Rising Music Star Zoey Tess On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Music Industry

An Interview With Eden Gold

Eden Gold
Authority Magazine
15 min readJun 6, 2024


People spend their entire lives perfecting their craft. When you hear of artists like Lady GaGa or Katy Perry, a lot of people assume they had overnight success. Both women worked for years and years. Were shelved or dropped by their labels, but they didn’t let that stop them. It might take 5 years, or 10 years or more, but when it’s meant to happen, it will be result of years of hard work and determination.

As a part of our interview series with leaders, stars, and rising stars in the music industry, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Zoey Tess.

Zoey Tess is a trailblazing female music producer and songwriter, known for a diverse genre of compositions within the realm of popular music. From her early days in Coral Springs, Florida, to her creative ascent in Newtown, Connecticut, Tess’s journey is a testament to her relentless drive and rich musical lineage, tracing back to her aunt, the late film and television actress Corinne Camacho.

Born January 1st, 1993, Tess spent her teen years songwriting and recording at Moomba Studios in Connecticut, alongside music producer Michael Patzig. She studied classical piano, violin and voice, earning her a spot at the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts. She later began a three-year collaboration with New Haven, Connecticut record producer Vic Steffens (Horizon Music Group), known for his work with renowned artists The Rolling Stones and Harry Connick Jr. Tess’s dedication and talent earned her an internship at Horizon, eventually leading to a brief signing with the label’s subsidiary of Sony Records. Under the umbrella label “Horizon Music Group”, she released her jazz-fusion single “Late Night Thoughts.”

A self-taught maestro of digital audio workstations like Pro Tools and Logic Pro, Tess’s journey took an exhilarating turn with her collaboration with Jake Siberon, a producer and multi-instrumentalist from the band Mile-Marker-Zero. Together, they crafted the hit singles “Human Nature” and “Turn Me Up” in 2023. Tess’s magnum opus, “In These Dreams,” an orchestral ballad released in August 2023, showcased her dual prowess as a songwriter and producer. The track, mixed by Grammy-Award winner Mario McNulty (David Bowie, Prince, WILLOW!), catapulted to global acclaim, hitting top charts and becoming Tess’s most notable work to date.

Tess’s passion for songwriting and music production extends beyond her personal achievements. She finds joy behind-the-scenes, writing and producing for other artists, including artists Britney Spears and Mila Jam. Today, Tess curates an impressive catalog of music for film and television, while continuing to write and produce for a diverse roster of artists, shaping the soundscape of modern pop music.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit about your “origin story”. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Thank you so much for having me. I was born in Coral Springs, Florida, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale. When I was two my family and I moved up north to Connecticut where my father had family roots. We moved around a bit, living in Newtown, Connecticut and then eventually settled in a small town called Southbury. I was constantly surrounded by music. My dad loved to play the drums, my two brothers were always jamming on the guitar, and my mom, the self-proclaimed “disco-queen” would always have Donna Summer and Bee Gee’s records going. Our house was always filled with music. My grandmother was a concert pianist. She passed before I was born and had left my dad her beautiful George Steck piano, along with classical sheet music and Burt Bacharach scores. I was always attracted to the piano from the time I was young. I took classical piano lessons for several years, but I yearned to play popular music. I wanted to begin writing music.

What inspired you to pursue a career in music, and how did your journey begin?

