Zephani Jong, better known as zeph, doesn’t just make music—she creates art out of feelings. The 20-year-old artist is working on an upcoming record all about her innermost thoughts with tracks that will soon be our new crying anthems. She’s not hung up on making it big—she just wants to keep producing art that inspires her and lets her share her emotions.
Could you tell me a little bit about how you became a musician and why you decided to pursue being an artist?
I started taking piano lessons when I was 3, and I started making my own songs on my little iPad when I was 10 or 11. I didn’t start writing lyrics to my music until two or three years ago. I started posting little snippets of what I made onto Instagram. I was really nervous because I had never done that before, but people really liked it, so I kept doing it.
How would you describe your music and vision as an artist?
My dream job since I was 10 was to be a movie score composer. I really want my music to sound like little soundtracks to people’s feelings or how I’m feeling or pretty images or videos that I see. That’s why I post videos—it’s like a mini film score every time. I take a lot of inspiration from movie score composers like Hans Zimmer. I try to use a lot of orchestral instruments in my music.
What other musicians or artists in general really inspire you and have influenced you?
Jeremy Zucker, for sure. Hans Zimmer, [too]. I grew up listening to Owl City. He’s still one of my favorites. Have you ever seen the movie Your Name? That soundtrack is the biggest influence on me right now.
What’s your songwriting process, and how do you approach making a song?
I can’t write things unless I feel something very strongly because that’s how I vent. I make a song about how I’m feeling. Even if I can’t think of coherent lyrics in the moment, I have a notes folder that I call “dump” where I write all [of] my feelings or lyric ideas. Then I’ll come up with a tune or a melody, and I think, “What can I sing over this?” I’ll look at my notes, and I’ll take something from what I felt before, and I’ll turn that into a song. Or sometimes, the lyrics will just come to me, and I’ll write a whole song in five minutes.
It’s just like writing in a diary. Out of all the music you’ve released, do you think there’s a certain song that really encapsulates what you’re about or best represents you?
I haven’t released too much yet, and a lot of that is not fully fleshed out in my personal style. All I have out really are demos and little things, so I guess the EP that I’m going to release would be that, but it’s not out yet. But [with] every single song on the EP that I’m making, I have those recurring thoughts every day. I’m very insecure, so I think that both sonically, for now at least, and lyrically that defines who I am.
As an artist, is there a particular message that you want to stand for or get across through your music?
Usually, I write songs just for myself to vent, but then when I post them, other people start telling me stories about how they relate to my music. The comments that I get the most is people saying, “You put a feeling that I had into words that I couldn’t think of myself,” which is really cool. People also tell me that even though my music is sad, they’re glad they’re not alone because we’re all experiencing the same thing. So I think that it’s OK to be sad about things, and it’s OK to vent to people because I know a lot of people hide their feelings.
How would you say that the internet has affected your career as an artist?
I think my career is fully based on internet interactions because that’s how my manager found me. They found my post on Instagram. That’s how [fans] started finding me because I started posting my clips on Instagram and Twitter. Then my favorite artists started following me back, and they asked me to collaborate with them. Without the internet, I probably would not be anywhere, career-wise.
Going forward, I know you mentioned the EP, but what should fans expect from you, and what are some of your goals as an artist?
My goal is to just keep making music. I don’t really care about blowing up and all that because that’s a lot of pressure. I just like that I can do this as a job and people relate to it. I also have stage fright, so I’m glad that I don’t have to go touring now.
You can read more on the artist in issue 391 featuring 100 Artists You Need To Know.