For a naturally timid girl, Louisville native Marzz isn’t scared of flexing her talents on Instagram. A precocious songwriter, Marzz has garnered attention from H.E.R., Timbaland, Lucky Daye, and more for their slick wordplay and reimagination of lovestruck records like Summer Walker’s “Insane” and Muni Long’s Billboard Hot 100 smash “Hrs and Hrs.” Today, the roles have reversed, as the R&B star has artists clamoring to cover songs from their delectable EP Love Letterz, most notably their song “Countless Times.”
During her 20-minute Zoom call with Billboard, her joy is infectious and uncontainable as they relive moments of FaceTiming Brandy to exchanging DMs with the elusive Erykah Badu. “It’s blowing my mind. I can’t even believe that I’m experiencing this. I’m super grateful for this,” Marzz explains during their Rookie of the Month interview.
Marzz’s enthusiasm speaks to their growth and confidence after coming out during their teenage years. Moved by the words of their pastor during a Sunday service, Marzz shaved their head and began their new life as a young, black, and openly gay woman the following week.
“I was like, ‘Hello! I’m gay. It is what it is.’ I don’t know. I was sick of hearing so many different people telling me things, telling me that I’m wrong for being who I am, and making me hate myself for who I am,” they remember. “That’s not what God is — he’s nothing but love. If you wanna show love, love can be shown in many different ways, just as God says. So don’t put a label on that. Don’t put a label on love ‘cuz God is everywhere. Love is everywhere. It’s all about how you perceive it.”
Marzz’s mission to spread love and healing goes beyond their Love Letterz EP, which emanated from their mother’s relationship woes. Earlier this month, they joined H.E.R. as an opener for her Back of My Tour, days after releasing the deluxe version of their debut project. With seven new songs, the R&B wunderkind flaunts their buttery vocals while showcasing their lyrical agility on “FYM.”
Billboard caught up with April’s Rookie of the Month Marzz to discuss their growth, working with Timbaland, their relationship with their mother, and more.
I read that you made your EP Love Letterz through your mood notebooks. How did those notebooks play an integral part in further developing your love for music?
My love for music came from being raised in a church and just being around music all my life. Hearing my mom and my grandma singing to me when I was a baby was always something that I knew was gonna end up being somewhere in my life. I remember my mom listening to weird s–t like Mozart when I was in her stomach. She graduated in 1999 and she didn’t know she was pregnant with me. She went to prom and I was kicking in her stomach. She felt me in her stomach and was throwing up. She told me that a couple of days ago, which I thought was pretty neat.
But me bringing my notebooks around — I used to get called weird, because I wasn’t really an expressive person when I was younger. I wasn’t verbally able to tell you what was wrong. I literally have to open my notebook. I’m not a confrontational person where I’ll be like, “I’m mad at you.” I’ll hold up my notebook and say, “Just read this. This is what I’m trying to tell you.” I don’t know. I just used it as a way to communicate and really understand myself and what I was feeling. I don’t like talking to people, and I still don’t like talking to people. I rather just write a song or write it in my notebook, self-reflect and detox. My notebooks just really helped me be the person that I am today, loving myself and just who I am.
You grew up in a religious home. Was your mom very strict on what you could listen to, or did you get support from them?
I had a little bit of both. It wasn’t really something like secular music — that’s what my mom would call it… I would be able to listen to Whitney Houston, Brandy, Erykah Badu, but I couldn’t listen to R. Kelly, Trey Songz, [and] Kelly Rowland. I don’t think she wasn’t supportive of me, ‘cuz she’ll always be like, “Why don’t you wanna do Gospel?” It’s not that I don’t want to, but that’s not me. That’s not my life. That’s not my only focus. I’m still understanding who I am and what I wanna do. I’m so young. I have so much ahead of me. I don’t know what I’m capable of right now. I’m still learning, but she’s always been super open-minded about it.
Take me back to the day Timbaland DM’d you on Instagram and expressed how much he was a fan of you.
I used to post these little freestyles on my Instagram. This is when I first started knowing what Instagram was because I didn’t post stuff, but it was a regular day. I posted my freestyle. I was asleep and my phone starts buzzing. I’m like, “Bro. Why is my phone going off?” I look at my phone and it’s going crazy. I’m like, “What’s going on?” I look at my Instagram — bruh, Timbaland reposted me, and I’m like “What the f—k?” I usually get like 300-500 views, but this video was like 3,000 in like two hours.
