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Zola Jesus

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Merrill, Wisconsin, USA (2008 – present)

Zola Jesus is the stage name of Russian-American Nika Roza Danilova (born 11 April 1989 in Phoenix, Arizona and raised in Merrill, Wisconsin, USA). Her music style combines , , , , and influences.

Nika Roza Danilova was raised in Merrill, Wisconsin, on over 100 acres of forest. Danilova started singing early on, buying voice lesson tapes and opera sheet music at the age of 7; soon she began working with a vocal coach. It was not her parents’ idea: “I begged them to do it. For some reason, I really wanted to sing opera even though I wasn’t really exposed to it as a kid. I think my little baby toddler mind heard some opera song and then became fixated on how powerful it sounded,” she later remembered. Danilova started performing opera when she was 10 years old, but experienced serious psychological difficulties. “I would too often lose my voice before performances due to anxiety, and was so hard on myself. I would beat myself up about any imperfections or flaws in my voice. I was such a perfectionist, and my voice was still so young so it couldn’t do everything I wanted it to, and I resented myself for that. But since performing as Zola Jesus it’s been getting easier,” she later recalled.

In her teens, Danilova started to experiment in a more rock-orientated format. By naming her alter ego after Jesus Christ and the French writer Émile Zola she said she consciously wanted to alienate peers. “It worked perfectly – a lot of people wouldn’t even say Zola Jesus because they thought it was sacrilegious”, she said in an interview.

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