We had the good fortune of connecting with Zoe Van De Voorde and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Zoe, can you tell us about an impactful book you’ve read and why you liked it or what impact it had on you?
Every book I’ve ever read had some impact in shaping my soul, but it’s funny how when asked this question I have an immediate answer– “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel. This book has so much going for it and goodness knows pre-quarantine I could sip a whiskey in a bar and chat up any willing patron about the merits of this novel and why I’ve read it more than once. A few things though: St. John Mandel’s writing has inspired me as a writer and lyricist. It’s understated, poetic, and full of meaning. Her use of language in describing every action and environment inspires me to think more about the beauty of the everyday in the world all around us. I work everyday on my craft but I aspire to write more like her, for every word I use to have purpose, and that purpose to be to create something larger than myself. Additionally this novel speaks to several themes I have experienced in my life– loss, perseverance, and the desperate need for music and art even amidst utter chaos. About three years ago my entire life was upended. I quit my job as a teacher, the relationship I was in ended, I left several friendships and found myself almost completely back at square one. My mental health in shambles I started to purposefully decide what pieces I even wanted to pick back up and for the first time in years I returned to music and art. This novel is eerily relevant to our current times. Our setting is a world ravaged by a pandemic and follows individuals as they navigate the downfall of the society and the initial stages of rebuilding. There is something fundamentally human about craving art when the world is crumbling. I think we all know that a little too well after the last year. Ask yourself–what would you do if the world ended? Even before reading “Station Eleven” I would have said keep playing music and writing. I cannot separate myself from my creativity and survive with any meaning. After this year and all it has encompassed, we all can see the edge and the need to reinvent our society. There is no time like this moment to prioritize what inspires our souls exactly like the traveling orchestra in the novel– music, art, performance, and creation. Oft quoted but more poignant in our current conditions, “Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable” (George Bernard Shaw). Right now we are trending to a more bearable world. In the meantime if you want an escape into a novel that is beautiful and speaks of hope in our exact situation I can’t recommend “Station Eleven” enough.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The funny thing about being a musician is that it’s the easiest thing to do when you’re inspired and the hardest thing to do when you aren’t. 2020? We all felt it. The hope that we could keep going slowly trickling away everyday as more cases and more deaths occurred. My band Eleanor Nash & The Ramblers was supposed to play The Mercury Cafe on March 21st and The Alley on March 27th, 2020. March 13th I made the easy decision to cancel both and so far we haven’t been able to play a show since. But what I’d want you to know about me and our band is that we didn’t stop. I think everyone in 2020 had a choice– do you dedicate your energy to adapting to what music could be in light of everything (jump on that live stream life) or did you take that energy and put it towards other acts of service? We stopped focusing on our band for about 10 months and instead focused on the world. We went and supported the Black Lives Matter movement during the summer protests and talked to our families about changes that needed to happen. We confronted our own bias. We still are. In the fall I put together two anthologies of folk and punk inspired political protest music under the banner Politico Music Colorado because I knew a lot of musicians who also wanted to scream about what was happening in the United States. Our band will never be live stream champions, but we are dedicated to inclusive music scenes. In 2020 I learned we’re the kind of people you can approach at a show, or an open mic, and we’ll have your back. We believe woman. We believe black lives matter. We believe a lot of change has to happen, and we’re committed to what we can do. I’d want anyone coming to our shows to know that.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Humor me on this question because some of the places I’d take people have unfortunately closed because of this past year but: First thing we’d be checking in to the Oxford Hotel and starting our adventure in the historic Cruise Room. Have a classic cocktail and some finger foods while enjoying the art deco vibes. From there we’d be taking a stroll up past Coors field into RiNo to grab some dinner at Butcher’s Bistro (may it rest in peace) for a perfectly cooked steak and the cozy atmosphere. After this a skip over to Larimer Lounge to catch a couple of local bands (ideally …And The Black Feathers and The Patient Zeros) before finishing the night with some hard-to-find whiskey and ski ball at The Whiskey Bar. The following day we’d be checking out any and all of the vintage shops on South Broadway, stop in to Sweet Action for an afternoon ice cream pick-me-up (can’t recommend the lemon bar ice cream enough), and get some plant babies at Rosehouse Botanicals. From there head to the Museum of Contemporary Art for their B-Side Friday series to experience art and music in a completely unique and Denver way. The remainder of the week/weekend would be spent chasing down other live music at Three Kings (pour one out), The Skylark, The Bluebird and my personal favorite venue Lion’s Lair.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many incredible individuals– my friends and family and music scene— and organizations like my work with the Denver Rebelles that have shaped my success and deserve nods. Especially after this last year the person I’d have to dedicate my shout out to though is my boyfriend Jon. The work I’ve put in on my band, music, the creation of Politico Music Colorado, and my professional career in research oncology requires long hours and a lot of my mental and emotional energy. It’s incredible to have someone who emphatically supports me, someone I can talk through ideas as they start to take shape, someone who everyday shows up through words and actions. In the last year the creative support and the ability to be silly, to alternate between date nights and spontaneous house painting and many hours spent in comfy pants, to write and play music and cook food and go kayaking and sleep under the stars has all come together to emphasize one fundamental thing: feeling at home. I feel that I’m successful because I have someone who sees me completely and supports me.
All individual photos and photo in front of red garage taken by Katie Puc @katiepuc_photography. Photo of whole band on grass in front of white wall taken by Zach Ritchie.