Vanessa Zamora makes her SXSW debut this year. Photo by Nancy Flores
The third time was the charm for Tijuana-born singer-songwriter Vanessa Zamora who applied to be a South by Southwest showcasing artist twice before finally getting her chance this year.
Zamora, who released her "Hasta la Fantasía" debut album in 2014 has been turning heads in the Latin independent music scene for her heartfelt lyrics, authenticity and limitless potential. She’ll perform at two official SXSW showcases — at 9 p.m. Friday at the Departure Lounge and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Blackheart.
Zamora began playing piano and guitar as a young girl, but it wasn’t until she was 18 that she began writing her own songs. They were more like diary entries than songs, she says, but they helped her deal with a breakup that had her feeling depressed. She was also at a crossroads in her life, trying to figure out whether to pursue her communication studies even though her heart wasn’t into it.
"I was afraid of singing, though," Zamora says. "I’m not sure why, but sometimes we can be our own biggest obstacles."
She credits Julia Cameron’s self-help book, "The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity" to helping her realize that all those diary entries could actually be songs and that she should keep writing. She soon started sharing her music on YouTube and her friends helped spread her musical message.
One day, a video of Zamora singing a cover of Latin Grammy winner Carla Morrison’s song "Esta Soledad" caught Morrison’s attention. When the singer-songwriter shared it on her social media networks, Zamora gained new fans. Since then Morrison, who is part of an important wave of Mexican female Latin alternative artists, has taken Zamora under her wing.
"I’m a new artist, and I have a lot to learn," says Zamora, who doesn’t read music. "I’m letting my ears tell me what to do."
After SXSW, she plans to concentrate on her new material in her hometown of Tijuana. Although she’s lived in Mexico City for the past two years, Tijuana’s still the place where she feels the most inspired and creative.
Zamora’s enthusiasm about what lies ahead is contagious. The pop-folk songs that her fans have come to love are only "2 percent of what I can give," Zamora says. She’s looking forward to recording a more energetic album that’ll have people moving and dancing. She hopes to record a couple of songs in English as well.
"Music is my therapy," Zamora says. "And I have a lot more to say."