Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

Exclusive: Zoe Cummins, “Say You Are”

Photo Credit: Brooke Stevens

Zoe Cummins comes from a musical frame of reference that’s all her own. Born in the small farming town of Elgin, Oklahoma, she’s spent her life fine-tuning her particular blend of roots, rock, and soul, hungrily picking up influences that range from classic rock ballads to YouTube tutorials for her favorite pop songs. “At first, I really only had the music from the guitar books that I was learning from,” she confesses. “My first live performance was ‘Love Me Tender.’”

Despite this path she’s carved for herself, Cummins makes a point of giving thanks to the people who have gotten her where she is ahead of her upcoming EP Zoe Cummins. Since moving to Nashville in 2013, she’s been grateful to have the support of friends and family in town, as well as the Torrez Music Group, who took a chance on her after she posted online about wanting to cut an album. She attributes this success to the tight-knit group of collaborators she’s worked with, explaining that “finding that group within each other felt like a home base.”

Tom Petty-style swinging beats, big hooks, and belting choruses are a major presence on Zoe Cummins, a six-song EP that features moods that vary from easygoing “Groovy” to the plaintive “Ghost Stories” and breakup anthem “Your Side of It.” Cummins’ vocals, both powerful and raw, make the songs’ tales of love and heartache all the more appealing. An acoustic cover of Leon Bridges’ “Beyond” adds a softer edge to the second half, paring down the original version and painting a picture of the exciting vulnerability of a new relationship with a woman. It’s hard not to feel the heartstrings tugging when Cummins admits in the chorus to being “scared to death that she might be it.”

When it comes to love affairs, though, “Say You Are” takes front and center on this EP. Characterized by a catchy repeating chorus that asks for commitment and swoony, doo-wop guitars, this ballad has its roots in two different relationships: a pair of Cummins’ newly-engaged friends who she wanted to write a song for, and her own blossoming relationship with songwriter Olivia Rudeen. Cummins and Rudeen met while drafting “Say You Are” in 2018 and started dating shortly thereafter, lending their powerful ode to opening yourself up to love a poetically-literal bent. “[It] was the perfect start of a relationship between two songwriters,” Cummins notes. “Very movie-esque.” 

Ultimately, Zoe Cummins is an exciting promise of what could be next for this young singer-songwriter on the rise. A worktape version of “Miss You When I’m With You” embodies these possibilities at the end of the EP, hinting at more new music on its way while also acting as a meditative, stripped-down closer. It’s “a teaser for what’s to come,” Cummins muses — and, just like the song’s yearning narrator, we’re aching to see what’s next. For now, though, you can check out “Say You Are” exclusively on Country Queer.

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Annie Parnell is an editor and staff writer with Country Queer and cohost of the radio show Cowboy Church. She also runs the newsletter Tugboat. Currently, she’s based in Charlottesville, Virginia.