Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Faith Zapata. Together we discussed faithcore, their Goodreads account, social media, their latest song “company”, and so much more!
1. Mustard is thankful to have you join them at Music Shelf. How are you doing today?
Thanks so much for asking, I’m doing great! Currently winding down after a day of classes.
2. You come from an exceptionally musical family. What was it like growing up in a musical home? When did you know you wanted to become a musician?
It was definitely interesting, in the best way possible. It’s great because it brings all closer together, more than we already are as a family. I think that without music, my family and I would still be really close, but music definitely strengthens that bond in such a unique and fun way. For example, I could just be jamming out on my guitar and singing to myself, and my brother will sometimes hop on the drums and play along and it’ll sound really good because we just jive so well as musicians together. The same sort of thing happens with the rest of my family. Whenever someone is just singing aloud to themselves, someone else will just start harmonizing or do backing vocals out of habit. I know that for me, sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it. It’s really funny. I think that I always knew I wanted to be involved in music in any way I could because of my family’s influence — the older figures in my life (my mom, dad, grandparents, uncles) were always singing and playing instruments regardless of time or place, and I just followed in their footsteps as soon as I realized what they were doing. I remember trying to learn guitar on my own when I was really little. I’d watch my dad and uncles play the guitar at my grandma’s house, and noticed they were placing their fingers on different spots on the fretboard and I realized that’s what made it sound so pretty. I’d take the guitar at my grandparents when no one was looking and put my fingers on random spots of the fretboard and just hope it sounded good — it didn’t. After a lot of trial and error and inspiration from Taylor Swift, I finally seriously began to learn how to play when I was nine years old, which is also when I fell in love with songwriting.
3. At 9 years old you wrote your first ‘real’ song. Do you remember what the song was called?
Oh gosh. I don’t think I remember the exact title, but I know it had something to do with spreading your wings and flying and taking a chance and trying new things. I know it had the wings metaphor in there somewhere for sure. Something very cheesy and cliché like that. I probably still have the lyrics in a old notebook somewhere. Which no one will ever see except me.
4. You view songwriting as a form of “extreme journaling.” Can you elaborate more on that? Do you prefer college-ruled or wide-ruled?
I’m big on writing in a diary and just journaling about my life — it’s a fun way to keep tabs on things that have happened and are currently happening to me. I love looking back at previous entries and silently laughing to myself at how clueless I was about the future. I’m sure my future self is doing that right now as she reads this, actually. Anyway, when I do a diary entry, ideally, I write about things directly after it happens so I can get my raw, genuine reaction to whatever happened. Same goes for songs — I tend to write them almost directly after things happen to me, or whenever I can get a moment alone afterward. I call songwriting “extreme journaling” because I usually only write a song about something if it’s affected me greatly. Diary and journal entries are more of a way to document how I feel after any day, whether something catastrophic, or something celebratory, happened or not. Songwriting is also just “extreme journaling” to me because it’s so much more than just getting the words down — it also includes creating a chord progression and melody that aligns with the feelings the words are trying to convey, as well as an overall structure for the song. Oh, and I prefer college-ruled, mainly because it looks neater and more organized to me. I think there are more lines per page in college-ruled notebooks too, which means more space for whatever you’re writing, and that’s always great.
5. A human is interested in learning more about “faithcore.” Could you share more? Are there any specific requirements?
Simply put, “Faithcore” is the combination of everything I’m into. Some of them go together, some of them don’t, but the pure combo of them is what I call ‘Faithcore’. It’s funny, because I started saying things were ‘Faithcore’ a lot since my friends kept saying it — they were the ones who came up with it. A large part of it has to do with me not being able to like anything casually. When I get into something, I get into it, and basically everyone is informed that I, Faith Zapata, like This Thing. It is now Faithcore. Anyways, they’d send me an edit on Instagram of scenes from the film Little Women with a Taylor Swift song playing in the background or something, and they’d say, “THIS IS SO FAITHCORE!”. Or they’d see a video that had something to do with loving books and/or frogs, send it to me, and tell me it was Faithcore. I guess just things that I like in general, alone or put together, is what ‘Faithcore’ is. Not long after, I started using the phrase a lot too, and even changed my TikTok username to it, just for kicks. And now, all my friends and a good amount of folks on the internet just call me Faithcore because of it. My parents even started calling me it recently, which is hilarious to me. I love it though. As for requirements, it just has to be something that reminds people of me specifically or related to the vast variety of things that I like. So, really, anything can be Faithcore. It’s a very diverse term, to say the least.
