Forging a music path through passion and perseverance
Sitting down to talk with Zoë Nutt was nothing short of inspirational. Hers is a story of tenacity and perseverance, of chasing dreams no matter how out of reach they might feel. A rising star in the music industry who is quickly making a name for herself locally, Zoë’s journey to success has not been the easiest, but her determination to lead her life with purpose has propelled her forward.
Growing up in Knoxville, Zoë wasn’t always the kid who knew what she wanted to be. “I was always nervous and shy as a kid,” she says. “I was the bedroom poet type, always writing something in my room, drawing something, coming up with a poem or lyrics.” She stumbled into music by auditioning for a high school musical and later taking voice lessons. Through these, Zoë discovered her love—and talent—for performing.
She went on to study classical music at Belmont University in Nashville. While there, Zoë found a supportive environment for her interest in commercial and alternative music. She was able to experiment with different genres until an eclectic sound, her sound, emerged. However, the competitive Nashville music scene made it difficult for her to stand out, as did her schooling. “I almost finished my full degree in classical music at Belmont and found that I was pretty sad and not enjoying my musical career,” she says. “With classical music, there’s a perfectionism around it. And it was something I was realizing is not how I want to express music personally.” She found a new perspective through a difficult break-up. It was through this tough time that she wrote her first songs and was accepted into a songwriting program.
While she doesn’t hail from a “music family,” two particular people in her life laid the groundwork for her eventual emergence in the industry. Her grandmother performed in a traveling family band when young, and while Zoë didn’t grow up with this experience, she always appreciated the story. “That was something that was always fascinating,” she says. Couple that with a father who spent car rides analyzing the meaning behind the lyrics of the songs they listened to, and Zoë found herself with places to turn for inspiration. “My dad was not afraid to share songs with us and get us asking questions,” she says. “The funny part about all of this is I’m hearing impaired, so listening to lyrics actively is not the easiest thing for me. But he imparted the importance of not just how you sing, but what you’re saying.”
Zoë is deaf in her right ear. She has been since she was 8. But she found her hardest days in college just after she had made the switch from classical music to songwriting. “That first semester of school and songwriting class, I woke up one day and I couldn’t hear anything out my only working ear, my left ear,” she recalls. “I knew no one and I couldn’t hear any more, so a lot of that semester was me trying to figure out what was wrong with me.” She didn’t give up, though. She buckled down, taught herself what she needed to do to pursue the life she planned. “I had to reteach myself how to hear, how to really closely listen to things and do a lot of guessing,” she says.
Earlier this year, Zoë took to social media to document one of her most positive chapters: getting her cochlear implant, a surgically implanted electronic device that improves hearing for those with hearing impairments. She invited followers to walk with her through the journey as a hearing-impaired musician, through to her surgery and recovery. “That’s been a lifeline and a godsend,” she says of the implant.
Zoë’s journey is a testament to the fact that success doesn’t come easy and often requires patience, persistence, and the courage to pursue your passions despite the obstacles that come your way. And those messages can be found within the chords and lyrics of her music.
Her EP, released just this past January, ”Say What You Want to Say,” tells the story of being true to oneself and not being afraid to be who you are. Her son “Rescue” commends people for reaching out to say they need help. “There’s nothing shameful about it,” she says. In “Wildflower” she tells the story of being more than what is perceived on the outside. “Wildflowers can grow just about anywhere,” she says, adding that she wanted to remind herself and other women that they can be both beautiful and tough.
When you look up the name Zoë, you’ll find it is Greek for “life with God.” “It came from my parents,” she says. “They chose the name as a reminder to live one’s life with God. My middle name, Eve, also has a biblical meaning.”
A talented singer and songwriter who has overcome many challenges to reach where she is today, Zoë performs throughout the region and writes songs in her spare time. With her unique sound and style, she’s definitely one to watch in the music industry.
Like a beacon of hope in a sea of uncertainty, Zoë’s music reminds us that with hard work, perseverance and faith, we can achieve our dreams. Follow along with Zoë on her journey at zoenutt.com.