Zeale ‘Rapz’ with Stagelight
Zeale has made a name for himself both locally in Austin’s emerging hip hop game and nationally as a finalist in 2007 in the same freestyle contest that launched Eminem a few years back, The Ohio Scribblejam. On top of his seasoned freestyle and rapping chops, he continues to push the boundaries with his willingness to experiment with a new sound and feel. His roots in music, “…started as a kid”, Zeale says, “I would hear my mom play a lot of R&B music and my uncle would play a lot of hip hop music.” Growing up in Austin however, which is predominantly “rock-centric”, also predisposed Zeale to a love of guitars and distortion. After his first release ‘Haterz and Robotz’ in 2009 which stayed with a more traditional hip hop feel, Zeale dug back into his Texas-rock roots during an experimental sabbatical. He then returned to the scene in a huge way in 2012 with a whole new digital swagger and EP called Wake Hell or Make Peace which showcased his breakout song, “Black Mr Rogers” featuring Aaron Bruno from AWOLNATION. Zeale’s love for guitars was prevalent in the release of his most recent EP Frnz & Fngz in late 2014. When we asked Zeale to describe this sound to those have never heard it, he said with a smile,“ take Childish Gambino, Pharrell, and Rage Against the Machine, put it in a shotgun, pull the trigger and you get ZEALE”.
Zeale, coined by the Austin Chronicle as the “red-headed stepchild” of the Austin Music scene, has certainly broken free of this nickname and risen the ranks locally and nationally, bridging the gap between generations of hip hop, r&b, pop, rock and rap. Zeale has entertained audiences worldwide and is constantly on the go. A lot of his musical ideas get their start on the road, and that’s where he says Stagelight comes in. “It allows me to capture the creative energy immediately. Sonically, it provides stuff that I crave as a musician… You add key lock feature which is amazing for me because I don’t know how to play the piano, but I can lock in and be able to create on the spot, get rough ideas out, and take those to a different level into the studio…But having that idea, that little fire to spark it, is the most important thing.” Zeale even has plans to integrate Stagelight into the freestyle portion of his live shows, “So that we have a little more flexibility triggering loops and having the smooth flow of transition to other loops. Which Stagelight does amazingly in their LoopBuilder program.”
Open Labs and Zeale have teamed up to bring the world a weekly spotlight called Stagelight Freestyle Fridays. Zeale takes Stagelight loops and freestyles LIVE on social media app Periscope from fans who are sending him words on the spot. We watched Zeale freestyle as the words came in on the screen and this spectacle was nothing short of astonishing. He can effortlessly freestyle for up to 20 minutes at a time, acknowledging fans, spitting rhymes, and making jokes, all while triggering loops in Stagelight to keep the flow going. Zeale is a huge supporter of Stagelight and the possibilities that can be unleashed with the software saying he, “ Would definitely recommend Stagelight for people that are creators of music whether they are professionals, amateurs, or just starting out.” These freestyle sessions are not to be missed. Watch the videos below for the full experience.
Zeale has all the makings of a true entertainer. He has the talent, the gumption, and interpersonal skills every musician needs to get his music heard. Zeale is known for his energetic performances and so we asked him what gets him the most fired up and he humbly says, “It’s always the crowd and it doesn’t matter if it’s a hundred people or a thousand people and it’s just the energy and being connected to those people. Also, the guys that I play with, those guys really drive me onstage and we have a really profound communication with each other.” He approaches live performances more as a collaboration between the artists and the audience and less as a ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ one-man-show. Zeale’s ability to break the fourth wall between the artist and the audience becomes very clear when you watch his interactions with his fans, both in person and digitally. He has shared the stage with big names like AWOLNATION, Imagine Dragons, Lil Wayne, KRS One, Nas, and Talib Kweli to name a few. Zeale still sees the importance in connecting to his audience and finding inspiration in that personal exchange. When asked about what kinds of things he feels inspired to write about, Zeale muses, “It could be something that’s a relative topic that’s going on. Experiences, Past relationships. And just, the same thing that humans have to go through. Right? We all have to pay our bills. We all have stress that we carry, and we all have expectations that are put on us by other people.” Zeale isn’t about separating himself from the crowd. Zeale is the kind of guy who would throw an inner tube into a crowd full of people and jump right onto them to go for a proverbial ‘river float’. Sounds fun, right? You can be sure that you’ll see him try that out again at another live show, “Maybe with another object.”
The combination of Zeale’s personality, energy, and talent are sure to send him straight to the top. Among the other very inspiring answers he gave during our interview, the one that especially stuck with us came when we asked him ‘why’ he chose to do music. Zeale responds,“I think the reason that I chose to do music is because it’s the most timeless form of expression to me. It gets messages and emotions across that written word and spoken word just can’t”. This answer really speaks to what Stagelight is all about. We work to make music creation more accessible to all because we believe everyone has a right to this form of expression. The MUSIC is in ALL of us, and it’s time to let it out! Take Zeale’s advice if you’re just starting out: “Be creative and find what you love, stick to it and be the best you can at it.”
You can find Zeale’s music at www.zealerapz.com
Full Exclusive Interview below.