6. You’re tasked to create a compilation album from the 375 books on your Goodreads. What books end up on the compilation?
Hmm. I’m torn between choosing upstanding well-loved classics to help my image as an English lit grad student or to list my all-time favorites. I think I’m going to go with the latter. Okay, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott — my favorite book forever and ever. The second I was introduced to the character of Jo March I immediately identified with her and still do. She is the character I relate to the most in the whole world besides Jess from New Girl. Pop Song by Larissa Pham, an instant all-time favorite when I read it for the first time last year; emphasis on instant and extra extra emphasis on all-time favorite. My favorite essay in this collection is “Crush”, I think about it every single day. Not even kidding. One Day by David Nicholls. Probably the best romance book ever to be written I think. Also Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, I’ve just never read another book like this. It’s incredible. Also I am so excited for the TV show. I have to mention If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio, because I love Shakespeare and I love murder mysteries, so this is my perfect book. And finally, Persuasion by Jane Austen. “You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others” — are you kidding me. Are you joking.
7. Is there a song or album that had a significant impact on you?
My answer to questions like this will always and forever be defaulted to Red by Taylor Swift. It’s the first album I bought with my own money. I was like eleven-years-old and really bad with money in the sense that I spent my entire allowance once I got it (I’m still an impulsive buyer but that’s a story for another day), so it was a big deal that I saved up enough to buy the Target Exclusive edition of Red for $19.99 (or something around that amount). I played it over and over on my Hello Kitty CD player in my room, but you could still hear it from the rest of the house, and brainwashed my entire family into memorizing it, too (you’re welcome, guys). I think constantly replaying that CD throughout my middle school years had a huge impact on my ideas of song structure, lyricism, and just the overall composition of a song.
8. What is your songwriting process?
Most songs I write are made in a slightly different way from one another, and honestly, I think I prefer it that way, because then each one has their own unique backstory on how they came about. But, there are a lot of similarities amongst these differences. One of them is that I love to write about something as soon as I can after it happens or while I’m feeling it. Every writer is different — for example, some have to wait a bit and process the events before they can properly reflect, and some have to jot down their immediate reactions and feelings about a situation right away or else they’ll lose the words for it. I happen to fall into the latter category, where songs just bubble up and spill out of me while I’m in the middle of an experience or right after something significant happens. I’ve noticed that I tend to catch the genuine reactions and initial emotions I feel when things happen to me. In the case where I’m writing about something that happened awhile ago, I’ll be writing about it while I’m in the midst of intensely remembering it. And I usually record a voice memo after I’m finished so I don’t forget how it goes.
9. During quarantine you began posting original songs and covers on TikTok. You have since garnered acclaim and approval from your biggest musical inspirations such as Taylor Swift and Phoebe Bridgers. Can you recall your initial reaction to the success you received on the platform?
I remember when my videos started gaining traction, I remember feeling excited right away, mainly because I was garnering a little community of folks who resonate with the music I’m making. I remember thinking a certain number was a lot and freaking out internally over being perceived — my brain would flood with concerns regarding the amount of people that would see something when I post it, and thinking to myself, Is this even good enough to post? Are my lyrics coming across the way I want them to? Now, that community has grown a lot more, but I still feel like they’re all my friends and we’re just hanging out. Especially when I livestream, it just feels like I’m on FaceTime or something. I’m always incredibly grateful for the fact that my music appeals to such a kind and supportive demographic.
10. This eventually led to “party in the alps” which is a play off of Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA.” which you originally posted as a joke. What was it like to turn into a full song?
I was nervous at first to record the entire thing, because I didn’t (and still don’t) know a ton about production. I always just wing it in that area until it sounds good. I felt major impostor syndrome while I was making it, because it was the first video of mine to reach a million views, and as a result there was so much pressure to make a full version. I didn’t think I was qualified at all to make it. And of course, I initially posted the video as a joke and partially as a dare by a friend, but I didn’t want the full version to sound like a parody or anything. A big concern of mine (and a very silly one at that, now that I look back on it) was that people wouldn’t take me seriously if I released it, and I think I’m a really funny person but I wouldn’t consider the music I make to be comedy, even though this was just a cover. But, this has a happy ending: none of my fears were actualized and it actually propelled my music career a whole lot! So that’s pretty awesome. It all was just a lesson in overthinking, if anything.
