Pop-Cultured: Zane Lowe Perfects the Art of Making Musicians Comfortable

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Isabelle Schlegel

(Cartoon by Isabelle Schlegel | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Oakley Burt, Arts Writer

 

Interviewing is an essential part of journalism — as clichéd as it sounds, the art of gathering information from others plays a major role in crafting a story. It’s arguably the hardest part of journalism as well, especially when it comes to interviewing musicians. It can be difficult to truly connect with the artist, gain their trust and have them really open up — music journalists are often viewed as the people you don’t want to divulge such personal information to. But radio DJ Zane Lowe has seemingly perfected the art of interviewing the world’s biggest artists by creating an environment that makes them feel comfortable.

 

Zane Lowe’s Approach

Lowe gained wide recognition as a radio DJ for the United Kingdom’s popular BBC Radio-1, working there from 2003-2015. When Apple Music was introduced to the world in early 2015, he left the United Kingdom to jump-start Apple’s Beats 1 Radio in California — an artist-oriented station striving to drive the global conversation around music. It’s also a station for passionate music fans, the ones who live and breathe music 24/7. As a devout music fan, Lowe was drawn to Apple Music to foster a connection between artists and fans through in-depth interviews.

To make musicians feel comfortable around him, his strategy is quite simple — build meaningful relationships with the artists by giving them the platform to say anything and everything they want, while being genuinely heard with no judgment. He has no hidden agenda, nothing to publish about the artist. He only strives to create an environment where the artists’ music is the sole focus. 

“I’m just fascinated by the human condition of making music and art,” Lowe said in his recent interview with Justin Bieber. His sheer enthusiasm and utter delight in sitting down with an artist to break down their creative process radiates in each interview because he sincerely wants to hear what they have to say. Lowe has a peaceful nature that allows these famous musicians a chance to be at ease and have a relaxed conversation about their art. Lowe is not one to shy away from personal or uncomfortable questions, but he approaches these topics in a compassionate, understanding way. He doesn’t forcefully pry. He simply lets the artist reveal everything they intend to before shifting back to the music. 

Lowe’s extensive knowledge of music and the creative process can also be attributed to how he makes musicians feel comfortable. He’s been involved in multiple facets of the music industry for over 20 years. Before becoming a radio DJ, he was a member of Urban Disturbance — an early ’90s hip hop group — and a presenter for MTV. Lowe was also credited as a writer and producer on Sam Smith’s Grammy-nominated album “In the Lonely Hour.”

Throughout his career he’s always followed the artist. “I’m just a fan,” said Lowe in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “If my ego ever got me feeling like my career wasn’t growing fast enough I’d go: ‘Hang on. Are you breaking away from your relationship with the artist?’”

Lowe’s continuous commitment to the artist is what makes him the successful, influential interviewer that he is. 

 

Celebrity Highlights

Zane Lowe has interviewed various artists throughout his illustrious career from Kanye West to Jay-Z and Rick Rubin. Each interview experience is eclectic and entirely individual, his most recent — and a few of my favorite — interviews have been with Kevin Parker of Tame Impala (“The Slow Rush”), Justin Bieber (“Changes”), Halsey  (“Manic”) and Harry Styles (“Fine Line”).

 

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@oakley_burt