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Zoe Lewis: Cabaret Meets Folk

By Emily Pickrell

Zoe Lewis was the winner of the Colorado Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Troubadour Award in 2003, was the New Folk Winner of 2002 at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas, and 2001 Falconridge Folk Festival’s Audience Favorite. Lewis is in high demand on the international circuit and has toured with Judy Collins, the Indigo Girls, and Richie Havens. She has even opened for Pat Benetar on the ukulele.

Lewis sat down with Emily Pickrell to talk about everything from gypsies to the circus influences her music, and how she tries to “hit people in the gut” with her songs.

Emily Pickrell: On stage, you incorporate everything from multiple instruments to juggling! What are your influences?

Zoe Lewis: I love circus music—it’s really gypsy music, and that is what I essentially am. The music travels, and it picks up different influences as it goes—you have French and Spanish and eastern European gypsy. It’s this mix of influences that has fashioned the old-fashioned troubadour and the storyteller. My music is theater—it’s a mish-mash. It is jazz, swing, and gypsy with a folk story. I call it world beat vaudeville. It is the high-energy, high-entertainment set that I go for. I try to hit people in the gut with my songs—I love to make people laugh and then cry.

EP: One of my favorite songs that you played last year was “Barbizon.” How did you write this song?

ZL: That song is about where my mother grew up in France, and I went back to visit it. I love those haunting French melodies and [the] French gypsy circus, which was the musical influence. I was very tight with my mother, and writing that song was a way of dealing with my grief and looking for the hope and gift that she gave me. A death can remind of you of the importance of living life as fully as possible—that is what grief can be turned into—and that is what I tried to convey in that song.

EP: What keeps you coming back to Mexico?

ZL: I love the Latin culture. I love the grooves. They are not on the beat here. It is rough and rugged, and there is humanity everywhere, and I adore it. There is so much to be learned here about what is important, that which is simple and beautiful. It is all about the musical journey with me. I don’t take photos when I travel. I write songs.


Singer-songwriter in concert

Fri-Sat, Mar 9-10, 7pm

Shelter Theater

Vicente Guerrero 4, San Rafael

Tickets sold at the Biblioteca and at the door

415 149 1106

200 pesos




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