Zoe Berman grew up in Simsbury, Conn., but calls Denver home. Zoe is a singer-songwriter who plays a mix of soul, jazz, and Americana music. Zoe wrote her new release, “Lilac Hour,” on a bike ride through the foothills (over by Reservoir Ridge) when she lived in Fort Collins.
This song will ultimately be part of a seven-song EP released in 2021 entitled “Freezing Heat,” a project Zoe is working on at Third & James Studios in Denver.
Zoe is a multi-instrumentalist who plays piano, guitar, and a suitcase drum. She plays with her feet. She dabbles in a few other instruments, including the melodica, which is her entertainment when stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-70 to/from the mountains.
“Lilac Hour paints a picture of the brief increment of time following the golden hour, just before dark, when the sky is swirling with shades of purple. There’s an undisturbed stillness to this time that I just want to marinade in endlessly,” says Zoe.
“People are typically busy indoors, winding down for the evening, making it my favorite time to be out on trails, soaking in that ephemeral sweetness. I want this song to take listeners to that peaceful place of purple-coated quietude.”
It starts: “The cotton clouds are dripping down like water mixed with ink to present a gradient from lavender to pink,” and each verse outlines and elongates the nuances of this progression from light to dark. Colorado motivates her to combine outdoor exploration with her songwriting process. Zoe writes her lyrics in nature – on hiking trails, bike rides, etc. This song was one of the more directly inspired outcomes of that process. She is deeply enamored by nature, which is why she lives in Colorado.
“Songwriting is my primary method of finding catharsis in my own experiences, grappling with the world around me, and connecting with other people through sharing music. I don’t know how I would go about processing my existence in the world without songwriting as a fundamental mode of expression,” says Zoe.
Zoe experimented extensively in the studio, creating a slightly new emerging sound with new percussion elements layered within dreamy harmonies and electro-pop rhythms.
“This song completely diverges from all of my other recorded work,” says Zoe. The track contains synthetic percussion and organic components constantly seeking resolve. Originally this song is performed as a cappella. It was written that way, with sparse percussion, a suitcase drum, and finger-snapping. But Zoe wanted a different feel for the recording.
“I had this vision of filling out the empty spaces with an array of unconventional, eclectic found percussion. The heartbeat-like bass tones comprising the song’s backbone derive from me plucking a string inside a grand piano. There are samples of sugar packets used as shakers, taps on a tinny whiskey jug, sweeping across a lampshade with a mallet, banging on a garage door to mimic a bass drum, sounds from a children’s toy – the list goes on,” says Zoe.
“It was such a creatively invigorating process, finding every object that could potentially serve as a percussive instrument. The birds featured at the beginning and end of the song derive from a voice recording I took during a solo camping trip near Mount Hood, Oregon.” Zoe slowed down and dug in her roots when COVID hit. Her grandparents were both infected with COVID, and it took her home for four months to Connecticut. Unfortunately, her grandmother passed away, but her grandpa miraculously recovered.
“It was incredibly healing and regenerative to have that time to spend with family and take life at a slower pace. I took a bit of a hiatus from live music and accepted the nature of our current situation,” says Zoe. “In general, there is so much pressure in the music industry to relentlessly
push forward and churn out content.
One silver lining of this otherwise remarkably difficult shared experience is a healthy reminder to slow down the pace of life, find gratitude for good health and other things we typically take for granted, and try to learn and adapt in ways we never previously considered.
The pandemic also gave me the motivation to hunker down and refocus on songwriting.”
Zoe is looking forward to releasing this EP and deepening her roots within the Denver music community, moving there from Fort Collins’ tight-knit music ecosystem recently.
She wants to collaborate with more local musicians and resume live performances when feasible.
“I can’t wait to share my music with new listeners and find new opportunities to use music as a catalyst for fostering human connection,” says Zoe.
“I think we’re all beyond ready to experience the magic of live music once again once the vaccines are readily accessible to everyone. And hugs! Lots and lots of hugs.”