Eric Zayne makes his live solo debut at the Witzend in Venice
By Michael Aushenker
Pop singer/songwriter Eric Zayne, who plays the Witzend in Venice Friday, June 28, remembers the void from which his musicianship emerged at a very young age.
Zayne’s parents, of Spanish/Morrocan and French/Polish descent, had relocated to the Congo in Africa because of his father’s job for an electronics giant. It was during this idyllic time in Zayne’s youth when his dad pushed music on him and his siblings.
Then, all hell broke loose.
“There was a war and I was evacuated,” Zayne recalled.
He couldn’t have been more than 9 or 10 years old when his idyllic life in Africa was uprooted and he was sent to Montreal ahead of his parents.
It was there in Canada – sans immediate family – that the love for music his father had instilled in him began to flourish.
“I really felt the separation,” Zayne remembered. “It made me look at life from a whole different perspective. Suddenly I heard these symphonies in my head.”
Zayne sought any instrument he could get his hands on – piano, guitar, drums – and began teaching himself how to play.
“I started feeling this calling for music. It wasn’t something I had planned on doing as a kid.”
But that’s exactly what happened, and recently, the What If Records recording artist released his debut single, “Maneater,” on iTunes. On June 28, he will make his solo concert debut at 10 p.m. at the Witzend, 1717 Lincoln Blvd.
By his teens, Zayne played all over Montreal, “five bands at a time,” performing Brazilian, jazz and rock music. Three years later, a musician approached Zayne and said, “We heard about you. We need a member to play keys and sing.”
“My bags were ready,” Zayne told The Argonaut.
For the next five years, Zayne played gigs all over Asia: Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines and Thailand. He performed in two different funk-pop groups, Fusion Three and Drop Zone.
By the mid-2000s, “I wanted to develop myself as a producer,” Zayne said. “I wanted to get away from all that influence and hone my skill as a songwriter and producer. I moved to Vancouver, invested all my money in equipment.” Zayne views his time in Vancouver as “a development stage for me,” but he soon realized that he wasn’t being challenged enough.
“As a musician, I want to be around great musicians… that bring out the best out in you,” he said.
A year ago, Zayne, a die-hard Prince fan whose recent favorites have included the Neighborhood, Miguel and White Arrows, relocated to the Mid-City area of Los Angeles with the goal to hit the clubs and “see something that just inspires me, daily.” He says he has found L.A.’s music scene much more fulfilling.
“You leave the grey skies of Vancouver for the sunny skies of L.A. so that affects you psychology,” said Zayne, who, in the last year, has spent a lot of time discovering new friends and places to catch live music. Evidently, he was successful in raising his A-game: the talents on “Maneater,” lead single to his upcoming debut solo album (due in September) include musicians who have worked with Justin Timberlake, Lil Wayne, Shakira, Marc Anthony and Natasha Bedingfield as well as Grammy-winning mixer Jason Schweitzer.
In the past, Zayne has worked with bassist Jae Deal (Lady Gaga) and guitarist Brady Cohan (“American Idol’s” house band). He’s also jammed with Matisyahu, Dragonette, The Stereos and Ace of Base.
Fueled on such influences as his house party DJ older brother, Rom, and funk masters Parliament-Funkadelic, Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone and Prince, Zayne incorporates the rhythms from his African upbringing as well as elements of electronica.
“My goal is to play a lot and have a kick-ass show,” he said of this Friday’s Witzend show, during which he will break in the tunes he is recording for his upcoming eight-song EP. “We’ve been working really hard to make it tight.”
Zayne, will sing and play guitar and keyboards at the Venice concert. He promises an “organic mix of edgier rock with funk and electronic. I enjoy blending radio songs that are really catchy but that translate live; funk, rock, jazz, even some reggae. I try to incorporate all of that.”
Information, witzendlive.com. To preview Zayne’s music, youtube.com/ericzayne.