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Channelling his unique blend of funky, feelgood neo soul, ZASKA (a.k.a. Max Zaska) has given us a much-needed anthem of optimism. Working remotely during lockdown, Zaska assembled a star-studded lineup of Irish talent to record ‘My Whole Heart’. The track, featuring Tolü Makay, God Knows, and The Isolation Choir, is a soulful hymn to authenticity, blending elements of R&B and hip hop with a message of hope.
The Isolation Choir, featured in the charming video, is comprised of Karen Cowley, Caoimhe Barry, Saoirse Duane (Wyvern Lingo), Faye O’Rourke (Soda Blonde), Jess Kav (BARQ/The Waterboys), James Smith (Gypsies On The Autobahn), Carly Coonagh, Danny Groenland (Danny G & The Major 7ths), Nichola Hegarty, Keith Fennell, and Gemma Dunleavy. Rounding out the huge collaboration, we’ve got Neil Dorrington (BARQ) on bass and Dylan Lynch (Soda Blonde) handling percussion. Watch the video below.
Following the song’s release, Max Zaska told HeadStuff about its origins, the remote recording process, and his life in lockdown.
How did the idea for the track come about? Did you envision it as a collaborative thing right away?
I was originally preparing songs for a new EP but when the lockdown hit, I wrote the lyrics to this song and I couldn’t help but write about this crazy situation we’re all in. When the demo was done I knew I wanted to get it out ASAP to try and spread a bit of hope and positivity and that’s what happened! Originally I wanted a choir on the track but the lockdown made that impossible. So I decided to contact all the great musicians I know to form the “Isolation Choir” and that’s where the huge collaborative aspect came from.
It must’ve been quite the undertaking piecing the song together with so many different contributors, while also working remotely. How did you approach this task?
Yeah, it was a crazy process piecing this massive puzzle together! There was an insane amount of emails, voice memos and Zoom calls to make it all happen but we got there in the end. It’s my biggest collaboration to date and a way bigger undertaking than I originally thought.
Given the struggles a lot of artists are facing right now, did you feel it was important to showcase a wide array of Irish talent, as you have with this project?
To be honest, it was written so early in the COVID lockdown that the realities and struggles that all artists are now facing had not even fully dawned on me yet. Like I mentioned before, the primary motive to get so many artists on the track was to form that beautiful choral sound I was hearing, but showcasing this incredible scene and community of musicians I have around me is an awesome byproduct. It also really strengthens the song’s core message of living for today and always cherishing the community around us (even when we can’t see them).
Outside of the obvious logistical/financial impacts, how do you see the current crisis affecting songwriters on a creative level?
I know there are a lot of creative things happening in lockdown because of the amount of time people now have, but I’ve also heard a lot of people say that they are finding it super hard to get motivated, because of the lack of structure and normality in their lives. So I feel, on a creative level, you’re going to see it working for some and not working at all for others. I’m a glass half-full kind of guy so I believe we can use our creativity to bring new art to life and also create new revenue streams for ourselves. Don’t be too hard on yourself though, if your energy is all over the place and you’re finding it hard to create. We’re all learning and are all in this crazy situation together!
The track addresses the difficulties of our current situation, but the tone is definitely optimistic overall. Do you see music and art as important coping tools at the moment?
Absolutely. The main reason why I do music, in general, is to keep my mental health in check so this project, although hard at times, has really helped me to stay positive and given me a sense of purpose through the lockdown. I think creative outlets are incredibly important coping tools at any time, pandemic or no pandemic.
Finally, how has lockdown been treating you personally? A period of creative solitude, or more akin to Jack Torrance in The Shining?
For myself and my family, we’re all very grateful that the lockdown has been quite an enjoyable time for us. We’ve learned to slow down and appreciate our home in the countryside in a brand new way. It’s been challenging at times, for sure, but having this project and all the great weather has kept the vibe positive. I hope everyone out there is finding ways to keep positive themselves.
Head over to the ZASKA Bandcamp to purchase ‘My Whole Heart’, or stream it in all the usual places.