I started to teach myself how to play contemporary music, pop, rock, R&B, and everything in between. The first time I performed was in elementary school at our talent show. I sat down at the piano and sang “Hey Jude” by the Beatles. I was so nervous, and my foot was shaking so badly, I could barely get control of the piano’s sustain pedal. I sort of went into auto-drive, blacking out, until I came back into my body. I could hear the audience singing along for the last refrain and I received a standing ovation. It was such a spiritual experience and the most thrilling moment. Other parents approached my mom and dad and told them “your child needs to pursue a career in music”. I think my parents were apprehensive about making a career of music as they didn’t want me to fall into some of the pitfalls of the music industry, but they were both so supportive, affording me lessons for singing, acting, and dance. Through a family friend, we met with a music producer in Connecticut named Michael Patzig. We cut some demos at his studio and so began the journey.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Living in a recording studio for two years. As crazy as it sounds, it was really a trip. I had spent my entire childhood working on music, songwriting, performing, attending Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan for a musical theatre summer program, and after high school, I thought “where am I going? What am going to do with my life?”. I attended a semester of college at Berklee College of Music and decided school wasn’t for me. I wanted to be in the action, and I wanted to learn hands on. So, I dropped out. When I moved back home with my parents, I felt like I had failed. I joined a jazz-fusion band as one of their vocalists. We met every week to rehearse at Horizon Studios in West Haven. I loved being in a recording studio, watching artists and bands come in and record. I wanted to learn the ins and outs of the recording process, so I asked the owner Vic Steffens if I could cut some demos in studio b, downstairs. During the day I was interning for the studio, running gear, setting up sessions, tracking in pro tools and of course, getting coffee! At night I would go down to my “layer” as we called it and write and record. Eventually I had set up a make-shift apartment, sleeping on a futon, eating ramen noodles with Fleetwood Mac’s record “Gypsy” on replay. “Gypsy” was the soundtrack to my life at that time. I was a rockstar in my own mind and I had everything I needed. I met a lot of really great musicians, learned a lot, and I can say it was truly the most interesting time In my career and in my life.

It has been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I don’t know if I would consider it a mistake, but it’s definitely funny. When I was a teenager, I wanted to book gigs and get my demos out to anyone that would listen, but I would always get back emails saying “sorry, no unsolicited material.” I wanted to seem more legit. So, my best friend and I devised a plan to change our voices, create different names, and call local venues pretending to be agents or manager. It worked one time, only after the booking manager caught his breath from laughing so hard at our obviously failed disguises. It was The Bitter End in New York, and it was the late Kenny Gorka on the other end of the phone. He was a gem of a person, and my band and I booked a twenty-minute set at the iconic club. Lesson learned: No fake disguises. Although sometimes you have to get a little creative.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Jake Siberon, without a doubt. Jake, who is now the producer and bass player for the prog-rock band Mile Marker Zero, was my middle school chorus teacher once upon a time. He also co-produced a lot of my early records. He taught me everything I know about songwriting. Chord progressions, music theory, how to structure a song. I stayed after class one day in middle school and showed him a song that I had wrote. He said, “it’s got potential, kid” and sent me home with a list of notes and chord charts to learn on piano. He continued to foster my creativity and has always been such a stand-up person. I’m proud to call him a friend and also proud of the music we created during that time.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I have about fifteen projects I’m currently working on producing. Some of those are for some incredible artists, some are tv/film licensing material, and some are personal projects. I love getting to do what I love every day. Each song has a unique message. The artists I write and produce for are always so fun to work with. The genres of these songs range from pop to R&B to jazz and even some alternative, folk music.

I recently wrote a song titled “Imperfectly Perfect”. It’s an anthem for anyone who has ever felt not good enough. People who have struggled with their sense of self-worth. There’s a lyric in the chorus that says “However close we are to broken; We are worth it. We are the imperfectly perfect.” As an LGBTQ+ activist and advocate, I wrote this song for the entire community. Yet, there is a message for everyone about learning to love and embrace every part of ourselves.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in music, film, and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Diversity is incredibly important within the entertainment industry but more importantly within culture. For years, minority groups only existed in the fringes of society. Marginalized groups of people were cast aside despite paving the way for the very culture that benefited from their contributions. The black and brown musicians, artists, and visionaries who created what became part of main-stream pop culture had their work appropriated for the benefit of others. I think of the many LGBTQ+ dancers that created art forms like “vogueing”, a type of dance that came out of the ballroom scene of Harlem in the 1960’s. It meant more than dancing. It was a movement born out of a culture of repression, lack of inclusion and a need for self-expression. Diversity in the entertainment industry is so very important because underrepresented groups need to be seen and heard. It’s so important for our youth to feel that they are important, they matter and that there is a seat at the table for everyone. It starts at the top and fosters a culture of inclusivity and acceptance for all.

