Last Saturday at Baker’s Cay Resort in Key Largo, Adrienne Z sang and played her guitar in the corner of the outdoor deck of the bar-restaurant area. It was the evening of Jan. 1, 2021, and stray fireworks popped and sparkled every now and then behind her as the sky slowly turned from pink to black. Diners murmured and the bartender noisily shook icy cocktails a few steps away.
“It’s dark out, and I got a request for this really awesome song. Was that you?” she asked, pointing to a customer at the bar. “A one-hit wonder,” she said with a chuckle. Then she launched into a rendition of “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest, which, with her soft ethereal voice, became soulful and sentimental. As she finished the song, she looked at another firework shooting into the sky over the palm trees and the sandy beach. “Yes, we’re all happy for 2021. That’s a fact,” she said.
As for many, the year 2020 was a game changer for Adrienne Z. For almost 20 years, the indie pop singer-songwriter — her given name is Adrienne Zolondick — has played regularly at gigs throughout the Keys at bars, restaurants, and resorts. “The quarantine stops everything, right?” Zolondick said. “So I wasn’t playing anywhere that whole time. When everything started going back to normal, when the bars were able to open, I was very, very gun-shy to get out there right away. And the places I played before the pandemic weren’t hiring me. The gigs are starting to climb now.”
She said that audiences have been happy to have her back, such as at the Jan. 1 gig at Baker’s Cay. “It was really, really good,” Zolondick said about that event. “More tips than I ever made there. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it. Wow. It’s nice to be appreciated. It means everything.”
Adrienne Z comes from a musical background. A New Englander, she remembers singing in harmony at home with her mother and sister. She attended Berklee College of Music in Boston and busked in Harvard Square, then developed a local following with her original music and playing clubs. In 2001, she settled in the Florida Keys to make a living as a musician. During a “normal” high season, she could play five to seven gigs a week.
In the depths of quarantine, Zolondick chose to make lemonade out of lemons and dove back into songwriting, challenging herself to write a song a week. She also connected to her fans by livestreaming performances on Facebook, and she followed through with what she learned from a course in songwriting for film and TV that she finished in February 2020. She had already made progress with film production companies picking up her work. In 2016, her song “Blue Day” off her CD “Chameleons” was in the Lifetime film “The Wrong Car.”
“Right now, I’m exploring different ways to raise money and continue producing and writing my original music,” she said. “Living here in the Keys, playing for tourists, they want to hear songs they know. I get joy out of that. That was the path I took in life — playing a tourist environment. Now I’m wanting to spend more time making my own music. In the class I took, I met a lot of people who are excited about following their passion with their own music and trying to make money with it. There are so many more options than just getting their music streamed. Also, I was doing a lot of [Facebook] Lives. I’m going to start again. I really enjoyed it. You really get to touch people who are trying not to go out. And there are also people who have known me for years and want to see me play.”
Zolondick has a bunch of songs in the can, and she plans to release one single every six to eight weeks. On Sept. 23, 2020, she dropped a single called “We’re Coming,” which was inspired by the songwriting-class students going for their dreams. “On Christmas Day” was released on Dec. 4.
“There’s a lot of need for Christmas music,” she said. “I was thinking about writing a song that would be used in a film. I was inspired also by the pandemic and what it meant for people who weren’t able to be together.”
Zolondick has a goal to release another song at the end of January. Fans who’d like to keep track of her singles and livestreams should follow “Adrienne Z” on Spotify, YouTube, and Facebook, as well as her website adriennezmusic.com.
To catch Adrienne Z live, she’ll be playing Faro Blanco Resort’s Lighthouse Grill in Marathon on Friday, Jan. 15, from 6 to 9 p.m. and Baker’s Cay Resort in Key Largo on Saturday, Jan. 16 from 6 to 9 p.m. Zolondick is also excited to be playing a songwriter night of all-original music at Boondocks Grille in Ramrod Key on Valentine’s Day from 6 to 9 p.m. with Juliana MacDowell and Caitlin Rushing.
Zolondick hopes that with all this activity, more people will hear her music. “I didn’t spend much of my life being proactive getting my music out,” she said. “Now that I’m older, I really want to share my music and get my music out there.”