11. In 2019 you released “Songs for the Moon.” When did this project originally begin? If the moon could respond, how do you think it would?
“Songs for the Moon” is a project I worked throughout my last year of high school and the summer that followed. The songs were written throughout my junior and senior year, and I’d like to think I’ve grown and matured a lot since then. The songs aren’t my favorite things I’ve written, but they’re pretty honest to how I felt in that period of my life. I don’t resonate with them or the memories they’re attached to, like, at all anymore, so listening to them feels deeply embarrassing — it’s like someone reading your old diary entries out loud. I consider the project as something very, very separate from the kind of music I want to be making now. I’ve thought about taking it down for a long time but I know there are still some people who like listening to it (cough cough, that’s you, Mom and Dad), so I don’t want to pull a “Waiting Room” by Phoebe Bridgers and make anyone really sad. I think I’ve grown a whole lot as a musician and as a writer so that project is not my magnum opus by any means, but things like lyrical honesty and the general over-romanticizing of everything — those aspects have definitely stuck with me. I still do that. And hmm…if the moon could respond, I think she’d say “Girl, what is this. Is this really the best you’ve got” and then return to sender. Just kidding. That was kind of harsh. The project is just kind of embarrassing to me! Okay, maybe she’d say “thanks” really awkwardly, but still nice enough so that I’m not offended. Kind of like you do when you open a gift and it’s something you’re never going to use.
12. Astronomy is a theme throughout your music. When did you first become interested in space?
From a really young age, I was always mesmerized by planets, stars, constellations, the moon, etc. I think the fixation might have started in third grade, when we were doing a science unit on the planets, and we were assigned a random planet to write a report on. I got Neptune, and I was just obsessed from there. I loved how blue it was, that it was the water planet, and that in astrology, it’s the ruling planet for Pisces, which is my zodiac sign. Also, at the time, I’d just started reading the Percy Jackson books, and Percy’s dad is Poseidon, whose name in Roman mythology is Neptune. My family also took a lot of day trips to planetariums and the space & science center, so I grew more interested in and learned a lot about space from there.
13. You get the opportunity to perform on Jupiter with your favorite artists. Who do you have on the bill with you?
All my favorite people. JakeMusic, Kevin Hackett, Grace Gardner, Regina Pimentel, Wesley Preis. And literally just everyone I’ve met through music. Oh, and also Taylor Swift and Phoebe Bridgers. And my brother because he’s my drummer.
14. Could you tell us more about your newest single “company”?
“company” came about a lot differently than my songs usually do. I typically write songs in one sitting. But with “company”, I started writing it in 2019, in the heat of the moment, but I didn’t finish writing it until last year. I’d had really bad writer’s block and decided to kill it by finishing an old song, and voilà — “company” was born. When I wrote the first half, I had a specific person in mind, but by the time I finished it, I’d been through a couple more fallouts with people, so it turned into this song about all the less-than-ideal company that I’d kept in my experiences so far. All of the friends (or more-than-friends) who’d betrayed me, left me behind, or that I simply drifted from. That’s who the song is directed toward for me now. The second half of the song, that I wrote last year, is basically a result of me looking at the company I wanted so badly to keep and realizing that it was never going to work out anyway. Another thing that’s kind of crazy is I saw this one TikTok, some time after I finished writing the song, and it pretty much said not to expect gallon-sized love from pint-sized people; that some folks only have so much to give. It really resonated with me, and reminded me of the first line of “company” I wrote three years prior, the one that says I have so much of me to give.
15. Why is it important that humans self-reflect? How do you feel after reflection?
Self-reflection is super important to engage in because it allows you the opportunity to get to know yourself better. I’ve learned some things about myself that I wouldn’t have found out had I not self-reflected. I think that you deserve the chance to know yourself best; you of all people should be the one to hold that position. It’s why I enjoy songwriting and writing in general so much — sometimes, when I’m writing a song, certain words and phrases come out of me that I wouldn’t have simply spoken out loud, or even thought to myself if I wasn’t in the zone of self-reflecting. It’s crazy what being in a mindset as vulnerable and fragile as that can reveal to you.
16. What is next for Faith Zapata?
You’ll just have to wait and see! I’ve got a few things up my sleeve that I’m hoping to get out this year.
17. Where can readers listen to your music?
I’m on all streaming platforms under my name, Faith Zapata! You can also hear snippets of unreleased music every now and then at my TikTok, which is @faithcore.