Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Zaya Mars. Together we discussed their relationship with music, their songwriting process, human activities that take place at 3AM, their upcoming album “what are you so afraid of?”, and so much more!

1. Mustard is grateful to have you join them at Music Shelf. How are you doing?

I’m doing great!! Thank you so much for having me. 

2. Mustard wonders what your relationship with music was growing up? 

When I was younger, my dad used to play music around the house all the time. His favorite bands and albums became mine too. When I was 10 he passed away, but music kept us connected. From listening to his favorite songs, to writing my own, music became my coping mechanism. I used to think of my voice as a parting gift from my dad. While in many ways I still do, my love of music has become so much more than my means of processing. Today, music is my favorite part of who I am. 

3. Is there a song (or album) that had a significant impact on you? 

good kid, m.A.A.d city hit me hard. Kendrick taught me that pain can be poetic, storytelling can be therapeutic, and that music is nothing without the words which give it meaning. There is something so beautiful and so freeing about being able to speak your truth over a beat. Though the challenge is saying something meaningful while also making it sound fire. Kendrick is one of the only rappers I know that never sacrifices his authenticity for his flow. 

4. You consider music to be your safe space. How does music help you feel comfortable? 

My favorite songs make me feel heard. My favorite artists make me feel seen. My dream is to have fans who connect to my music and see their own stories in mine. From love, to loss, to everything in between, I know what it’s like to feel lonely but I promise you you’re not alone. Music is all about connection for me, my only hope is you feel connected to mine. 

5. “The most beautiful thing about music is that voice can belong to anyone.” Could you elaborate more on this quote? How does music compare to different mediums of communication for you? 

When language alone fails me, music closes the gap between what I say and how I feel. When words can’t seem to capture the emotions I’m feeling, I let my melodies speak. Music doesn’t just have the power to transcend language, it’s a language of its own. Sometimes there’s no explanation for why something speaks to me, it just does. I think what I love most about music, and about art in general, is that there is no right way to feel it. I love that anyone has the power to use their voice. I love that art has no direct translation.

6. What is your songwriting process? 

It really depends. Sometimes melodies come to me long before words and other times it’s like my verses write themselves. I think the common denominator between all of my songs is that they are inspired by the life I lead. The people I love, the memories I keep, the lessons I learn, all make their way into my work. 

7. Who (or what) influences you? 

I always say that I don’t mind if I get my heart broken, so long as I come out on the other side with a fire song. Just kidding. Please don’t break my heart lol. But on a real note, my art is my life and my life is my art. Some huge influences of mine are Frank Ocean, Kendrick, Cudi, Dijon, Men I trust, and Beach House. 

8. Your songs are a melodic time capsule. When or where in time are you taking your listeners? 

Specific time periods in my life are musically coded. My core memories each have specific songs or albums attached to them. My love of music usually manifests through my temporary obsession with one work at a time. I listen in phases and grow out of songs before I inevitably circle back to them. And when I do, it’s like I’m physically brought back to where I was when I first listened. 

No matter how much time it’s been, I’m a past version of myself again. I like to think about my own songs as melodic time capsules of who I was when I first wrote them. I guess in a way, I’m taking my listeners back in time with me! 

9. Mustard wonders what inspired your 2020 single “Just So?” 

Awe that song has a special place in my heart because it was the first song I ever released on all platforms. “Just So” is about how frustrating it can be to put yourself out there, give your heart to someone, and then feel like they aren’t sure about you. It sucks to invest your time and energy into someone who doesn’t know how to do the same for you. 

10. What are some common human activities that take place at 3 AM? Was this song written (or thought of) at this time? Could you share more about this single? 

3am is about what it feels like to be lifted by love to new heights. When you’re with that special person that makes you feel like the world stops spinning when you’re together, like time doesn’t exist when you’re apart. This feeling looks and feels different to everyone. If you want a better sense of what 3am on a balcony looks like to me, you can check out the music video on Youtube!! 🙂 

11. Some humans use white noise to help them fall asleep. Does it help you relax? In what ways are human relationships like white noise? 

Personally, white noise makes me kind of anxious haha. My song “White Noise” is actually about what it feels like to go numb to the sound of your own voice. To let yourself fade into the background. It’s part of the bigger question I ask myself throughout the album: what’s it going to take for me to show up for myself? 

12. What can fans expect from your upcoming album “what are you so afraid of?” 

During the pandemic I took a gap year to write and record this album. I spent so much time alone, more than I ever had before. It really caused me to reflect on who I was and who I wanted to be. I hated how much my relationships defined me. Yes, I’m a hopeless romantic. But instead of focusing my energy on someone else for once, I decided to invest in myself and my music. When I finished this album I didn’t just learn how to show up for myself, I learned how to love doing it. I hope that my listeners can learn how to do the same. 

13. Mustard wonders what frightens you? How do you overcome that fear? 

Honestly, for a while I was afraid to share my music with the world and put myself out there. It’s always a little scary to be vulnerable but you have to open up if you want to be received. There came a point where I was sitting on my finished album for a minute and I eventually had to ask myself “what are you so afraid of?! Release it!!” Now that I finally am, I don’t feel scared anymore. 

14. Where can readers listen to your music? 

My music is out on all streaming platforms!! “what are you so afraid of” comes out March 2nd!!


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