It only takes one song for an artist to make it big. Cardi B was once dismissed as a Vine star with marginal fame until “Bodak Yellow” hit the airwaves and in the blink of an eye she became a household name. Prior to releasing his 2019 single “Roxanne,” Arizona Zervas had a feeling this might just be his “Bodak Yellow” moment. “I always hear my music so many times that it’s hard for me to get excited about it,” Zervas says. “But I remember saying that I thought it could be on the radio. Then that came true, along with many other things, and it definitely changed my life in a good way.”
Zervas had been making music for several years before his big break, and he released his first song while still in high school. Beginning in 2016 he continued growing his fanbase by releasing a steady stream of singles. By 2018, Zervas self-released “Living Facts,” a three-song EP. “I wasn’t a nobody before ‘Roxanne,’” Zervas explains. “I had my own little fanbase and, honestly, I felt like I was in a good spot. I was surviving off my music and feeling really good.”
Over a period of three years, Zervas honed his craft and built a reputation through the release of more than two dozen singles. It prepared him for the big break that was about to change his world. “A lot of people don’t know this, but I came up with the hook for ‘Roxanne’ in the shower and 94Skrt [Zervas’ producer] ended up making the beat on the spot,” Zervas shares. “[At the time] there was so much sad music out there that was emotional in a way I wasn’t feeling, so I wanted to make something feel good without being a cornball—which is a hard task.”
Creating “Roxanne” was a natural process for Zervas, as the hit only took two hours to make and, at the time, Zervas didn’t think much of it. “Honestly, I had other songs in the bank that I was more excited about,” Zervas admits. “But I remember playing it for some friends at a party on the Fourth of July and everybody started vibing to it.”
Encouraged by the positive feedback from his friends, Zervas chose to release “Roxanne” to the masses. Shortly after its debut, the song began gaining major traction on TikTok. Getting airplay from mainstream radio DJs can be quite a challenge for an unsigned artist, but the devotion of Zervas’ fanbase demanded their attention. “I think the coolest part about watching it grow on TikTok was seeing the kids dancing to it, feeling good, smiling and vibing out,” Zervas says. “And at the end of the day, that’s what music’s for.”
After releasing “Roxanne” and becoming a TikTok sensation, Zervas signed with Columbia Records and at the start of 2020, began dropping new singles. Each of these singles was inspired by memorable nights in Zervas’ life—from “24,” which he wrote after an unforgettable party in Vegas to “FML,” which involves a girl driving a white Mercedes that actually turned out to be a Nissan. While these hits may be about fleeting moments in Zervas’ life, that doesn’t make them any less symbolic. “Every song has this true deep meaning, even if it’s very simple and just a bop,” Zervas says. “I’ll always put a story into every one of my songs, even if it’s just a fun song I made in two hours. There will be a story and all truth.”
As someone who injects meaning into every song he writes, it’s no surprise that Zervas did the same when it came to collecting tattoos. However, during his first tattoo experience, he may not have realized the end product would become symbolic. “My first tattoo is on my ass and it says ‘This is my first tattoo,’” Zervas laughs. “When I was, like, 13, I thought it was hilarious and I still think it’s funny, it keeps me humble. And my mom didn’t know about it, so there was only one place to put it.”
At just 25, Zervas has his whole career ahead of him, and with plenty of new music to come, this isn’t the last you’ll be hearing from the chart topper. It’s only a matter of time before his next hit gets stuck in our heads and we won’t be able to stop ourselves from belting out that oh-so-catchy hook.