Jessi Zazu of Those Darlins Passes Away At Age 28

photo by Alysse Gafkjen

It is with heavy hearts that we confirm that Jessi Zazu, vocalist for Nashville band Those Darlins, passed away around 4pm on Tuesday, September 12, 2017. She was 28 years old. The cause of death was cervical cancer. Zazu died surrounded by family, friends and fellow musicians who lined the waiting room inside Centennial Hospital’s intensive care unit.

Jessi emerged on the local music scene as a teenager, joining Nikki Kvarnes and Kelley Anderson to form Those Darlins in 2008. Linwood Regensburg become the 4th official member soon after. The band launched its own label Oh Wow Dang with the help of their manager John Turner and Nashville’s Thirty Tigers. The band’s ferocious DIY spirit helped establish that the local music scene was more than just country.

Those Darlins’ first EP Wild One was released in 2008 followed by their self-titled debut LP the following year. They went onto record two more albums, Screws Get Loose (2011) and Blur The Line (2013), along with several EPs and singles. The band’s music spanned many genres, often sounding on early recordings like a punk rock version of the Carter Family. Since their inception local music fans were captivated and the band began touring ferociously, multiplying their following across the nation. Until her death Zazu remained a vital part of the Nashville scene, cheering on other young musicians like Adia Victoria, Ariel Bui, and Idle Bloom (all of whom whom she designed art for) and so many countless others.

Those Darlins went on official hiatus in late 2015 and in early 2016, just weeks after finishing the band’s farewell tour, Jessi was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Since her diagnosis Jessi continued to work on music alongside the tireless efforts of Regensburg. We hope to soon share more details on the music they were making leading up to her passing.

Throughout her career Jessi was actively involved in social justice. For over a decade she also worked with the Southern Girls Rock and Roll Camp, which she attended first as a camper. This past year Jessi and the camp set up an “Ain’t Afraid Scholarship” that went to all campers that applied. Jessi said,”Attending these camps as a young person really gave me the tools I needed to blossom creatively in safe and encouraging environments. After attending camp for 4 years and volunteering for the last 11 years, it’s something near and dear to my heart…Every year I meet more and more young kids who are so thoughtful, caring, considerate, aware and full of so much enthusiasm for the future…[Rock Camp] really changes their lives to have an outlet to express themselves and learn about how to navigate a world such as the one we live in.”

Outside of her music, Zazu also focused on her art and was included in a show this past June at the Julia Martin Gallery where her work as well as her mother Kathy Wariner’s were displayed. She also contributed work to Vanderbilt’s Cancer Center. At the time she noted, “I wanted it to be something that was inspiring to people because I looked around in the waiting rooms and I could see there were a lot of people who looked like they were having a hard time. It’s not always about being able to land a punch; it’s being able to take a punch. Not just that, but take a break and have your team come in and fix yourself back up.” Jessi also designed the book jacket and illustrations for music critic and NPR correspondent Ann Powers’ recent book Good Booty.

To cover her medical bills Zazu eventually had to set up a YouCaring page to help defray the costs. In true Jessi spirit she documented shaving her head and also designed t-shirts that said, “Ain’t Afraid” in stark red letters. Sales from the shirts helped raise over $50,000 toward her medical bills.

Zazu is survived by her mother Kathy Wariner, her father David Wariner and her brothers Emmett Wariner and Oakley Wariner.

A memorial fund is being set up for a public memorial. Details on both will be supplied shortly. A statement from Linwood Regensburg follows.