PREMIERE: Zoë Moss Claps Back at Music Industry Sexism with “The Operator”


“You move with a motive / But you can’t have control / Miss me if you don’t got a check / Don’t got time for you or your lack of respect,” grunge-pop artist Zoë Moss sings in her debut single, “The Operator.” The song appears on her debut EP, Stories, which comes out later this year, and serves as Moss’s reclamation of the sexism she’s experienced while working in the music industry.

“My household growing up was very agendered — we didn’t really think about gender roles in a traditional sense — so when I got into the world, I was a young, driven person getting into the music industry,” she recalls. “I had a rude awakening to the fact that the first thing society sees about me is that I’m a feminine female. The connotations of that are things I’ve been pushing and pulling with.”

Moss is inspired by artists like Madonna and Prince who presented themselves in both feminine and masculine ways. “The Operator” in particular is about her taking up space and having pride in who she is, especially when someone’s trying to bring her down. “When I am put in a box, I always want to push myself to find a way to surprise the listener, so that’s a bit of how I came into writing ‘The Operator,'” she says.

Another song on the EP, “The Mood,” is about the subtle sexism Moss experienced during a meeting with a publisher. “I thought he was understanding me and getting my perspective,” she remembers. “Then my manager had a followup meeting with him, and the only feedback he had was, ‘She needed to be more excited. She wasn’t excited enough.'”

Moss describes Stories as “a memoir of seven songs” with an overarching theme around gender and sexuality; she sings about love, heartbreak, and being pansexual. “All of these things explore human connection and the lifestyle of a songwriter or an artist in Brookyn,” she says.

As a songwriter, Moss has written for artists including Andy Grammer and Tate Mcrae. In addition, she sang on three songs from Grace VanderWaal’s last album. She found herself among very few female songwriters — one study found that only around 12 percent of songwriters were female from 2012-2018 — something that she hopes to see change, not just for women but for LBGT people and other marginalized groups as well.

“It’s more about putting less emphasis on female vs. male and just gender in general,” she says. “It’s about just being inclusive with perspective, whether it be a man, a woman, someone who’s non-binary, whatever their sexuality is, however they present themselves — it’s just about bringing in perspectives different from the norm.” She sees this happening more and more, with LGBT artists like Sam Smith, Halsey, and Troye Sivan gaining more attention, and thinks it will only continue, as people want to see something new.

“It’s another reason I call the EP Stories,” she adds. “There are so many different stories out there, so many things that aren’t covered enough, and when they are covered, people eat it up because it’s different and it’s fresh.”

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