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Student kickstarts album online

Mills sophomore and musician Zoë Blank finds her influence in country, bluegrass, folk, and old-time music — music that she has been drawn to since an early age because of her parents.

Photo courtesy of Zoë Blank

“My parents listened to all sorts of different genres when I was growing up and hardly any modern music, so I always gravitated to world music that’s more traditional and older,” said Blank.

With a rich musical background, Blank decided to begin recording her debut album, but after starting the recording process, she found that it would be too expensive to record on her own. She turned to the fundraising website Kickstarter to raise money to pay for recording the album.

“I have a lot of friends who have been raving about how successful their projects on Kickstarter were,” said Blank, who said she hadn’t seen many projects on the website fail. “I knew that I really needed the money because I’d started recording the album and realizing how expensive it was and worrying about it and feeling very stuck. So that was the only way I could really keep moving.”

Blank began the project on Jan 18, making her goal of $4,000 by March 3. Within two weeks of starting the project, over 100 percent of her goal was funded.

“It was super exciting,” said Blank of reaching her goal. “I find myself walking around, smiling these days. It’s just like, oh, a little bit carefree and it’s really nice.”

That wasn’t all she accomplished with Kickstarter, however: Within two days of starting the project, Blank was featured on Kickstarter’s Staff Picks page.

Blank was in the F. W. Olin Library when she found out her project was featured. She recalled being shocked and gasping while everyone around her motioned for her to be silent.

“I was definitely the noisiest person there,” she said.

Blank grew up around the Bay Area’s country music scene, citing the community as a major influence.

“What really drew me into country and old time was the community in the Bay Area because they kind of became my grandparents — my grandparents live on the East Coast and I don’t see them very often,” said Blank. “I have all these new family members because of the country music scene.”

Blank has stayed in touch with the community and tries to hang out with them monthly.

“Family’s important,” she said.

She also plays the fiddle for Dylan Cannon & the Wound Lickers, a San Francisco-based band. However, because two band members are getting married, they are currently taking a break.

“We’ll see what happens,” she said about the band. “They’re really fun. I hope they come back to the music world.”

Recently, Blank received an offer to join a St. Patrick’s Day band.

“I just got this email from this guy I’ve kind of never met, but he’s crazy,” said Blank. “He has, like, long, red dreadlocks and a giant red beard. And he sometimes paints red polka dots on his cheeks. Anyway, he’s kind of well known in the San Francisco music scene and he’s creating a St. Patrick’s Day band. And he’s like, ‘You wanna play drinking songs at a bunch of bars with us?’ How can you say no to that, though? It’s gonna be ridiculous and I love it.”

Blank also hopes to showcase her music in venues around the Bay Area.

“I’m really bad at balancing my schoolwork and my music life,” said Blank. “I think I’m getting better, but we’ll see. But that’s the goal.”

She is targeting an early summer release date for her album, but nothing’s set in stone because of academic pursuits — Blank is taking environmental studies and economics. She is also considering creating her own major of environmental economics.

“I’m kind of on this homesteading kick where I want to live off the land, too and hope that will make my bills go down as well,” said Blank of her future in environmental studies. “I don’t have to buy food as much, but it’s hard to do that around here, especially if you’re in the city.”

As Blank spoke about her diverse influences and her success with Kickstarter, she explained her fondness for the music
community by saying, “What’s great about it is that people who don’t know you or are totally from outside your friend group will find you somehow.”