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Princess of Pop Zolita, also known as Zoë Montana Hoetzel, has captured our hearts with her explosive new album, Queen of Hearts, released today, May 31st, via AWAL.

Queen of Hearts is crafted around two equally ambitious themes: one half serves as a grand queer celebration, while the other half is more meditative and introspective, delving into life's struggles and challenges. The album stands as a testament to her vulnerability and honesty as a songwriter, showcasing depths she hasn't explored in her previous work. The tracks also feature a mix of pop-punk and tongue-in-cheek country, epitomised by "Small Town Scandal," where Zolita finally gets her banjo moment!

A multifaceted creative, Zolita studied filmmaking in California. For her, every song begins as an intricate film in her mind, rooted in both gripping drama and authentic emotion. This approach is evident in the music video for "Bloodstream," which originated from a twelve-page short film and has been split into short episodes. Fans eagerly anticipate seeing the extended scenes!

F Word couldn’t wait to catch up with this catchy cowgirl to find out about the making of "Bloodstream," the inspiration and background behind the tracks, and much more.

Maisie: Hey Zoe, welcome to F Word! There’s not long to wait for your new album “Queen of Hearts” to drop on May 31st. How are you feeling about its release?

Zoe: I’m super excited. I have one more single coming from the album next week, and the last one I did was “Small Town Scandal,” and the next one coming out next week is called “Grown Up,” and they’re so, so, so different. I feel like it really encapsulates the contrast on the album, so I’m excited for everyone to hear that next single.

I feel like the rest of the album also has so many different flavours, pulling from different genres and sonic and aesthetics that I love… and different themes, so I’m very excited for everyone to hear it!

MD: Speaking of genres, from the first three tracks you have released, they run with a theme of queer celebration! What made you want to tap into this?

Zoe: I feel like in all of my past work, I definitely, mostly, talk about relationships and love. Whether that’s heartbreak, or falling in love, and I didn’t have any just pure, celebratory songs. I was like, I wanna write some songs that could be played and listened to in a gay club, so it was really fun to do that.

Also, while I was writing this album (I am not in this relationship anymore), but I was in a very healthy, stable relationship, where I’d already written all of the “falling in love” songs. So it kind of allowed me to write about things that I hadn’t written about before, coming from a stable place.

MD: When did you come out as queer, and how was that experience for you?

Zoe: I came out on my eighteenth birthday actually. I was really lucky that my family is pretty liberal and accepting - both of my parents are artists - and yeah, it was a pretty seamless experience for me. I guess because also I went to NYU, and I came out the first week that I went there, and I realised that I was gay when I was like sixteen and at that time I was like “I know I’m going to NYU, everyone’s going to be gay there, I’m just going to wait until I get there.” Even though I grew up in a small suburb near LA, where there was maybe one gay-girl and one gay-guy, so it still wasn’t how it is now.

MD: And did that influence your newest single “Small Town Scandal”?

Zoe: Yes, definitely! Because even though I grew up close to LA, the suburb that I grew up in, it's a little horse town, called Agoura Hills, it still felt like such a little bubble. Like, everybody knew everybody, everybody knew each other’s gossip, and although I didn’t technically grow up in a small town, it influenced it for sure.

MD: I love the music video to “Small Town Scandal”. Some of my favourite lyrics are “She gets frisky drinking whiskey so we drank a little more,” and “but they don’t know what’s going on, there’s nothing like a down home dream in a high rise thong.” It’s just SO much fun.

Zoe: Thank you [laughs], it was so much fun to write, it was one of my favourite days. It was me and these two Canadian writers, and we were just die-laughing the entire day. And we’re like “can we say this?!” “Yes! Put it in!” [laughs].

MD: I’m so into the silly country songs, there’s one (I don’t know who the singer is) but it’s this guy and he’s like “she thinks my tractors sexy”.

Zoe: Yes! There’s a line-dance to that song that I do every week! It’s very fun.

MD: And I think often these songs are from men, about women, and I like seeing that you’ve taken this genre and using it to celebrate who you are.

Zoe: That’s so true, so many country-pop radio shows are so tongue-in-cheek. It was very fun. In my personal life, I listen to a lot of country music, so it’s really fun to have that reflect in one of the songs. And have a banjo - I’ve always wanted a banjo in a song!

MD: When did it click that you wanted to be a singer-songwriter?

Zoe: Singing and writing was always something that I did, for myself, as a form of therapy, but filmmaking was the main thing. I went to CA to study film, and I was writing songs for myself and ended up making a music video for one of the songs for a class project. It went viral in CA, everybody’s responses to it, and all of the queer people relating to the story I was telling that was kind of the moment where it clicked and I thought, oh, I can do both. I can have this beautiful concept projects, and I can make film, and make music.

MD: That brings me onto the music video (or should I say short film!) behind previously released track “Bloodstream”. I love the storyline and aesthetic to this, it really takes you on a journey. Can you talk us through this?

Zoe: Yeah, so the “Bloodstream” video, that video concept came way before the song came. Honestly, I chose the song for it like two weeks before we shot the video. So me and one of my best friends, who was my writing partner (we had just written a feature script also) but we had written a script for “Bloodstream” and it was a twelve-page, short film. The idea was to split it up into little episodes, so those are still coming! There’s extended scenes that will be coming throughout this month.

So we had this idea and I was obsessed with “Drop Dead Gorgeous” and “Miss Congeniality” and I was like it would be so fun to also reference and be inspired by the story of Miss Puerto Rico and Miss Argentina, who got married. So I just combined all of those things and I had “Bloodstream” and I knew that I wanted it to be on the album.

MD: So that’s a real-life story [with Miss Puerto Rico and Miss Argentina]?

