Who is Zayde Wolf?
He's a songwriter, a producer, and a one-of-a-kind artist in his own right. Having licensed hundreds of songs, his music is everywhere. With licenses ranging from film trailers, television shows, pro sporting events, and video games, to major domestic and international advertisements on the internet with Fox, NBC, ABC, ESPN, MTV, CBS and TLC networks, it’s hard not to run into the sounds of Zayde Wolf.
Zayde Wolf is the solo project of Dustin Burnett, a Nashville-based producer and musician. His debut album Golden Age -- out in late 2016 -- introduced him as a formidable new voice in indie pop and afforded him the opportunity to let his own voice shine after years of helping others to do the same.
The tracks, “New Blood,” and, “Hustler,” landed in film trailers such as, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Gold, and also major television shows like, Shameless and the Real World. All of Burnett's accolades may sound to be the makings of an obvious solo success, but the Zayde Wolf project came somewhat accidentally.
"Towards the end of 2015 I was producing some new music as a concept. I had these new ideas, but when a couple of singers fell through, I just decided to sing on it myself," Burnett says. "I finished the songs, and rather than use my name, I listed, ‘Zayde Wolf,’ as the artist and sent it to a licensing company in Los Angeles called Lyric House. Pretty much immediately, one of the songs was licensed. Jessica Cole, Lyric House’s President responded, 'So who’s Zayde Wolf, anyway? We need more songs.’ That’s literally the accidental story of how I became Zayde Wolf."
Burnett describes Jessica Cole as, the "ghost member" of his band and his most trusted collaborator.
"I didn’t want music supervisors or Jessica to know it was me, because I had been an artist in bands before, and I wanted to get real feedback on these songs apart from anything I had done in the past," he explains. " She’s the only other quasi-creative entity for Zayde Wolf. Though it’s her company that licenses songs for me on shows and things, she is the one making who has pushed me and the musical boundaries in order to come up with ideas and concepts. That’s how we partnered. Zayde Wolf wouldn’t have happened without her."
The Zayde Wolf name was a bit of an accident too, as the name was originally intended for Burnett and his wife's third child.
"We already had one boy and one girl so we thought we would just wait until birth to find out this third time," he explains. "We picked boy names and girl names. The boy name my wife wanted was, ‘Zayde’, and I picked the middle name, ‘Wolf.’”
The third baby born turned out to be a girl. But Zayde Wolf stuck with Burnett, and it wouldn't be the only time he would find inspiration within his family. He just released a new synth anthem, "Brave," that was inspired both by one of his children and his wife. In trademark Burnett fashion, the song builds until it bursts with dramatic, percussive verses leading to a soaring, cathartic chorus built to leave listeners feeling inspired to find their own bravery.
"I had the title for a while," he says. "I really wanted to write a song about what the word 'brave' means. If you think about it in the general sense you can define it, but what it means to each individual person is drastically different. So I made the song extremely personal, more personal than I’d written in a long time. The first verse is about my firstborn child, and the second verse is about my wife. Those two people taught me how to love and what it means to care for someone unselfishly. First it’s just you, alone. But then, bravery looks a lot different when you have to care for your family as a 26 year old man.”
Thirteen years, a leap of faith, a move to Nashville, and two kids later, Wolf has found a new sense of bravery in this project, which has led him to open up in his songwriting in ways he never has before. That vulnerability can also be found on the new track, "Rule the World," a scorching slow-burner with a huge chorus that juxtaposes youthful idealism in its lyrics with a dark, almost ominous arrangement.
"The creative process when I’m sitting working on a Zayde Wolf song is painfully slow sometimes," he explains. "Sitting here by myself, I’ll make a beat and then I’ll sing a few lines and then I’ll sit back down, and put a guitar part in, or a synth, and loop back around. It’s almost chaotic the way I’m working around in my room. ‘Rule the World,’ is a song about the dreams you have as a kid that you’re going to be able to go out and do something really big. It’s me reimagining myself in my youth with my friends, overcoming what we need to overcome."
There’s a common thread in Zayde Wolf's music: push through and overcome life’s challenges, trust that broken hearts eventually heal, and remember that music is one of our most powerful tools for connection to one another. Burnett has experienced the power of music firsthand, and he's made it his mission to share it with the rest of the world.
"The general message of Zayde Wolf is encouraging people," says. "These songs are helping me in all these different ways. For a song to start in one place and then move all over the world to people who speak very little English is wild. These people reach out to me daily and say they are impacted by these songs in ways that turn their week around for better, or that the songs lead them to rethink a hard situation… and that’s powerful and humbling to me."