Jeremy Zucker is obsessed with keeping pictures. He knows they take up too much space in his phone’s memory, but the space in his brain’s memory is what matters more. “My memory is horrible,” the 24-year-old singer, songwriter and producer says over the phone from his Brooklyn apartment exactly one week before love is not dying (out today via Republic Records and Visionary Music Group) is released. “It really pains me sometimes because, at the end of the day, all we have are our memories, and I wish I could hold onto more than I can.”
He will not depend on human fallibility to document moments he never wants to forget. Music helps. “Whenever I listen to a song, if the song is even remotely important to me or I like it enough, I almost always can remember where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard it,” he says.
That’s why making love is not dying was so necessary. Aside from the fact it serves as his full-length debut album, and even aside from the fact he admits this project is the first time he feels “like a real artist,” these 15 songs mean that Jeremy Zucker no longer has to worry about forgetting the defining moments of his recent past.
“As soon as I am able to express myself about something that happened to me in the past in a way that I feel really proud about, it’s almost like lifting the negative weight of that situation off my shoulders because I have now cemented all of the most meaningful parts of that experience in a tangible piece,” he says.
Settle in. You’ll want to remember where you were and what you felt the first time you heard this.
Jeremy Zucker stepped out of his comfort zone. Last summer, he went to Los Angeles and experimented with several different producers and writers. He has typically shied away from collaborating, but one particular opportunity to write with Rickard Goransson, James Ghaleb and Rami of Max Martin’s MXM team felt worth it. The group recorded the guitar portion of “not ur friend” but struggled to finish the writing.
Jeremy couldn’t help himself.
“I took the song home and produced it all out on my computer,” he says. “So, even though I started it with other people, it still very much feels like me because I was able to take it home and work on it alone and finish it in the way that I imagined it.”
“not ur friend,” dropped on Feb. 28, is just as brutally honest as the title suggests. He has “decided that I’m not your fucking friend” and wants his ex to also move on for her own sake.
That message would seem to contradict the literal meaning of love is not dying. If you think the album’s title is meant to be taken that literally, though, you are probably not familiar with Jeremy Zucker’s discography.
“I purposefully named it [love is not dying] because there are a couple different ways of looking at that phrase and interpreting what it actually means,” he says. “The meaning that means the most to me and the reason why I chose it—and it really relates to a couple songs on the album the most literally—I don’t want to explicitly explain it yet until the album’s been out for a little while. But I would say they all have to do with the title, and I guess there’s a lot of themes of fate and fate laying in stars. I just feel like there’s a bigger meaning to everything, we’re just not meant to understand what it is, and I think all the songs are trying to give little things a lot of meaning.”
It feels cheap calling love is not dying a debut because Jeremy has generated over two billion streams worldwide through eight solo EPs plus his 2019 joint EP brent with close friend and labelmate Chelsea Cutler. Uncharted territory—stretching himself—feels like a more accurate description.
He’s been thinking a lot lately about the difference between an album and an EP.
“An EP to me now—and any project to me now—is like a collection of feelings and memories and states of mind and emotions and stories from a specific amount of time,” he says. “I think the only difference between an EP and album for me is the length of time. So whereas I would make an EP over the span of three, four, five months, I would make an album—at least this album happened over the span of a year, year and a half. And so, I think you grow a lot more in a year and a half than in a couple months. There’s a lot of changes on the album. The songs that came toward the beginning of the process are completely different than the songs that came at the end of the process. I think the beauty of an album is you can feel a lot of similarities between them. … I think the beauty is that it’s still all me, and I feel like I’ve grown and changed through writing it in the context of how my whole life has changed in the past year and a half.”
The love is not dying process caught Jeremy at a common crossroads for all young adults. He was reconciling the life he had always dreamed of while nervously settling into the rest of his life. He had signed with Republic in 2017, but it hadn’t sunk in yet that his new reality was built upon supporting himself through music. He moved into his first Brooklyn apartment after graduating from Colorado College and completing his first U.S. headlining tour in fall 2018.
“I felt like my life was just about perfect,” he said about that time in a press release. “The only other thing that would make it perfect was having a functional and stable relationship. It was never fully realized. I was always on the edge of that. I had this almost fantasy in my head of having my life sorted out in Brooklyn. The end of the process of the album is that dream falling apart.”
He expands on that notion now over the phone: “I think everyone has this fantasy of what they want their life to look like. At one point or another, I think everyone comes to the realization that it’s maybe different than they expected or it’s not possible what they expected. Whatever it is, I feel like we all encounter some sort of disappointment. I think reconciling that looks like acceptance. Accepting that this isn’t initially what you thought it was going to be, and I think another part of it is knowing that you can find joy and satisfaction in other places that you couldn’t have imagined.”
Writing this album gave him the clarity and closure he needed to move forward with his life. It gave him room to grow emotionally and gain self-awareness that permeates the music.
The first songs written for love is not dying were “always, i’ll care” (released on Feb. 7), and “julia” (released on March 24) when he arrived back home after that fall 2018 headlining tour. “julia” is perhaps the biggest example of closure. It is the last song he will ever write about a girl he has used as a muse for countless songs before. Even so, Jeremy reckons with the elusiveness of true closure: “The more I think I grow / The less I seem to know.”
“That one was sort of a point toward the cyclical nature of honestly just being human,” he says. “Spending all this time and working on yourself and seeing things grow in the direction you want them to only to see yourself falling down the same hole that you’ve fell down in the past or to see negative patterns repeat themselves even after you’ve seen so much progress. That’s where the line comes from. It’s like, Oh, I thought I was past this. I thought I had gotten past this, but this thing keeps happening to me or I keep finding myself in this situation despite all the growing and learning that I think that I’m doing.”
