Even though first-year music major Zeren McClure has only been enrolled in SUNY New Paltz for a few months, the school’s impact on her life has already been monumental. In her first fall semester, she successfully put out her first single as a recording artist, “Such a Shame,” under the name Zeren Zia. As of early April 2023, the song had amassed over 70,000 streams on Spotify, and that number is only continuing to increase.
Originally from Brooklyn, McClure was always interested in music, writing short songs from the age of eight and later attending LaGuardia High School in Manhattan. After graduating in 2022, she started college at New Paltz in August — and was immediately hit with a huge breakup a few weeks after moving into her dorm.
“The first line of the song is ‘I went through hell,’ and that’s the reality of what happened,” she said. “I went through a lot to process my emotions and I’m still feeling so weird.”
After taking a month to write it all out, McClure played the first few takes of the song in October in her dorm room, strumming her guitar while drawing inspiration from her favorite riffs, and certain lyrics that had an impact on her from her favorite bands — including The 1975 and The Neighbourhood.
Early on in the semester, she joined WFNP, SUNY New Paltz’s student radio station, and threw herself into planning her playlists and shows each week. It was beneficial to have an environment where she could expand her love for music, but also helped in the healing process. McClure’s current show on the station, “Radio Free Zee,” is every Monday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
“I saw [WFNP] and was like, ‘I need to be there,’” she said. “Being involved in anything that could be helpful made me happy. I definitely wanted to get on FM because I knew I was gonna release music and wanted to play it to people — my evil genius master plan.”
The process of promoting the single before its release was exciting yet nerve-wracking for the first-time recording artist. She had teaser posts and photoshoot content lined up to put on Instagram, yet anxiety almost held her back.
“I don’t like social media,” she said. “It’s like a black hole vortex. I was afraid people were going to get annoyed and not really care, but I kind of had to push it out because I knew that I really did like my song and how it sounds. I wanted people to hear it.”
After weeks of working tirelessly to get her followers excited for the release, McClure released “Such a Shame” on Valentine’s Day of 2023 — a song about heartbreak on a day dedicated to love. The single was recorded mostly in her hometown, in her producer RichGBK’s home studio. The pair aimed for a “bedroom pop” vibe in the process, McClure being inspired by the likes of DIY-style female songwriters such as Clairo and Snail Mail. The bridge of the song was recorded in New Paltz at another studio, since her busy schedule with classes prevented her from going home often.
“Such a Shame” has racked up over 70,000 Spotify streams at the time of this article’s publication. McClure Googled what a room filled with that many people would look like to fully understand how big her song has gotten. The song has also been pushed by the app’s algorithm onto several indie and pop playlists. She quietly released her second single, “Chase You Down,” on April 15, which currently has 8,000+ streams. Even though the latter song was written last July, she wanted to put out “Such a Shame” first — to make sure it resonated with her already-budding fanbase.
“Heartbreak is the most relatable thing, whether it’s romantic or just in general,” she said. “Everyone goes through it. I just want people to know that it’ll be okay eventually and you just have to make something out of it.”
“Whether it’s writing a song or poem, just make something, because the heartbreak energy is really strong and it takes over your full body and soul. You should take that energy and put it into something else.”
Listen to “Such a Shame” by Zeren Zia on your favorite streaming service. Follow @zerenzia on Instagram to stay tuned for future releases.