‘Afraid’ is about acknowledging your fears and setting them aside in order to move on.
With stunning vocals, delicate instrumentation and a heartening message about empowerment, emerging Australian female artist MOZË has made her debut with one of the most powerful tracks of 2021.
The moniker of Zoe Marshall from indie-rock band Zoe and The Milkmen, ‘Afraid’ is a raw and emotionally-fuelled ballad, fusing searing honesty with romantic imagery and showcasing her intricate ability to capture the delicacy of human emotion.
With nods to the likes of Lianne La Havas, Jorja Smith, Eliott, Florence + The Machine and London Grammar, the track has a dreamlike quality, carried along by elegant strings and a slow, mournful piano that subtly builds in intensity. MOZË’s emotionally charged and soulful vocals are undeniably haunting as they are beautiful.
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Written during the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020 and strengthened in a writing session with Tia Gostelow as part of an initiative through The Push, ‘Afraid’ is a tale of empowerment at its heart, where MOZË breaks down the walls and leads us into a conversation about her fears and doubts.
“‘Afraid’ is about acknowledging your fears and setting them aside in order to move beyond them,” she explains.
“Vulnerability is such a powerful emotion; it can be beautiful but it can also be dangerous. What is the point of waiting for the fear to leave you alone if you don’t challenge it? Doubt and anxiety are so real and normal, but it only exists within you – no one else knows your fears, so I could decide whether it existed within me.
“It’s clear to me now, but at the time I felt like I found the key, and I really wanted to share that with everyone.”
MOZË’s soaring falsetto is grounded by this raw, lyrical exploration and taken to starry heights with feather-light instrumentation, resulting in a captivating four minutes of music. It’s a chilling vocal performance so full of nuances it delivers the vulnerable lyrics without much effort.
Harnessing the raw emotional power ‘Afraid’ provides, MOZË has also unveiled the song’s spellbinding music video.
Filmed on a secluded beach with the sun dipped below the horizon, the video sees MOZË set herself free through an emotional and expressive lyrical dance. Slow and fluid, she moves passionately across the sand, flowing seamlessly from one move to another, letting her vulnerability shine through.
Working with Melbourne’s own director and cinematographer duo, Emily Medbury and Harry Cassell from Nicefilm Co, the video spawned from a friendship between them all, allowing Medbury and Cassell to fully encapsulate Marshall’s vision and passions.
“Our process with Zoe was a bit unconventional. We met at the end of lockdown and she knew she wanted a music video, but first, we had to collaboratively build her image,” Medbury says.
“I then spent the next six months getting to know Zoe, both professionally and personally. I knew that the best way to help create an image for her was to really get to know her. I feel so lucky to now be able to call her one of my best friends, we found an amazing connection and got to know the most vulnerable parts of each other.
“This allowed me to see not only the parts she wanted to share with the world, but the parts that she was (no pun intended) a bit afraid to show.”
While it was initially intended to accompany another single that’s yet to be released, Marshall’s fear of being in front of the camera was the perfect source of inspiration to film the clip for ‘Afraid’ instead.
“I remember talking to Em the night before shooting expressing my fear of being in front of a camera and inevitably showing my vulnerable side to the world,” Marshall says. “She hyped me up and told me to set aside the fear – like my song ‘Afraid’ – and to just express myself in the same way that I do when I sing.
“In the morning of shooting, Em directed me to dance on the beach and I listened to what she said – to just throw myself in. Suddenly I heard Em say “Wait, can someone play ‘Afraid’?” and it was at that moment that along with her, we all realised this scene was for ‘Afraid’.
“I’m not a dancer at all either – I have always been pretty awkward when it comes to moving the body. But there was something about me finally committing to music, setting fear aside and just diving into myself along with the stunning sunset … that it all just came together.”
Showcasing true passion in different forms of movement, accentuated by the reflections on the water, the video encompasses Marshall’s journey of breaking out of a hard time and backing herself.
“I have been dreaming of a video like this for a couple of years now, I still can’t quite believe it happened the way it did, in the most organic way possible,” Medbury says. “For me, dancing has always been quite cathartic. It has the power to convey emotion and tell a story without the need for much else.
“Due to knowing Zoe so well, it made it easier to work with her, to get her into the mindset I wanted, to feel the pain she felt when she wrote the song, to feel the liberation she felt when she began to come into her own as a woman. Honestly, the inspiration behind the video was simply Zoe herself.”
“When you have an artist like Zoe with such a powerful voice and who is so confident in front of the camera, it really does cut your work in half as a filmmaker,” Cassell adds.
“With this particular video, Zoe was becoming very comfortable in front of the camera and the combination of the beautiful sunrise and Zoe performing we really couldn’t miss, it was such a joy shooting that morning.”
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Having already performed alongside inspiring Australian artists including Woodes, Billy Davis and yergurl and with an EP set to be released in the not-so-distant future, ‘Afraid’ sees MOZË plant her flag firmly in the ground as she embarks on a solo endeavour that’s fresher, revitalised and more confident than ever.
‘Afraid’ is out now. For more on MOZË, head here.