As a successful music star, you’ve likely faced challenges along the way. How do you stay motivated? How do you overcome obstacles in your career?

In the past I was so fearful of rejection, I was fearful of not being liked or that my music wouldn’t be successful or validated. It’s human nature to seek validation. As artists, most of us enter this world perhaps because we sought that validation from an early age. We weren’t the “cool kids”. We found our voice and our solace by channeling our emotions through mediums of art. And when you add something so personal, so intimate, such as your own creations of music and art into the mix, it becomes a lot heavier. I’ve come to understand that not everyone is going to enjoy you, your music, or your personality. I’ve learned to detach that from the creative process of writing and producing music. I stay motivated because I believe in my work. I believe in the integrity of myself as a human being and what I stand for. I overcome obstacles by knowing that failure is a part of life. Criticism and validation don’t define our self-worth. I continue to create because I know there’s a higher calling and as artists we create with our truth. The need to be liked is just ego. I stay motivated because I know there’s a divine plan and purpose. Knowing that, you can overcome any obstacle.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?

1 . Things don’t happen overnight, trust in yourself and keep going.

People spend their entire lives perfecting their craft. When you hear of artists like Lady GaGa or Katy Perry, a lot of people assume they had overnight success. Both women worked for years and years. Were shelved or dropped by their labels, but they didn’t let that stop them. It might take 5 years, or 10 years or more, but when it’s meant to happen, it will be result of years of hard work and determination.

2 . Don’t compare yourself to others.

A lot of artists want to be the next this or the next that. You can’t be the next whomever, they already exist. Everyone has their own purpose, and unique story to tell. Our life experiences shape and influence what we have to say. You cannot strive to emulate anyone but yourself. Create art because there’s something in your soul that yearns to let it out. There is only one you and that is so special.

3 . The tongue has no bones, but it is strong enough to break a heart. So, be careful with your words.

I’m a huge believer in karma and in speaking thoughts into existence. When your kind to others, it all comes back to you. Your words carry a lot of power that can be used for good or to hurt. To quote John Watson: “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

4 . Raise your frequency to attract higher vibrational people and situations

For many years I had a negative self-image of myself. That mindset only allowed me to attract people and circumstances in my life that I believed I deserved. Our subconscious is so powerful. When we begin to raise our inner frequency by learning to truly love ourselves, we attract like-minded people who are vibrating at those higher frequencies. Thoughts turn into words which manifest as reality. Surround yourself with positive people and believe in the power of your dreams.

5 . Don’t let negativity overshadow your hard work and accomplishments.

When I started my career, I was a teenager. I dealt with the normal pressures of trying to fit in at school. Social media was a new phenomenon. I remember being bullied in school. My peers at school found my music online and would play it down the hallway, laughing. I remember receiving anonymous messages from other students at school. It hurt but I knew where I was going. I knew how hard I had worked since I was young. Bullies don’t grow up or go away after high school. Working in the music field, dealing with critics comes with the territory. A healthy level of criticism is normal. Not everyone is going to like you, and that’s ok. You have to stand in your truth and focus on your art.

Can you share some insights into your creative process? How do you approach songwriting? How do you approach musical collaborations?

Most of the time I hear an interesting word or phrase or story and my brain goes into creative mode. I’ll grab a notepad or type it in the note section of my phone. I approach songwriting like putting together pieces of a puzzle. I like to create characters and stories, almost like a movie, when I’m in the writing process. I like to visualize the movie in my head to tell a tale and to paint a picture for the listener. Producing is another fun spectrum of the creative process because you can map out the instruments and tracks, but you never know where the arrangement will lead you. Collaborating with other producers brings a fresh perspective to the table and a new set of ears. When Jake and I started the production for “In These Dreams”, I had already mapped out what I thought was going to be the course for the song. After taking a few listens, he said “let’s try adding a glockenspiel to the beginning of the piece to really create that dream-like sound.” Collaborations are so important!

