Now Lives: Cat-sitting at a friend’s one-bedroom apartment in Chinatown, after a three-month stint in Los Angeles.
Claim to Fame: Zsela Thompson is a rising singer and songwriter of melodic, folksy ballads popular with the bicoastal art and fashion scene. She is still a relative unknown, but her songbird voice and breezy downtown style have won her high praise.
Vogue described her voice as “transfixing,” likening her to Joni Mitchell and Joan Armatrading, and featured her as a “bold talent remaking fashion,” in a feature photographed by Ryan McGinley.
Big Break: Ms. Thompson grew up singing, surrounded by an artistic family. (Her father is Marc Anthony Thompson, a funk and rock musician known as Chocolate Genius. Her mother, Kate Sterlin, is a fine art photographer, and her half sister is Tessa Thompson, an actress.)
She got serious about her art after a friend sent her demos to Joanna Cohen, a music manager in New York who specializes in emerging talent. “I was in a dark place and had all these demos and didn’t know what to do with them,” Ms. Thompson said. One of the first people Ms. Cohen introduced her to was Daniel Aged, a musician and producer, who soon became a close friend and collaborator.
Latest Project: In February, Ms. Thompson released her first single, “Noise,” a moody ballad that is part experimental pop and part bluesy R&B. She recently performed at the Frieze Los Angeles art fair and, earlier in April, at Joe’s Pub in New York. “It feels big for me, because it’s sentimental,” she said. “I used to go there as a kid. My dad used to play there all the time.”
Next Thing: On May 13, she will headline a gala for Wide Rainbow, a nonprofit in Brooklyn that brings contemporary art to after-school programs. She is also working on her debut EP of five songs with Mr. Aged. “Daniel’s into making space for my voice,” she said. “It leaves a lot of room for my melodies and the lyrics to come through.”
Avant-Garde Spaces: To echo the moodiness of her songs, Ms. Thompson likes to perform in offbeat places. In Los Angeles, she played at the Black Rabbit Rose, a speakeasy-style bar that offers dinner theater and burlesque shows. And in New York, she played at the Park Church Co-Op, a progressive church in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn.