Layla Zoe interview

Ahead of her show in Bonn Layla Zoe was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions about how she has handled the last few years of concert uncertainty and also to introduce her current touring band…

It’s great to have you back again in Bonn Layla, especially since there were health problems early on in the tour. You had doctors orders to rest your voice in early April. What happened?

There were a number of reasons why I think my voice had issues in the first leg of the
tour. I had been off stage for 3 years, and although I was singing in that time I had only
been in the studio, not on the road, which is a completely different expectation on the voice
and body. Also I had my dogs with me for the first time on tour, and although they
behaved wonderfully and were quiet in the van and in the hotels, I still felt a pressure to
make sure I walked them enough and spent enough time with them and this pressure and
guilt caused me unnecessary stress while on tour which is a silent “killer” with the voice.
So as soon as I came off tour I arranged for the dogs to stay with my mother and father in
law for the remainder of the tour, where they are spoiled and pampered and I can trust
they are safe, and this helped me tremendously to be able to focus on myself 100% on
tour again…And lastly I began having problems with one of my team members who was
only on the first leg of the tour, and this “quiet conflict” was again putting additional
psychological stress on me that I think contributed to the voice going.

I guess that strained vocal chords is an occupational hazard for singers?

After so many years of doing what I do I can honestly say that everytime I have had vocal issues it has been a
combination of fatigue, stress and something psychological. So I think there were many
factors. Luckily because I have been through this before I knew to see the doctor
immediately and when the ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist) said I must take a week
off the tour to rest the vocal cords, I knew I should do that, and so we rescheduled 5
concerts until next year. If I had not done this it might have been impossible to do the rest
of the tour, so I know I made the best decision for myself, my team and my tour at that

And now you have just finished a punishing 12 shows in 13 days through five
countries (Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bratislava and Czech Republic) Tell me how you
feel currently

This was truly crazy; to do 12 shows in 13 days. I normally have a maximum of 4 shows
and then a day off, or maximum 5 shows and a day off, although with the Blues Caravan I
did more than that, but I only sang for 45 mins everynight. With my own show of 90 mins,
which on this tour I changed to 1 hour and 45 mins everynight with very little talking, much more singing and not such long guitar solos as I had in my show in the past, it was really a rollercoaster ride to get through 6 shows in a row with one day off and then 6 shows in a row again.

Of course there were moments when the voice struggled but the
audience never knew and one thing I really love about working with this band (Paul
Jobson, Felix Dehmel and Krissy Matthews) is that they are very dynamic and aware of
my voice. I don’t need to fight to be heard with this band and feel they understand when I
am having voice trouble or fatigue that they must stay quiet. They are great guys and
musicians, I was lucky to have them on this tour. I feel exhausted now of course since I
had a few days at home and the body always knows when it is home, so instantly I felt
more tired and my sciatica was acting up even more since coming off the tour. The body
pushes itself on tour, and sometimes you don’t even realize how hard you are pushing it
until you get home. Luckily I have only 3 concerts left and then I will go to Canada to see
my family for a month of holidays, something I truly need, and will help me to recover
when the tour is over.

Let’s take a step back in time. The last photos I have of you in Bonn were from 2018.
Indeed, from what I gather, you were last touring in 2020. What has happened since

As I have said nearly every night on stage to my audience while on tour this year, “My tour
started in March of 2020 and is ending in March of 2023!”
and that is literally what
happened. I was on tour in March of 2020 when concerts began slowly being cancelled.
Luckily not too many were cancelled for me on that tour, but what a wild time it was with
some crazy moments like needing to get out of Austria as fast as possible when our
concert in Enns was cancelled a few hours before showtime and we heard the borders
might close between Austria and Germany. It was like out of a movie when we crossed
the border and saw men with machine guns and people setting up big tents at the
Austrian border. I had told the guys in a text message from my hotel room “Everyone get
to the van in 15 mins, we need to get out of Austria!” Haha…so it was truly a wild end to
the tour in March of 2020.

and that was just the start…

Little did I know then that 3 years would pass before I was back on stage again! But I felt strongly that I would never perform on stage unless all of my fans were welcome in the venues. And so even when the opportunity to sing again presented itself, I was not going to go back on stage as long as there were rules about masks and
testing and passes/QR codes to enter the concerts. So I stayed patiently at home waiting for the right time again. My agent worked very hard for me and rescheduled my tour two times and so finally when it was time to go on tour this year in 2023 I could see instantly when I did the first concert that I had been right to wait.

What was the difference that you saw in 2023?

This year people are feeling free, unafraid, and are so grateful to come and hear live music and support musicians again, and also feel grateful to be in crowded warm rooms together again enjoying each other’s
energy. This in my opinion, is what live music is all about…

Not that you sat around twiddling thumbs during Covid Layla. You still got a lot done with DC’s and book releases.

Over the years from 2020 to 2023 I spent time with my husband, my dogs, made a few albums,
self published a poetry book, and did everything else I could do to stay busy and
connected to myself and my creative side, even painting for a short time and sending
those amateur paintings to fans who supported me through Patreon between 2020 and
2022. I could not have made it through those years without the love and support of my
husband, dogs, true friends, family, and some of my “number one” fans. I am so grateful
for the everyone who stood by me and with me, since 2020.

