Xosia sailing in an ocean of independence
Young McGregor stepping out of Big Ship shadow
Navigating the strange tides and rogue waves of the music industry has never been Zosia McGregor’s fear. With a birth name that means ‘wisdom’, the singer has always been known to delve deep to find an understanding. “Zosia, the person, goes way beneath the surface,” she told The Gleaner.
Born in Jamaica and growing up in Grand Cayman, was the beginning of her explorations. “Being raised in the Caribbean, in both places which I call my home, I have come across every culture that there is, which helps my music a lot. When an artist of any kind meets people from all parts of the world, and with different experiences to share, there is a lot to learn that can be implemented into their work,” she shared.
With the Cayman Islands also having ties to Jamaica, it was easy to get familiarised with the rich history. Her mother exposed her to the culture, especially the music and food — a melting pot of both — combined with a well-rounded roster of extracurricular activities in the performing arts. By the end of secondary school, there was no questioning her aspirations to attend the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts to pursue theatre arts as her love for drama was heightened. However, there was no ignoring the musical blood coursing through her veins, as a daughter of a reggae legend, the ‘Captain of the Big Ship’ himself, Freddie McGregor.
When interacting with anyone, the songstress forever sings of a love for music but, before professing it openly, she writes it in long letters, leaving her signature as ‘Xosia’, which is the stage name she has now decided to use as an independent artiste.
Xosia said, “Mommy had me engaged in different activities, from dancing and singing with a choir to sports like swimming and karate, all of which allowed me to express myself artistically and figure out what my range was, talent-wise.”
Her voice stood out strong in a deep sea of talent; and it was quickly picked up by recording acts such as Ras I, Runkus, Dre Island, and Kellisa McDonald, all of whom she worked with for approximately four years; and she has graced stages like the Reggae Jam Festival in Germany and Rebel Salute and Unplugged in Jamaica with them. She worked with Romain Virgo, for two years, as a background vocalist before returning to the Cayman Islands for a bit of soul-searching.
“Xosia, the artiste, is a feeling, most of which is love. And love is the centre of the message I would like to spread, a love of self, significant others, family, and for life. She is also a rebel in her own right,” she expressed. “That side of me comes out in the songs that I write and in the heartbeat of my style, which is heavily roots rock reggae. Last year, I felt like I needed a break from it all, and then boom! The pandemic hit, the industry shut down with the absence of shows and tours, and so I packed up and moved back to Cayman in September.”
Speaking about a letter she wrote to herself four years ago, Xosia explained that she was once in a place of uncertainty when it came to her music. “Feels like the world is telling you to give up. Everything you do is wrong, and you’re never good enough. I see the beauty in your eyes; I see the pain. And I wish that you could see your worth, beautiful creation, let me be your motivation. ‘Cause things will get better someday. Maybe not today nor tomorrow. Your pain will not go in vain, oh pretty girl, the sun will rise again,” were words of encouragement to herself that transformed into a verse and then the song titled Pretty Girl, which she says is dedicated to her nieces (the children of her brothers Stephen ‘Di Genius’ McGregor and Daniel ‘Chino’ McGregor) and remains a constant reminder of her purpose.
“While it started as a letter to myself, to uplift me, I shared it with friends, and I listened to them saying that people needed to hear the words and know they are not alone. What was happening was that I was going through a rough time in school, trying to figure out if the direction I had mapped out was the right one. I knew I wanted to do music, but felt as though I did not know what to do,” Xosia said.
To others, it may seem that the young McGregor knew the way. Still, for her, it was uncharted waters and somewhat dark, because “no matter what I ventured into, there would always be shadows of my older siblings to step out from behind, because as persons saw me or heard the name, it would be automatic to think of them”.
“I have been working hard to establish Xosia the artiste, so when people see and hear me, they think of me and the work I have done, then of the family after,” Xosia continued, adding that part of the rebranding also incorporated her vlog, where she shared more personal pieces of her life. As for music, she is presently balancing her recording career with her job as a radio host. She has not done background vocals since returning to the Cayman Islands and has even hinted that she has thoughts of retiring that part of recording for good as she focuses on being a soloist.
She said, “I saw the opportunities that being a background vocalist presented to others in the space when it came time for them to branch out as an independent act. So, I did that for many years for the experience, and I felt like once I decided that music is what I am doing, I could stop doing that. With my job, I am getting to hear music from all over the world and back in Jamaica, and I also have a chance to push myself and connect with a wider audience.”
Her lyrics continue to be written like love letters, even in Ecstasy, another project inspired by life and experiences.
“I want people to feel safe. I want them to feel love and healing, and I just want them to be able to honour their emotions and know that it is okay, whether happy or sad, because they are not alone in that. It’s because of letters and music that Xosia, the artiste, and Zosia, the person, is in a better place than she was in a year ago. Things have turned around, 100 per cent, slowly but surely; I am settling in and finding the spaces to record here, and I am getting my thoughts out and able to express myself more than ever before,” Xosia said.