by Matt Kelchner
“To me, the experiences are really my success,” singer/guitarist Jessi Zazu explains as she looks back on the history of Those Darlins. After three albums and almost a decade of being together, the twangy, garage-country act is calling it quits. As Zazu and the rest of the band began preparations for their short farewell tour, I caught up with the Nashville native to talk about the past and present as things start coming to an end.
We start things off with the same question that Zazu is bound to get roughly a thousand times these days. Why? In short it’s from the two principal songwriters, herself and Nikki Kvarnes, simply coming to a strong creative fork in the road. “The short answer as I said before to other people was that Nikki and I, sort of as songwriters and as people, have been moving in two different directions over a period of time.”
This past fall, Zazu and Kvarnes brought everyone in to start recording what would be their fourth LP, and this separation became apparent. “We decided as a band to take an indefinite break and let everybody just explore what they want to in their own life.”
Through Those Darlins, the two have spent a lot of time together, practically growing up with one another over the years. “I’ve been in this band since I was 17 and she was 22,” Zazu recounts. “After nine years of intense touring and all that, it’s like at some point people just grow in different directions and it’s a natural thing.”
As we get into looking back at all the ground that’s been covered during their run, Zazu describes how even at this point in her musical career, she is still taken aback by it all. “I have had memories, since this decision came about, of all the stuff we’ve done and I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe we got to do that.’”
After all the records and singles that garnered positive reviews all across the musical landscape, Those Darlins managed to keep true to the DIY spirit that helped fuel their beginnings. “We put all of our albums out on our own label, and we made it out of nothing,” she recalls. “We didn’t have any clue what we were doing when we started. We just said ‘we can do this’ and then we went out there and did it.” To this day, if you look through the discography of Oh Wow Dang Records, the band’s self started label, you will find all of Those Darlins releases.
Looking through Instagram posts and Twitter feeds, you will come across memories shared and keepsakes from years past. Things like the Rolling Stone and Nylon magazines with features on the group to some of their old merch, like the Those Darlins wildflower seeds, show up.
“Even being home for the holidays and stuff, being around my family, old friends and people who are not in the music business and saying ‘Oh yeah I got to tour Australia for 3 weeks’ or ‘Oh yeah I got to fly to Beijing and play one show’, I just feel super grateful.”
Since the initial announcement, fans have been coming out to voice their love for Those Darlins. Whether it’s a short “We will miss you” or lengthy explanation on how it has made an impact on their life, the responses have been anything but small. It’s left a bittersweet taste in the mouths of Zazu and company. “That’s been kind of intense, but exciting because it’s really a concrete way of seeing how many people we’ve affected.”
The most challenging point during the interview was asking Zazu to nail down the single best slice of pizza she’s come across during all the years of touring. “Oh my goodness that’s a tough question,” she is not shy to admit. After deep thought and a little bit of backtracking, she comes to an honest response. “There have been so many nights of exhaustion and delirium where we find that one pizza place that’s still open and you get a slice and you feel like it’s the best pizza you’ve ever had.”
The pizza talk leads Zazu to come out with another fond memory with the band. Back when Blur The Line was released, the Two Boots Pizza location in Nashville came up with a special pie just for the band and their fans. Can’t think of too many other bands that can say they share a similar experience…
“You know I feel very successful,” Zazu responds when I ask about the legacy that Those Darlins will leave behind. “I mean we’re not super famous, we didn’t sell a millions and we’re not super rich by any means at all, but you know I feel really good about us making a mark.”
Come swing by Boot and Saddle next Sunday, January 24th, to help them leave one last mark on Philadelphia!