Tell me about your present touring band. I thought you and Jan Laacks were a great
team but now you have Krissy Matthews who is also a great guitarist (who I last saw at
the Harmonie with Vanja Sky). Is this a permanent band? Will you go into a studio with

Krissy Matthews – I really enjoy working with Krissy on guitar, he is very talented, a true road
warrior, and a kind person. He has been doing this for a long time, since he was out there
on the road at a very young age and he loves to play and loves to connect with people
and he is fine being a sideman and actually told me he enjoys to do that and doesn’t
always want to work all year with his own band only. He is also very social and has alot of
friends and connections in the business and is always happy to help and introduce
people and make new connections.

Felix Dehmel – Felix is a drummer I had never heard about before, but is in Krissy’s band and so I gave him a shot on this tour because Krissy told me he was great. And he is! Holy shit can this young man play. He is incredibly talented, easy to work with and I hope we will have more concerts together in the future. He is
quite busy with many projects just like all the other guys in the band, but we do have a few upcoming concerts later this year in Netherlands and Romania, so I am thrilled and grateful for any opportunities to make music with him as he is truly a gifted drummer and percussionist.

Paul Jobson – Paul is my amazing keys and bassist for this tour, but also so much more than that. Paul is just incredible. He is the glue that keeps the band together when things get hard on the road, he can drive the sprinter when needed, he helped me so much on this tour in so many ways, and is just one of the best people on the road, making jokes, always staying “light” and bringing his many years of UK experiences to the road and putting things in perspective. Not to mention he can play circles around many piano players I know, and has blossomed into such a great bassist too. He was very happy to be given the opportunity to play bass on this tour, and only a few songs on the keys. He and Krissy have known eachother a long time and he is also friends with Felix, so they made a great team and I feel so grateful we got through this tour with all the highs and lows. I feel we all really learnt a lot about each other and most importantly put on fantastic shows everynight for the audience. This was a tour to remember, and hopefully we will work together again as much as is possible. I recorded a few of the shows on tour and my plan is for a live album project to be released sometime next year.

I would love to make another studio album but must figure out when, with who,
and how, when the expense is always so high to make a good studio record and I don’t
know if it would be as easy for me to crowdfund again when I don’t use social media at all
anymore. Perhaps I would instead look for investors or a few hardcore fans who would
like to contribute to the next project instead of doing the crowdfunding. Time will tell, for
now I will enjoy the fact that I can go back on stage again and another studio album will
have to wait.

You published a poetry/lyric book not so long ago. Do you still write poetry as well as
song lyrics? Is there a difference between the two?

I still write when the impulse and inspiration is there, and that’s the case when it comes to
poetry and to song lyrics as well.

With regard to music cd’s: You cancelled ‘The Bluebirds Egg’ in 2021 (eventually
releasing only the title track co-written with Jackie Venson) before releasing ‘The World
Could Change’ on HF’s Cable Car label. You have also increasingly made use of
‘GoFundMe’ for financing. What’s the situation these days for musicians wanting to
release their product?

It is a very difficult thing to do the crowdfunding, it takes alot of time,
dedication, promotion, and follow-up with making sure all your funders get their perks/
albums by post/mail later. I don’t know if I would do it again or if it would be possible when
I am not using social media for promotion anymore.

Why did you drop out from Facebook and co?

I left all social media in 2020 and cannot bring myself to go back, it is so toxic in my opinion. Whether I work with another label, my own label or try something completely new is yet to be discovered after I release the live album project next year on my label. I think the landscape is changing a bit though, since CDs are truly being phased out and at some point I guess won’t be as big a selling feature on the merch table. So then I assume vinyl will be the main focus, as well as other types of merchandise, and this will change how labels invest and musicians create music and “product”…Time will tell, but at least with my fan base they are still buying CDs and LPs because they are an older age category and still find these formats relevant.

Your latest disc ‘The World Could Change’ hit the Canadian Blues chart at place 2. It
must be especially pleasing for you to get recognition in your homeland?

It is always nice to be recognized by your homeland, as well as by your peers and
of course fan base. But in the end you must be happy with the music, that is what counts
most of all, as you must live with it and stand behind it, and perform it. I am very proud of the
album Henrik and I created together. I deeply respect him and was so grateful to have the
chance to work with him again. He gave me complete artistic control over my lyrics and
what I wanted to say with this album and I think the songs are so strong and important,
and the album speaks for itself.

Which do you prefer: Creating new songs in the studio or bringing them live to an

I think most people know as it’s written on my website, and as I have been quoted saying
many times in interviews, “For me, there is nothing as satisfying as being on stage with my band, giving my heart to the fans, through music. I like to write songs, I enjoy being in the studio, but the live
shows are the reason I love my job so much.”

I filmed a “tour diary” on tour this year and it will be premiered in 5 parts on Youtube
starting with episode one on May 7th, 2023 on my Youtube channel. It might be of interest
to some fans to watch these episodes and get a little insight into life on the road. Although
no video can ever touch or truly show the energy between the band and audience each
night on tour. For that deep magic, you will need to check my website, and attend a
concert on tour this year…

Thank you for the interview Layla.

Thank you John, always a pleasure.

Part one…

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