Zev Troxler: One To Watch
Written by SongHero on September 11, 2021
By the time Zev Troxler arrived at the Clive Davis Institute Of Recorded Music at NYU and
decided he was going to succeed as a songwriter, he was already embarking on his second
career. He had an amazing run as a professional jump roper, including more than 20 world
championship wins, international Cirque Du Soleil tours, and a star turn on America's Got
Talent. But the whole time he was jumping, his dream was always to make music. He recently
moved to Los Angeles and signed a publishing deal with Warner Chappel, and has already had
almost a dozen of his songs recorded by other artists, while he works on writing material for his
debut as an artist.
When did you write your first song? How old were you? Do you remember what it was
I wrote my first real song at 10 years old. It was about my dog! I had always been singing and
writing random melodies for as long as I can remember, but there was a songwriting elective at
my middle school that helped me learn how to make actual songs.
You had a whole career as a professional jump roper. What made you want to switch to
Fortunately, the timing worked out pretty well because, as I was finishing up my last residency
show in Hong Kong, where I lived for that time, I got my acceptance letter to the Clive Davis
Institute Of Recorded Music at NYU. That had been my dream school forever and it made the
transition easier. Though going from something where you literally are the world champion to a
world where nobody knows your name can take a weird little toll on your ego.
What–if anything–are the similarities or skills or strengths that you learned as an athlete
that crossover to songwriter–ie., discipline, creativity, etc?
There are few things I am more grateful for than the drive and discipline that becomes ingrained into your being as a full-time athlete. When I was seven, I started waking up at 4 or 5 every day without exception to ride my bike to the gym and get an extra practice in before school. The early mornings became more and more important to me over time. It was the moment where everyone else was asleep and I could put in the work towards whatever my goals or dreams were without distraction. I was always competitive, though less so now, so I was always looking
for a leg up. Once I got to college, my 4-5 AM mornings became my creative sanctuary. My freshman year, when I was so incredibly far behind everyone else in my class–jump rope being my main focus up until that point–one of my teachers told me that Ed Sheeran or someone like that decided to make themselves better by writing a song a day. I took that to heart and did so every morning of college, no matter how hungover, still drunk, or overwhelmed I was. Anyway, I’m extremely grateful for the work ethic that being an athlete instilled in me.
What song of yours are you most proud of and why?
The song I’m most proud of is actually sitting in the big sad folder of thousands of unreleased songs. It’s called “Yes Man” and it’s the first song I wrote where I really allowed myself to face my insecurities regarding mental health head-on. Battling Bipolar and Depression has been an
ongoing theme in my life and until the last few years, it was something that I was embarrassed and ashamed of. In writing that song, I definitely turned a corner and opened myself up to the idea that my struggles with mental health may actually be one of my greatest strengths, rather than my biggest, most shameful weakness.
What song by someone else inspires you most? What is a song you consider to be the gold standard or perfect as a song, and why?
I feel like I could name too many “gold standards” of songs to even count. I also think “gold standard” is a pretty variable term, reliant on and different in various genres, styles, cultural contexts, as well as in personal preference. I guess for me it comes down to the ones that immediately made me want to sit down and write one of my own. It ranges all over the place between songs like “Blackbird,” “The River,” anything from “Songs In The Key Of Life,” and “Vienna” to anything from “To Pimp A Butterfly,” & “Slim Shady…etc”.
What is your songwriting process like–do you tend to start with a melody or chords or a lyric or a concept?
My songwriting process almost always starts with melody. Even if I have a concept I love, I’ll sit and do passes on the mic until I feel like I’ve exhausted all of the possible melodies I can think of. From there I just continue to finesse it up to the point where the song is written and I’m singing it on the mic.
Do you prefer to write by yourself or with co-writers? What are the pros and cons of writing with other people?
I generally prefer writing with other people. Creative energy is symbiotic and being in a room with talented people is inspiring. That being said, sometimes when I'm hit by a random, crazy strong emotion, I need to write it by myself. Often I find there is greater catharsis in writing alone, though I can think of many exceptions.
You had a management deal right after graduating from Clive Davis school at NYU and now you are signed to a major publisher. But there have also been some disappointments along the way. How has your career so far surprised you and what have been the biggest frustrations of establishing yourself in the music business in LA?
It’s crazy how you can hear people say how difficult, demanding, and emotionally exhausting this industry is but not really believe it or understand it until you’re living it. Just like everyone else in this business, I’ve gotten my hopes up for so many things that never panned out. I
definitely had to learn the hard way when it comes to trusting people and believing what people tell you. After a certain number of disappointments, each subsequent one becomes a little more difficult to come back from. For the longest time, I would question if I’m at all good at what I do or if I should be doing that at all. I guess I still feel that from time to time. In the end though, even if it sucks, I’ll hear something or feel something that inspires me to the point where I’ll drop everything I’m doing to write a song because I need to, want to, or have to.
Are there any causes you are passionate about? Have you written songs that are related to a cause or written with the intention of focusing on a cause, such as social justice?
I’m very passionate about animal cruelty, environmental, and mental health causes. Since I was little, I’ve regularly donated to causes supporting the conservation and protection of wolves. My name actually means wolf and I grew up with wolf hybrids. My parents always told me I was raised by wolves. I’d love to one day create my own charity for any and all of these causes. Whether it’s wolves, Asian elephants, or animal rescues, that genre would probably be the first place I’d start.
If you had any advice to give to songwriters that strive to use their music and words for positive change to become a SongHero like yourself what would it be?
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned and continue to learn every day is that empathy is everything. True empathy connects you on a near-cellular level to the material, to your collaborators, to your subject matter, and to the creative mind state required to create something you love.