Zoe: Yeah! So Miss Puerto Rico and Miss Argentina were in the Miss Universe pageant and they met there, and they ended up getting married, so it’s loosely based on that.

MD: So cool! Have they seen it, do you know?

Zoe: I don’t know, I don’t know.

MD: Oooooh they should! Let’s manifest that!

MD: You are an amazing director, delivering completely enthralling and cinematic scenes. Where do you get your ideas from stylistically for the videos?

Zoe: Being a cinephile and watching a bunch of other films! I’m super inspired by David Lynch, Helmut Newton’s photos. It’s funny though, recently the stuff that I’ve become known for is the more “rom-commy” stuff but before that, I’d say my stuff was a lot darker. So it’s been fun to tap into, almost, the taste that I had as my high-school self and get to go back to all those rom-coms that I loved so much growing up and reference them now, in a modern way… and make them queer.

MD: Would you like to direct for other artists? If so, who would be your dream artist to do this for?

Zoe: Yeah! I definitely would like to direct for other artists. I think I’m most interested in directing feature films, but if I could direct for anybody, it would be [Lady] Gaga for sure.

MD: I could so see that!

Zoe: Yeah, I love her so much. And then, who else, Chappell Roan, she’s a friend so that would very well happen at some point.

MD: You are incredibly multi-faceted: directing, producing, and editing the videos yourself - you mentioned directing is your most interested in outlet, can you expand on that?

Zoe: Yeah, so directing, being on set. All of the lead-up and having this idea that’s been in my head forever and all of the work goes into it, and then that final day when you’re actually able to make it happen. And, especially for me, my team is all people I’ve worked with for so-so-so long. They’re all friends and fully queer sets, so to be on that team with people that I love, bring this vision to life, there’s nothing like it, it’s amazing.

MD: Are you a real-life cowgirl?

Zoe: Definitely! 100%. I grew up a horse girl, I was in the pony club in high-school. I was a big horse girl, and one day I hope to have horses again!

MD: What are you hoping people will take away from the album?

Zoe: Oooh, I guess a lot of things. I hope that a lot of it makes them feel queer joy, and proud of their identities. On the flip-side, I hope it makes people feel like they can be vulnerable. And I hope that people that resonate with - there’s another song called “No One Tells You No And You’re Beautiful,” about addiction, a family member with addiction, and I hope the people that resonate with the heavier songs on the album, I hope they feel seen in some way, or that it’s healing in some way for them.

MD: The tracks that are already released are super uplifting, celebratory, and you’ve spoken about the more vulnerable songs that are yet to be released. Has the way you’re releasing this been purposeful?

Zoe: I guess, yeah. I feel like it’s a bit purposeful to have the more fun, upbeat stuff first but definitely to have this next one “Grown Up” to come out as a single before the album as it’ll give people a little bit of “oh, there’s also this side to the album”.

MD: If “Queen of Hearts” was a temperature, a taste, and a colour, what would it be and why?

Zoe: Temperature, I’d say warm. Like a nice 80-85 degrees, and then a taste… it would be, hmm, strawberries. And colour, red, the whole thing is all very red.

MD: Complete the sentence:

MD: The world would be better with….

Zoe: More queer people in power.

MD: The world would be better without…

Zoe: White cis straight men in power.

MD: Do you have anything else exciting coming up that we should know about?

Zoe: The tour that’s happening in September and October, that’s super exciting. Healing tour, its pageant themed, there’s going to be a lot of theatrical elements to it.

MD: I can imagine! I know performing live is often a favourite part of the job for many artists, how is it for you?

Zoe: I would say it became more of a thing for me. Last year I went on my first headline tour, and I opened for Bebe Rexha, and I was playing festivals for the first time. I think before that, because a lot of the shows that I’d done were so one-off, I never got to go into the flow of it. And last year was the first time that being on tour, and doing a show every night, I started to enjoy it so much more. Once it’s in your body, then all the improv can happen and then those magical, really present moments can start happening.

And to get to meet people that have been supporting my music for so long, and to be in a room full of people that are screaming the lyrics back to you, it is a crazy, crazy thing.

MD: Any pre-show rituals?

Zoe: I try to meditate a little, or listen to music and I take a shot of Tequila!

Both: [Laugh]

Zoe: And that’s kinda it! And honestly, doing my makeup, that’s so like meditation as well.

MD: Is Zolita a character for you?

Zoe: Yeah! Definitely. I think that I always said that Zolita is the much more confident, proud version of myself. I feel like I created Zolita at a time in my life when I was not as out and proud about my queer identity and just not as confident in myself. Zolita was a way for me to be like “oh, this bitch is really confident!”. Zolita has no shame and she’s super unabashedly herself and doesn’t care about what other people think…

So yeah, it’s funny when I meet people now, especially in the context of work stuff, some people will still call me Zolita, and yeah sometimes it can bleed into each other but there is a separation.

MD: As a queer, female artist in a very male-dominated industry. Have you ever encountered any problems?

Zoe: I’m so lucky that most of my team is female and queer, which was obviously very purposeful. So before I put out my song and video to “Somebody I Fucked Once” I was fully independent, and when I signed to AWAL, which is my label, that was the first thing I noticed, it was the first female A&R I talked to, all the other labels were male A&R’s.

I’ve purposefully designed my team and my life to not have to hopefully have to deal with all of the male-dominated parts of the industry.

MD: And we always end every interview with asking what your favourite f-word is? And why?

Zoe: I have to say fuck because it’s in so many of my songs! I’m like it’s a running joke now at this point, when my team are like “can we”, and I’m like “look at my track list!” [laughs] My top songs, they all have the f-word in them!


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