Zhaklina, originally from New York and of Albanian, Irish and Greek descent, is an independent, Alternative Pop artist. After graduating college, Zhaklina tied for first place in the 2015 singing competition "The Audition," with Hudson Valley, NY radio station K104.7. She went on to perform at KFEST that year, meeting several record executives and gaining the confidence to pursue her dream of making music her career.
After several years of development and feeling as though her genre was difficult to put into one category, she decided to label her music as Alternative Pop. Soulful power with an edgy approach, her music insists on authentic connection and meaningful experiences. She is notorious for her captivating vocals, poetically emotive lyricism, and inspiring messages of mental well-being. Her faith is her driving force and she continues to encourage others to live from a place of knowing they are deeply loved.
In 2019, Zhaklina began releasing a series of EPs called “17 Reasons Why,” dedicated to mental health awareness. With “Gossip Queen” being her most popular song yet, and “Tattooed Roses” not too far behind, she has developed a space for her audience to feel seen. She has been published and interviewed by several media platforms, including Medium, BuzzMusic and K104.7.
Zhaklina has contributed portions of her music revenue to various mental health organizations including (but not limited to) To Write Love On Her Arms, NoStigmas and Project Semicolon. Her convictions for suicide prevention lead her to continued involvement in volunteering efforts and events that are fighting to make a difference and help those who need it. She began hosting Mental Health Songwriter Nights in 2022, raising $2,000 for mental health organizations.
Zhaklina believes in the beauty of sharing our stories and strengths to remind people that they are not alone. A rose, a symbol of classic beauty and strength, is her visual expression of her message. Music is how she shares it.
We recently had the privilege of chatting with Zhaklina about life, new music and future plans.
Hi, Zhaklina! Thanks for joining us today. You are originally from New York, but currently reside in Nashville. How would you say both places have transformed you into the musician you are today?
New York is where my love for music began. My mom used to take me to Broadway shows growing up and those inspired me to dream and perform. I’d say NY ignited the dreamer in me. I lived in Maryland for a good chunk of my life, where I cultivated my craft and grew as a singer and songwriter. Nashville has helped me grow in understanding the music industry more and sharpen my skills by surrounding myself with some of the best artists in the world.
You are known for captivating vocals, poetically emotive lyricism, and inspiring messages of mental well-being. Can you tell us about a challenging experience you’ve had and how it has impacted your artistry?
In 2014, I witnessed a shooting that took me years to heal from. I wrote a song about the experience from my perspective and touched on concepts like survivors guilt, as well as the effects toxic stigmas are having on our society. I truly believe that by nurturing our mental healthcare system and normalizing therapy, society could become a healthier place to live.
My song, “Man With A Gun,” is one of many that are written with perspectives related to mental health messages. I’d say much of what I’ve gone through in life has influenced me to advocate for mental health - not only on my platform, but within my brand.
We love your new single “Pretend.” Your vocals are so beautiful and empowering. What artists have influenced your music throughout the years?
So many!! It would take a while to list them all, but the “heavy hitters” for me are Celine Dion, Amy Lee from Evanescence, Christina Aguilera, Avril Lavigne, PVRIS, Kelly Clarkson and Adele.
You began hosting a writer’s night in Nashville last year and raised $2,000 for mental health organizations. Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Yes! I typically do vocal warm-ups for about 30 minutes and run through my setlist 1-2 times. I do breathing exercises that help me relax and regulate any anxiety I may be feeling and pump myself up by listening to music that makes me feel empowered!
If you could go on tour with any recording artist, who would you choose and why?
PVRIS! I feel like my genre would work well with theirs and I could learn a lot from them.
What are some of your favorite hobbies outside of music?
I love to paint, hike, work out, read, travel and try new things! You can catch me exploring & learning about the world on my off time!
What else can we expect from you in 2023?
I have several more music releases, music videos, mental health nights and alternative shows planned for this year! Stay tuned for all of the announcements on my social media pages!
If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, dial 988 for help.