Raleigh musician and UNC grad Azul Zapata released her new song, “Magic,” on Friday.
Zapata’s song encapsulates her distinctive sound and escapes a one genre classification. Zapata, a bilingual Argentinian immigrant, has been inspired by jazz, latin folk and blues as well as R&B and soul, according to her website.
“Music was always a part of my life,” Zapata said. “But it didn’t become a part of me until I started to connect to it via singing.”
Zapata said she grew up listening to everything from Celine Dion to hardcore Argentinian rock. Starting at 8-years-old, she said she would sing Whitney Houston in her closet thinking no one could hear her. She also sang with her dad, who played guitar.
“I think when we moved to North Carolina, my parents started to listen to me singing in the closet and were like ‘Hey, she’s not half bad,’” Zapata said. “They asked me if I wanted to take voice lessons, and I was like, ‘You can do that?’”
As a student at UNC, Zapata was active in the a cappella scene, but said she graduated viewing music as a hobby rather than a career.
A profound moment performing in a crowded bar in France helped her decide to pursue music professionally.
While nannying for two kids as an au pair, she reconnected with her love for performing. She said each night she’d take two busses and two trains into Grenoble to find somewhere to sing.
“I would go to open mics, I would go to jazz jams, I would go to underground rap scenes. I was like Batman. I barely slept that year,” Zapata said. “By day, au pair extraordinaire. By night, lounge singer.”
One night, she sang a cappella in a packed bar, despite not knowing much French.
“I kid you not... silence,” Zapata said. “I remember walking home after I sang those songs, and I’d connected with a whole f–––––– group of strangers on a different continent, and I think that moment still is like a little ember that burns inside of me. Like, you can still do this. If you can do that, you can do this.”
Though “Magic” marks AZUL's first solo release, she has been a unique part of the Raleigh music scene since 2016.
“The amount of folks making pop or pop-adjacent music in this area has always been low — to me, anyway,” said Alex Thompson, Zapata’s producer. “Azul's not afraid of going there and living in that particular world.”
Liz Hopkins, who has been close friends with Zapata since they met at a show in Raleigh, said Zapata always writes and sings what is inside her heart.
“She has never tried to be anything but herself, and that is so refreshing,” Hopkins said. “She struts around singing lead and then picks up a trumpet to play a solo. I mean, have you seen anyone else do that?”
With "Magic" and the other music she plans to release this year, Zapata hopes to encourage others to embrace themselves as well.
“Since writing 'Magic,' I rarely feel alone. It’s a choice I have to make every day,” Zapata wrote on her website. “To believe in myself and the people around me. Because we all know what it is like to suffer and still try to survive and thrive. Because we all know loss and heartbreak and the relentless pressure to produce.”
You can listen to "Magic” by AZUL now on any streaming platform, and keep an eye out for more of her songs coming this year by checking out her website.
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