Acclaimed female rocker Zahna has just released her new album, Red For War, from RockFest Records. Produced by Joshua Bertrand of Christian rock innovators and Billboard hitmakers Random Hero, the 10-song set is an in-your-face battle cry documenting a season of challenges for the artist.
Proclaiming the Truth of God's promises, Red For War is highlighted by debut single "Underneath," which reached #4 on Billboard's Christian Rock chart. With driving guitars showcasing Zahna's impressive vocal range, the song is a poignant reminder that nothing is hidden from the Lord.
Zahna (Suzy Martinez) is a former lead vocalist of acclaimed rock band ILIA and was featured on the group's 2014 Reborn EP. She is currently performing selections from Red For War as part of the Summer RockFest Tour. Hitting more than 20 cities across the U.S. through August, the tour is headlined by Seventh Day Slumber and also features Spoken, Random Hero, Amongst The Giants and Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh.
Q: Zahna, thanks for doing this interview with us. Let's start with yourself. Why did you take up the name Zahna? What's the significance of your name?
The name Zahna (pronounced "ZAH-nuh") is a hybrid mixture between my English nickname "Suzy" and the the pronunciation of my full Hispanic name "Susana" (pronounced soo-SAH-nah).
Q: Before your own solo career, you were part of a band. Tell us more about ILIA and your involvement there.
I was the third and final vocalist of the Christian rock band ILIA, joining the band in 2014 until its disbandment in late 2016. ILIA was my first experience with a professionally established band, so that was my start in touring and in the music industry. ILIA was fun while it lasted, but I'm very happy to be on my current journey as a solo artist.
Q: Why did you decide to go solo and cut your own solo album?
After ILIA disbanded, I knew I wasn't finished in music and that I had so much more to offer. It ended up being a huge advantage to go solo, because I now feel I have so much creative freedom, and I have the ownership of my brand.
Q: How then did you get signed to Seventh Day Slumber Joseph Rojas' label? What was it like working with Joseph?
I met Joseph Rojas a few years ago when ILIA toured with his band, Seventh Day Slumber. Joe has told me many times since that he instantly believed in me on that tour, not only because of my talent, but because of what I stood for on stage and my testimony of salvation in Jesus Christ. Over the years Joseph kept an eye on my career, and after ILIA disbanded he caught wind of my new music, which I originally planned to release independently. But the time had finally come for him to realize his dream of starting a record label, and he offered me a contract as one of his very first artists on RockfestRecords.
Q: Let's talk about your new album "Red for War." Explain to us the meaning and theme of your new album, "Red for War."
At the same time ILIA was dissolving in 2016, I experienced a health crisis and was ultimately diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Medullary Kidney Disease. As a result, I was 24 years old and facing kidney failure. I was suddenly in and out of hospitals, having just finished a full year of touring and recording an album. I was also out of a job when ILIA dissolved, so it was a devastating time. I became so angry that everything I worked for seemed as if it had been ripped away from me. I lost friendships, my health, and the music I had poured myself into for nearly two years. I felt angry, vengeful and so defeated and humiliated. Everything seemed to be attacking my will to live.
In early 2017, I spent my birthday alone in the hospital overnight. Suddenly, in all the emotional darkness and chaos of that night, a moment of clarity came to me. I decided I would survive this. I was going to write my own album, begin a new journey as a solo artist, and come back with a vengeance. This album would be my reckoning, my anthem, my war cry against any force of evil that was trying to kill my spirit, body or mind. This album would represent my will to live and survive this crisis.
I took ownership of the color red because it represents passion, blood, anger, vengeance and love. I decided I was going to embody all of these things in my new persona, Zahna. I wanted to symbolize ruthlessly waging war on the devil and his attacks against me by bringing hope and healing to others through my music. Hence the name Red For War.
Q: You have a fabulous single off the new album called "Underneath." For our readers who may not have heard the song yet, what is it about? Why are you passionate about this song?
"Underneath" is based on Proverbs 20:27, "The Lord's light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive." I find that nothing we do can stay hidden from God, which is so beautiful and liberating. The One who created us understands us, even in our sin and mess. There is nothing we can do to hide from Him, and even when we're caught in the bondage of our own sin-to the point of losing ourselves-His love is unfailing when we cry out for His mercy to save us FROM ourselves.
Q: If you have to pick two songs off the album that you are proudest of, which would they be? And why?
This is nearly impossible to choose, but I think "Underneath" is one of the best songs I've ever written. I credit the Holy Spirit for its inspiration. But each song means something so different to me. Each song is a flood of memories that symbolize a different chapter in my life or a lifeline of expression in dealing with past trauma. Musically I am very proud of "Was I Bad," the chorus melody is so beautiful and it's a song I constantly have on repeat. "Unshaken" is ridiculously technical but it symbolizes my war cry to prevail in the midst of adversity and to inspire others to keep fighting. I'm also proud of "Edge of the Earth" because it stretched me creatively.
Q: What are your hopes for this album? How do you wish this album would impact the lives of your listeners?
Musically, I hope people will fall in love with this album's diversity and the songs themselves. I hope they will remember the words and get these songs stuck in their heads. And I hope this album inspires new songwriters and new artists to write records with meaning, to not be afraid to be vulnerable through their music.
Emotionally, I hope these songs help people face their pain and will be a gateway for listeners to deal with hurt and to let God heal their souls. I want the album to inspire people to fight for their life; fight the devil; fight any stronghold that keeps them from experiencing the beautiful and reckless love of God and the destiny He has for each one us. I really want these songs call out the Truth in all of us, no matter the cost.