Following the release of his latest 2020 single, Searching, rising Brooklyn-based pop singer-songwriter Harrison Z. Cohen, better known by his artist name Z by Z, is back and better than ever. Releasing an unplugged version of his hit single Searching, with this having already amassed over 863K streams on Spotify alone, the new stylings of the vibrant track are now also being accompanied by a stunning new music video. Ahead of the release, we sat down with Z by Z to talk about the new single, his journey in music so far, and what we can expect from him this year.
BM: For those who are still getting to know you and your music, can you tell us a bit about your journey so far and the inspirations behind your artistry?
Z: My name is Harrison Z. Cohen but I release music under the name Z by Z. The name comes from my middle name, Zachary. Growing up, I started guitar lessons at a young age while my dad had me listening to a healthy diet of classic rock artists like the Beatles, Eagles, Chicago, and Boston. Beginning in middle school I played in a couple of bands and performed a lot of musical theater. In high school, I discovered some of my biggest influences to this day including Vampire Weekend, Spoon, Arctic Monkeys, and Paul Simon who all inspired me to take writing seriously. When I was 17, I made it to Hollywood on season XV of American Idol with my “foxy” grandpa Al as we made our TV debut. I then attended college at Drexel University to study music business which is where Z by Z began. Since then, I’ve released multiple EPs and singles and have played shows across the east coast. Right before the pandemic began, I started working with my producer, Nick Krill, who has worked with The War On Drugs, Dr. Dog, Generationals, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and together we have been working on a lot of new music. There are a lot of things that inspire my artistry. I’d say that it’s a combination of my experiences, favorite artists, movies, and the outdoors as a place where I find peace and self-discovery.
BM: Growing up in New York, now Brooklyn-based; how would you say New York’s musical landscape has influenced your sound and style?
Z: It’s influenced me immensely. Growing up, I went to a bunch of shows in NYC. The first show I attended without my parents was Foster the People at United Palace Theater in Washington Heights. One of my favorite concerts was seeing The Strokes front row at Gov Ball in 2016. Most of my favorite artists are from NY like Vampire Weekend, The Strokes, The Walkmen, Grizzly Bear, LCD Soundsystem, and Paul Simon. The Meet Me In The Bathroom book which discusses the NY indie rock scene in the late 90s and 2000s is my bible. Living in Brooklyn (Bushwick-based) has been incredible because I’ve been able to immerse myself in the scene and meet lots of amazing people who inspire me on a daily basis.
BM: Back with an exciting new release, your brand new single is an unplugged version of your earlier 2020 single, “Searching”. Can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the track?
Z: I wrote “Searching” a few months after ending my first serious relationship. While I was writing the song, I started to think about how a lot of us are more in love with the thought of being in a relationship than the person we end up with. I realized that you don’t have to be alone to feel alone. It’s how “Searching” was born. It’s a journey that starts as a self-pity party and evolves into a song of hope for the future. Around the time that I wrote “Searching,” I was listening to “Too Late” by Arlie, “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” by The Beatles, and early Coldplay on repeat. “Too Late” by Arlie is heart-wrenching and I wanted to write a song that had that same effect. The lyrics in the second verse were inspired by Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. In the movie, the two main characters “flew the coop” to follow their heart’s desires, and in “Searching” I flew the coop, but in a different way.
BM: What inspired you to release a stripped-back version of the single?
Z: During the pandemic, I got to spend a lot of time with my neighbor Steve Abrams who happens to be an excellent piano player. From the time I wrote “Searching,” I’ve always thought of it as a piano ballad. The version that is currently out is very grand and epic. “Searching” is such a raw, emotional song at its core that I thought doing a stripped-down rendition would best showcase the song’s truth.
BM: You’re also accompanying the release with a stunning new music video, directed by Jake Shiptenko. What was the process behind creating and filming the visuals?
Z: It was a lot of fun. Jake is a true professional and working with him has been incredible. Jake and Wesley Diaz, the director of photography, conceptualized the video. I told them to run with the song and come up with something great and that’s exactly what they did. We shot the video at a dance studio in Times Square and then Wes, Jake, and Brian Fitzgerald edited the video. Wes created all the stunning effects. If you were to see what was filmed versus the final product, you’d be amazed they were set in the same spaces.
BM: What can we expect from you next in terms of new music?
Z: You can expect a lot of things. Cohesiveness, swagger, something to dance to, and some lights, camera, action with a nice espresso on the side.
BM: How have you developed artistically and sonically over the past two years?
Z: Like fine wine. In all seriousness, artistically, there is a real vision and direction in place. A lot of that is thanks to Olivia Boryczewski, one of my best friends and as I like to put it, my art director. Over the past two years, she’s helped me develop a look that encapsulates the imagery I want my music to portray and that also fits who I am as an artist. Two years ago that did not exist. Sonically, I don’t even know where to start. During the start of the pandemic in 2020, I wrote over 70 songs as we all had a lot of time for self-discovery. Then in 2021, I taught myself music production and recorded my own song demos. I began working with my producer Nick Krill at the start of 2020 and I’ve learned more from him about recording, songwriting, and production than anyone. He instilled in me the confidence to self-produce my first project, something that I never would have thought I’d ever do. Sonically, everything has come together and I feel for the first time that there is a Z by Z sound.
BM: Who are some of your main artistic influences and inspirations?
Z: My main artistic influences include Spoon, Vampire Weekend, Phoenix, Arctic Monkeys, Andrew Bird, Maroon 5, Paul Simon, and The Beatles. My songs are usually reflections of things that have happened in my life, things that I have experienced, or moments in time that I would like to capture musically. When people hear my music, I hope that it resonates with them on some personal level where they can apply the meaning to something in their own lives.
BM: Outside of music, what would you say are some of your main creative outlets and things that inspire you?
Z: Outside of music, I am a huge NBA fan, an avid hiker, a lover of impressionist art, Wes Anderson movies, Scandinavian crime fiction, and anything on PBS Masterpiece – I’m a big fan of British TV shows. For relaxation, I enjoy visiting historic mansions, gardens, museums, and quaint, small towns.
BM: What is your biggest goal for 2022?
Z: Get the attention of a major label.
Find Z by Z on all his socials: @zbyzmusic