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Music Interview

Zarif

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Zarif
If you're fond of your retro-pop songbirds, you'll love Zarif Davidson, a 23-year-old soul singer who's been described as "Winehouse without the drugs and drama". As she prepares to release her debut single - a chipper soul-pop ditty called 'Let Me Back' - we gave the sassy North London gal a call to find our more. Oh, and seeing as Zarif opened for Chris Brown at The O2 earlier this year, we took the opportunity to ask about "all that" too.

Is it true that you wrote your first song as an entry to a Blue Peter competition?
"Well, I've been writing all my life. I don't know how I started or how I got into it - it's just something that I've always done. But yeah, the Blue Peter thing is true!"

Can you remember how the song goes?
"It was about being green and that's all I remember! I probably learned about recycling or something at school that day so I just wrote a song about it. Luckily I can't remember how it goes! I was probably only seven or eight at the time."

Were you set on a career in music from that moment on?
"It's something that I always wanted to do, but I never thought, 'How am I going to pursue this?' I just thought, 'I write songs, that's what I do' and didn't really think about it any further. Later on, when I started gigging, I realised, "OK, this is really where I want to be – I want to be onstage".

What's the single 'Let Me Back' about?
"Well, it's just a typical breakup song really – yeah, it pretty much speaks for itself. It's sort of a regret song really."

Is it based on an actual breakup?
"It's loosely based on an actual breakup, but I'm not telling you if he let me back!"

How would you describe the Zarif sound?
"I'd say it's soulful and summery. I've always been into classic songwriting so I'd say it's kind of upbeat but with an emphasis on classic songwriting."

How's work going on your album?
"It's all finished and it's going to be coming out in July. I think there's going to be one more single and then I'll unleash it on the world. 'Let Me Back' is quite indicative of what's to come because the album's quite eclectic and I think 'Let Me Back' has got quite an eclectic sound to it. I like mixing the old with the new."

Because you're a Jewish girl from North London whose music's got a retro flavour to it, are you worried about being compared to Amy Winehouse?
"I'm not worried about it. I get it all the time and she's great so it's never going to be a bad thing. I think it just comes with the territory – people are always going to try and find a comparison. I think our music's actually very different. Obviously we're both kind of retro, but mine's a lot more upbeat and eclectic whereas hers is more influenced by Motown. I can definitely see the similarities but I think at the same time that we do different things."

You've been described as "Winehouse without the drugs and drama". What have you got instead of the drugs and drama?
"Um... I've got fun and excitement! I think I'll save the drugs and drama for later on."

Earlier this year you opened for Chris Brown at The O2 – how did that go?
"It was really good actually. I think it's always hard when you're playing to someone else's audience because obviously everyone was there to see Chris Brown. I thought I was going to be playing to an empty room with people walking in and out buying their popcorn or whatever. But in fact it was really full and we got a really good reception most nights."

Did you get to meet him?
"Yeah, I met him and Rihanna was hanging around, so I said hello to her as well. It was all very brief but he seemed like a nice guy. Obviously in the light of things..."

Did it shock you when you read the reports about him and Rihanna?
"Totally! I mean, when I saw them backstage they were really lovey-dovey the whole time. When it hit the news I got so many texts about it - as if it was my friend that had done that or something. People wouldn't leave me alone!"

You're a big Michael Jackson fan. Are you going to see him at The O2?
"Yes, I've got my tickets! I think I'm seeing him in August, so before he like... dies!"

Do you think he's going to get through all the shows?
"No! I don't think there's any way in hell! I also think it's probably going to be a really rubbish show but you've got to go, haven't you? I reckon he will dance a bit but I can't imagine that it's going to be like his glory days."

'Let Me Back' by Zarif is released on Monday. More information on Zarif at http://www.zarif.co.uk

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