A couple of hours later, he hit me like, “Yo. Your pen-game is strong.” I was like, “Nah. This can’t be the Timbaland. I mean, he got a blue check. It gotta be him.” So I’m investigating, and s–t, it was actually him. I’m like, “What do I do?” I’m like, “Hell yeah. Let’s go! I appreciate you.” He worked with Aaliyah, Missy [Elliott], Ginuwine. Legends! I was literally raised on you!
He was like, “We gotta work.” Three days later, he flew me out and I was like, “I’m really in the studio with Tim!” This some crazy s–t. I was being professional and said I was gonna shake his hand, but he came in and gave me a hug. I was like, “All right bro. Let’s do this s–t.”
And this was for the “Cleopatra” record?
Yeah. He started playing some beats and I was like, “Hell yeah.” We get in the studio and I start mumbling some stuff. He put me on the spot and was like, “You know how to rap?” I was like, “Nah. Not for real.” He was like, “Go ahead and rap.” He was like, “Go for it” and this was the song “Cleopatra.”
I come back out and they were like, “Bruh, you were saying you couldn’t rap!” The energy in the room was crazy, and everybody loved it. He literally took me to a different level, because I didn’t know I can rap. It was just a really surreal moment for me, and he gave me some advice to stay focused.
You’ve gotten love from a lot of people like H.E.R., Summer Walker and Lucky Daye. Which co-signs have you not gotten over just yet?
I was just talking about this the other day: my top two cosigns are from Brandy and Erykah Badu. I was in Cali and my manager and my friend D, they kept talking about it and playing with me. I was like, “Bruh. What’s going on? After my music video got done, he was like, “I got a surprise for you.” I was asleep and didn’t know what was going on. I had slob on the side of my face. I was tired. They knocked on the door and showed me the phone: It was Brandy on FaceTime.
I just started busting out crying. She was like, “You’re so amazing, I’m such a fan.” I was like, “Oh my God. I love you so much and I appreciate you so much.” That was just a moment where I was like, “Nobody talk to me bro. This is just a moment for me. I’m at peace with myself.” Growing up, I literally studied this woman. She’s definitely a heavy influence for me. So knowing that she knows me means that I’m capable of anything. You never know who’s watching.
Recently, I was indecisive about [DMing Erykah]. I was like, “She’s not gonna see my DM. I don’t know.” I was psyching myself out, and then at the last moment I said, “Well. I always say f–k it and go for it anyway.” So I sent the DM to Erykah Badu and I was like, “Ms. Badu, I love you so much. I know you might not ever see this, but I just wanted to say that I love you so much and continue to be who you are: a beautiful soul and a beautiful spirit.”
Five hours later, I seen that she seen it and I started shaking. About 10-15 mins later I seen that she was typing and I dropped my phone. I was like, “Oh my God. I don’t know what to do now?” She was like, “Hi baby. You are phenomenal.” I just lost it. I called my mom, my grandma. I lost my s–t. Little old me, bro. It just means a lot to me, because I’m super grateful and super blessed. It was a great moment for sure.
You city of Louisville is really becoming a melting pot for talent as of late — with you, Jack Harlow, EST Gee representing the city now alongside Bryson Tiller. Speak about the city’s emergence in the music space.
I ain’t gon’ lie, I just think it’s the city overall. We always try to support each other — and honestly, just giving what we can and doing the best with what we got. Everybody has their own story, their own lane, but we all come back at the end of the day to show love to our city, because without them, we’re nothing. Honestly, anybody that knows Louisville, and you were born and raised there — about 2018, the city was down bad. The city was going through so much gun violence, losing so many young people. And just really seeing other young people putting themselves out there, going hard and actually working for what they want just really gives out city hope. I’m super proud of my city. We’re dope.
I know your mom and her past relationships were an inspiration for your EP Love Letterz. If you can write a love letter to your mom right now, what would you say?
I’m gonna say, “I see a lot of growth, I see a lot hurt. and I see a lot of love. I wish that a lot of things could have gone differently but at the end of the day, I’m glad they didn’t because look at where we’re at now. I couldn’t be more grateful to be alive right now, because we should have been gone years ago, but God made a way to where we wake up everyday and I’m here being able to serve. People can hear my voice and I wanna spread healing. Whenever people hear me, I want them to get some kind of healing with my voice and really get some encouragement to know that everything is going to be OK just like you always tell m how I’m super proud of you, I hope that I can continue to make you proud.”