8 Jun 2024

C. Zukey: On creating music from grief

From Music 101, 2:30 pm on 8 June 2024

C. Zukey’s new album Stonefruut was inspired by a family tragedy when the birth of his son led to his wife sustaining a severe brain injury. 

Zukey is a Canadian-born New Zealand alternative musician from Auckland.

His son Bastian was born five years ago, he tells Charlotte Ryan.

C. Zukey

C. Zukey Photo: Really Nice Records NZ

“Bastian was a big baby, he was also a bit late and because of that, Lydia was induced.

“From the start of labour, it was really quite intense for hours. And then once Bastian was born, Lydia suffered just catastrophic haemorrhaging.”

The blood loss was so serious Lydia was unable to get the oxygen to her brain, he said.

“So that caused severe global brain damage. It's been five years now and I feel like now we're in a pretty good place. Lydia is doing pretty well, she's home now finally, after staying at a brain injury rehab centre for many years.”

He poured the intense grief he experienced into Stonefruut, he said.

“I had a bit of a writer's block for a long time. And then, after Lydia's injury, I suddenly had just this huge well of inspiration. And because of that, I just wanted to write it all down.

“And so, I just kept writing, and I just wrote so many songs. And I'm really, really proud and really happy with what I've created.”

While Lydia is home now, she is non-verbal and non-mobile, he said.

“She is able to interact, and she is able to smile and laugh and understand jokes and listen to music and cry.”

Stonefruut captures the gamut of emotions he experienced following Lydia’s injury, he said.

“There are songs that are depressing, there are songs that are angry and there are songs that are a little bit bargaining, or in denial a little bit.

“And then there are songs that are more in the acceptance stage.”

He didn't set out to make a “depressing” album, he said.

“I wanted to make sure that there was still hope, that you could still hear the hope in the songs. So even the more depressing songs on the album, there's always a little glimmer of hope.”

The hope comes from accepting the darkness, Zukey said.

“Sometimes you have to let the darkness in. Once you let yourself experience that darkness and that grief. That's the first step to recovery.”