Your music has resonated with so many fans worldwide. What do you believe sets your music apart?

Thank you. I believe the broad range of genres I write and produce allows for a diverse listening audience. You have a song like “In These Dreams” that might resonate with a contemporary music audience that enjoys string arrangements and then you have tracks like “Human Nature” that are dance-pop songs. “Human Nature” was written with Britney Spears in mind and a lot of her fans have really resonated with that track and have reposted it on fan sites, which is extremely humbling as Britney is one of my favorite artists of all time. She’s an extremely brilliant and gifted performer and talent. With my music, all are welcome. I believe everyone can find something that resonates with them.

How do you connect with your audience?

Being my most authentic self is so important. I try my best to be authentic when it comes to creating music but also by being honest and vulnerable as a human. I love chatting with listeners on social media and when I get to meet and connect live at events it’s always such a pleasure.

With your busy schedule and demanding performances, how do you prioritize self-care and maintain a balance between your personal life and career in the music industry?

This is something I’m still learning how to master, the work-life balance thing. Boundaries are so crucial for our mental health and our inner peace. The best advice I’ve ever been given is that “No” is a complete sentence. The idea that the more we agree to, means the more we will succeed, is so deeply flawed. At the end of the day, you have to put your mental and physical health first and foremost. I’m also so lucky to have the most amazing, loving husband, partner, and friend. He is an angel. Being with him and our dog, Sophie and cat, Isabella. They are my peace.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

That’s very kind. I’d like to think I might one day have the power to change the world. I believe in the power of love and peace. Our world is so divided. We are closer than ever due to social media and smart phones, yet as humans, we’ve never been more disconnected. We need more humanity and more humility. I think a movement of kindness would be great. Kindness is infectious and can start a chain reaction. We are so quick to react with anger. I understand that emotion because people can be hurtful and intolerant. But if we take the time to grant those people some humility and the opportunity to learn and grow, without acting out of anger, I believe we can change hearts and minds. Something I try to do, as small as it might seem, when someone writes something mean-spirited online, I always react with kindness. In turn, those people respond back with a much different attitude. They’re forced to look-inward and reflect upon the hurt they’ve inflicted. It’s something small that everyone can do.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

Janis Ian! Without a doubt. Janis is one of the most prolific songwriters of our time and a personal hero of mine. “At Seventeen” and “Stars” are so profoundly beautiful and had such an impression on myself and so many artists. Her final studio album “The Light at the End of the Line” is such a blessing filled with so many gems. It’s funny because I did an interview last year and mentioned how much her work inspired me and still does. A day or so after the article was published, I got an email and all I could see was the name Janis Ian. I nearly fell over. I thought someone was playing a cruel prank on me. Sure enough, it was the legend herself, Janis Ian. She sent the kindest message of gratitude and well wishes. One day I would love to sit down and just listen to her stories and ask her how she conjured up such brilliant lyrics. As of recent, I’ve been working with Stonewall Museum and Archives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida after being introduced to their wonderful executive director Robert Kesten. Perhaps we could meet there one day and then grab lunch. A girl can dream!

How can our readers continue to follow your work online?

www.zoeytess.com from there you can connect with me on social media as well as find links to listen to my music on all digital and streaming platforms. I look forward to talking to new listeners and connecting with other artists!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank you very much for having me.

About The Interviewer: Eden Gold, is a youth speaker, keynote speaker, founder of the online program Life After High School, and host of the Real Life Adulting Podcast. Being America’s rising force for positive change, Eden is a catalyst for change in shaping the future of education. With a lifelong mission of impacting the lives of 1 billion young adults, Eden serves as a practical guide, aiding young adults in honing their self-confidence, challenging societal conventions, and crafting a strategic roadmap towards the fulfilling lives they envision.

Do you need a dynamic speaker, or want to learn more about Eden’s programs? Click here: https://bit.ly/EdenGold



Eden Gold
Authority Magazine

Youth speaker, keynote speaker, founder of Life After High School, and host of the Real Life Adulting Podcast