If you’re a young artist or creative in the Hunter, don’t let doubt derail your aspirations.
That’s the message from Zenya Bashford, who sang alongside Justin Timberlake in Monday’s NFL Super Bowl halftime show.
“That doubt in your mind, you manifest that doubt,” said Ms Bashford, a former Beresfield Public School student who has carved out a music career in the United States over the past decade.
“If you have all positivity in your mind and you have a focus, keep that focus – have tunnel-vision on that focus. Don’t listen to people who are telling you that you can’t do it; you can do it.
“It’s put in your heart for a reason, whatever it is you want to do, it’s totally possible.”
Speaking from New York after performing on US sport’s biggest day, Ms Bashford was still in awe of sharing the stage in front of 67,612 fans at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota and a US television audience of over 106 million.
“I’ve been singing with Justin for five years now, I’m officially a member of the The Tennessee Kids - Justin’s band,” she said. “The special guests he wanted to bring out were The Tennessee Kids, because we’re a family.”
The 13-minute display was a blend of Timberlake’s music – a giant “mix-tape” according to Ms Bashford, who spent a week in Minneapolis before the show.
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Originally from Beresfield, the 33-year-old is still a proud Novocastrian.
Her four brothers and father still live in the Hunter; all coal miners, boilermakers and working in “steel-city jobs”.
As a professional vocalist and songwriter, Ms Bashford has collaborated with the likes of Jay-Z, Demi Lovato, Stevie Wonder and Timberlake.
“Out of sight, out of mind - that’s the reason I came here [USA] in the beginning,” she said of leaving Australia and wanting to make it in the States.
“I moved to New York in 2008, I didn’t even really know the geography of the States. I just heard if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.”
I just heard if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.Zenya Bashford
She went about singing songwriters’ demo tracks which they would then try and on-sell to artists. But she says breaking into the scene wasn’t an easy process.
“There was a couple of times when I had to come back [to Australia] and work for a month or two. I did come home for an entire year because my mum got sick.”
Ms Bashford’s mum passed away in that year, but she said when she returned to the US after the loss, she felt as if her mum was helping her from above, as that’s when things really took off.
A music director, Adam Blackstone, who she had met years earlier, helped her find work with Timberlake – leading to a worldwide tour in 2013-15.
In 2015, she released a music video of her own track Freedom In A Kiss which was filmed around Newcastle and the Hunter.
She’s now preparing for another North American and European tour with Justin Timberlake and The Tennessee Kids and hopes the shows will extend to Australia later this year.
Zenya is also planning on releasing her own EP in mid-2018.