Feature Friday: Zach Vinson
Written by Kayla Albee
Love songs - we all know them. Songs about falling in love, breaking up, getting back together, and the one that got away. But what about songs about staying in love? You don’t hear those too often. Indie pop artist Zach Vinson’s new album, And Yet, is a wonderful exploration of a long term relationship, mulling over the highs, the lows, and everything in between.
I recently spoke with Zach about his upcoming album release show at The High Watt in Nashville (snag tickets here), the local music scene, writing from the heart, and more. Check out our interview and stream And Yet below!
Q: With your latest album And Yet, you take a non-traditional approach to the topic of love. What was the first song written for this album, and how did that shape the rest of the tracks?
A: The first song I wrote on the album was "Fall for Me." At the time, it didn't feel predictive of what the rest of the album would become, but it turned out to be very much central to the rest of the album...a song wondering if it's possible to fall for someone you're already with, long after the magic seems to have worn off.
Q: Out of all of the songs on And Yet, which has seen the largest transformation from the early writing stages to the final album version, and how did those changes come about?
A: The last couple records I did before this one, I self-produced for the most part. And I realized that it was time for another voice and set of ears to take this record a different direction. My producer, Kit Hamon, had a big part in shaping the arrangements and the sound of the record, which is most evident in this unplugged version of "Hold My Son" compared to the final album version. I would send Kit demos of the song (just piano/vocals or guitar/vocals), and he would send back his vision of what they could become. We butted heads on this one for a while and both made some concessions, but I love how it turned out.
Q: “Hold My Son” is an emotionally vulnerable track. What musicians inspire you who follow the same style when it comes to tackling tricky, and often controversial, subjects?
A: To give a little backstory, I started writing that song the morning of the presidential inauguration in 2017. It felt like a dark day, especially as I thought of my wife and son, neither of whom have the benefit of being a white male with American heritage. On a broader level, it's about the truth that there are a lot of powers/structures at work in our society that we feel powerless to stand against. Yet every day we wake up and can either do something or do nothing. This was my attempt to work out what I can do.
I don't tend to resonate with the angry protest song approach--it may be cathartic, but it's only going to connect with people who already live in the same echo chamber. I'm drawn to artists and authors who are willing to speak truth plainly, calmly, and graciously, with a humility that recognizes that none of us is seeing the whole picture. Denison Witmer, David Bazan, and Willy Mason are a few artists that come to mind in that vein. As well as authors like Marilynn Robinson, Frederick Buechner, and Wendell Berry. I try to follow their example of being relentlessly hopeful that good conversation is possible and that our hearts aren't quite as set in stone as the evidence suggests.
Q: As a Nashville based musician, what are your favorite aspects of the local music scene - anything that you’d like to see more or less of?
A: I love how you can see world-class musicians in just about every setting imaginable. I don't often go to big shows (Bridgestone, Ascend, etc.), but I love sitting in on a house show or stumbling on a neighborhood bar and being blown away by the quality of the artistry. It's humbling and incredibly motivating to be surrounded by people living out their creative vision, with the talent to back it up.
On the negative side, I think there are some people in positions of power (whether at venues, radio, etc.) who view themselves as the gatekeepers and taste-makers of what's cool. I've been in situations where I felt like I was being asked to beg for a spot at the cool kids' table, and I don't think that's how a healthy music scene should function. At some point, they probably took those jobs because they loved good music, and I hope they might remember that at some point.
Q: You have a show coming up at The High Watt on May 15th to celebrate the release of And Yet. What are you most looking forward to in terms of the album release show?
A: It never ceases to amaze me how much work it is to write a record, record it, release it, and promote it. And so much of that work doesn't actually involve playing music. So I'm excited to get up on stage with a killer backing band and bring these new songs to life in a live setting. Getting to share that experience with so many of the people who have supported and encouraged and motivated me in my time here makes it a night I'll remember for a long, long time.