“always, i’ll care” looks at that from a different angle in the sense that Jeremy seems hopeful. He’s recognizing that his evolving career will likely continue to cost him the ability to be there for his friends, but this at least now those friends can listen to this song and remember that being absent doesn’t mean he doesn’t love them.
Both songs are a reminder that love is not dying is not a one-size-fits-all title.
“This whole album, it’s not just about one person,” he says. “It’s about a lot of people who have affected me in different ways. It’s really impossible to know which ones are about who except for the people that they are about.”
Intimate details are weaved throughout, but Jeremy toed the delicate balance between disclosing enough and disclosing everything by letting specific lines live alone outside the specific anecdotes they came from. But rest assured: love is not dying is a true story.
“I’m not the type of person to think up a fiction and try to express it as art,” he says. “I think what I do has meaning to me when it’s the most real, and the most real I can be is to talk about my experiences and the feelings that come with them. I think the most important aspect to that is, even though all of us are having completely different life experiences and dealing with different things, I think the emotions that we all deal with are very, very similar. Everyone tends to think they’re alone in their feelings, so the craziest thing about this whole process to me is writing about this crazy, random, specific thing that happened to me—like, for example, ‘lakehouse’ and ‘orchid’ and ‘brooks,’ they’re all very specific things that happened to me. … But I think people are gonna listen to it and understand the feelings I felt, even if they don’t understand the physical context of it.
“I approach my writing—I guess there’s two aspects to it. One, everything I’m saying is true and everything has a meaning and is important to me. That sort of goes to the other side of it, which is that as long as my emotions in the music are true to me and I feel them and can understand—like, I feel like I’m almost therapising myself when I’m making music. I have this feeling that when I know I’m accessing those feelings and expressing them in the correct way, I know for a fact that there are gonna be other people that are gonna feel it that same way.”
Spoken-word “brooks” only needs one minute and 26 seconds to break your heart:
And I’m feelin’ ashamed ’cause I probably need help
And this kid I knew in college, he just died on a plane
Maybe that’s why I’m still scared to fly in the rain
I fall asleep knowin’ nothing would change
I read a book, but you’re callin’ my name
I wanna feel, but I still feel the same
Piano-based “orchid” will make you want to give Jeremy a hug:
I hope you make it past New Year’s
With a smile on your face
Countin’ the days since I’ve known you
When your life rearranged
And I still just don’t know
Where the fuck else I’d go
‘Cause it’s not cancer
We just wish it was
You’re beautiful (Beautiful)
That’s what you are
Those are just two especially visceral examples of the album’s evocative vulnerability. But somehow, the omitted details make listening feel even more vulnerable. Like an intercepted love letter that’s missing the second page. There’s a bigger meaning to love is not dying, but you aren’t supposed to know. You are meant to derive your own meanings from your own experiences and feelings and loose ends. You are encouraged to get honest with yourself.
“People always ask me, Is it hard being this vulnerable and opening yourself up to this many people? because I guess a lot of artists have trouble with that, but for whatever reason, to me, that’s the easiest part,” Jeremy says. “I take so much pride in the honesty. That’s the part about this that I love is the honesty and the vulnerability. The hard part is writing something and it not feeling vulnerable or not feeling honest. When I’m writing about all these specific things, maybe it’s a little bit selfish of me to not think about how that’s gonna affect the person that it’s about, but at the same time, I’m not saying a name. I’m not giving it away. Like, you would have to really, really know me to understand all the implications the music has for this person or this situation. It’s about me. I’m writing about me. I’m expressing myself and the way this person or this thing impacted me, and when it’s really specific and really vulnerable, sure, it’s intense and emotional. But that’s the most beautiful part about being human is feeling these extremely meaningful things. That’s the part that I live for.”
On Nov. 7, 2019, before an uncontainable virus placed live music indefinitely on hold, Jeremy Zucker was beaming on stage at a sold-out Webster Hall in New York City.
During his headlining set, he played “somebody loves you” from the album. He admits now that his set—which included 2018 breakout hits “comethru” and “all the kids are depressed”—during that tour “didn’t feel complete.” He wanted to play his new stuff, and “somebody loves you” was a loophole. Nobody in the audience that night knew that “somebody loves you” would be the third track on love is not dying. But he knew. And that was enough.
“somebody loves you” was among the first written for the album and traces his experience with talking to a girl online for months before meeting in person. “It was this feeling of falling for someone when you know things could be completely different when you meet them in person,” he told Apple Music.
Pouring his heart out while songwriting in the privacy of his own apartment only to have to perform those songs to thousands of strangers is, in a roundabout way, a similar predicament. But Jeremy has no fear when it comes to this kind of blind date. “I’m not alone and I’m not lost,” he sings in the bridge of “somebody loves you.” That line was never more true than at Webster Hall. He could hardly make it through one verse without a genuine smile breaking across his face. It became apparent that singing sad songs does not make Jeremy sad because he has already navigated through the pain. This part is the happy part. This is his release
“These songs are songs that are integral to me as an artist, or how I see myself as an artist, so I just can’t wait to perform these because I know that the moments on stage are gonna be amazing,” he says, looking forward to his upcoming love is not dying tour. “I think because of how honest the songs are. A couple of them, I think I just know how people are gonna react. I know the place that these songs are gonna hold in the hearts of my fans, and I’m just really excited to share that moment with them.”
And those moments, he won’t want to forget.