Belmont grad EZA does it her way
EZA is described as “the brooding, sultry project of 22-year-old Ellery Bonham” a Nashville-based, electro-pop artist. Her 2014 EP Means of Escape earned high praise, and introduced the world to her break-through song, “High & Low”. The EP would go on to garner nearly two million streams on Spotify alone in its first year. In 2015, EZA released two new singles, “Headlights” and “We Keep the Lights Out”, and there is a lot of buzz surrounding her new project for which she’s currently crowdfunding.
EZA may be young, but like so many up-and-coming young musicians, she’s been at it for a while. “I have done music my whole life,” she said. “I started on stage doing community theatre when I was four and continued through high school.”
EZA was nearly a teen when she began studying the classics, from Italian operas to early-age Jazz pieces, however. “I began voice lessons when I was twelve,” she said, “and continued through college. I did all kinds of things to get comfortable on stage…. When I was 15 and did the American Idol tryouts, which made me decide I needed to learn more about the industry I was about to walk into, if that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to have a ton of people on my team making all my decisions for me.”
This lead her to move from Rhode Island to Nashville to attend Belmont University and focus entertainment industry management. While studying the business of music, though, EZA remained focused on the music. “I released Means of Escape before my senior year, and after that was out for a year, I released a single, ‘Headlights.’ More recently I released ‘We Keep the Lights Out,” as well as a cover….”
This experience confirmed her career path. “One of the first things that really let me know that what I was doing was resonating with people was getting over a million streams. That’s when I really thought to myself, ‘This is something I can build on…’”
“Entertainment Weekly premiered one of my songs,” she said, reflecting on some highlights of her career. “I was on Nashville Lifestyles’ ‘Artists to Watch’ list. And of course Connor Franta, who has a huge following with teens in the LGBT community, included my music in his Volume Three of his Common Culture compilation. I’ve had some television and film placements!”
When it comes Pride, EZA couldn’t be more pleased to have been asked, but she confessed. “I’d actually heard about [the Nashville Pride Festival] only this last year!”
Indeed, while she has had friends who were LGBT, her familiarity with the community is relatively new. “One of my very good friends is gay and happily in a relationship and I adore the two of them, but one of the pivotal moments in my life came from living with a family that has a transgender child. They had an apartment upstairs that they rented out: I lived with them my senior year and the summer afterwards, as I was transitioning into ‘adult life’.”
“I’m so thankful for the year-and-a-half I spent with them,” she said. “I’m a Christian, and I always hated to hear how closed off so many are. I personally felt blessed to have been placed with this family, to see the love this family showed their child.”
“I’d never really heard of a transgender child so young, and it was such a learning curve for me learning how to interact,” she said, expressing worry she had about unintentionally saying or doing the wrong thing. “But the answer was so clear and easy for me –just love on that child! It’s such an incredible season in my life, this introduction to the life of a transgender child!
It was through this family that EZA first learned about the Nashville Pride Festival. “They popped into my head when I was asked to perform—I’m especially excited to play because of that family, to be an advocate. I texted the parents immediately, and I’m so excited!”
“I’ve been on a journey with music—my main goal since I was little has been to make music—and I love to sing, but I have a hard time loving to sing if I don’t feel a connection with the music. I never did show choir or that stuff because I couldn’t connect with the music. Some of my favorite music growing up was by really badass women doing their own thing. Women can make awesome music, you just have to dare to step outside of the box people want to put you in….”
EZA will definitely keep stepping outside the box as she works on new music and releasing her new EP Dead Reckoning, about which you can learn more at pledgemusic.com/projects/eza.
Photo by Mikaela Hamilton