment! As much as I fantasize about the idea of walking into a big posh studio and making a record like that, it’s just not how I work. Maybe one day, but I’m too much of a control freak right now.
W: Are you pleased with the response you have got from your first few albums? Have you started work on any new material?
N: I’m always working on new material. But after Conatus, I feel like I owe it to my insides (and outsides) to put reset on the whole thing for a bit.
W: Torrent downloading websites have been in the news lately. What are you thoughts about the illegal downloading of music and how do you feel it has changed the industry? Do you think it can it ever been seen as a good thing?
N: I think it’s a shame for the industry, all those white men in suits, but I also think it’s inevitable. People are sneaky, they always have been! The Internet is the wild west, and even I can’t deny the charm of that. So I try not to be too judgmental. It just forces you to work harder. And when people do choose to support something, they fully commit. I meet many people at my shows who come up to me with my entire discography, down to the limited edition seven inches of only 100 copies. People that truly believe in what you are doing will continue to support you no matter what.
W: How did you get your stage name?
N: I made it up when I was young, without a purpose for it until I started making music.
Zola Jesus plays along with other huge acts such as Bon Iver, Elbow, Paul Weller and many more at Latitude Festival, Henham Park, Suffolk (12-15 July). With tickets at just £175 for the weekend I know what I’m going to be doing in summer...