From listening to Garth Brooks in my parents car as a child to purchasing my first Green Day cd to now writing my own music, I’ve always been obsessed with music. I honestly can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t have a soundtrack.
Like most young boys in the South, I grew up listening to the country music that my parents would listen to on the radio. Once I was old enough to own my own cd player, I would anxiously wait by the radio for my favorite songs so I could fumbly hit record on my cassette player and record my favorite songs on Casey Kasem’s Top 40. But out of all the countless musical inspirations of all the years… I’d have to say year 2000 was probably the most influential music year of my life! Between Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory, Dashboard Confessional’s The Swiss Army Romance and Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP, I was lost somewhere between acoustic emo Heaven, screaming teenage angst Purgatory, and “I hope my parents don’t find this cd and snap it in half” Hell. I simultaneously wanted to write sappy, sad love songs while screaming beautiful poetic thuggery at the authority figures in my life. I’m still willing to fight anyone who says the late ’90s / early 2000s era isn’t the BEST and most innovative era in music.
The music influences in my life are endless, but the above mentioned are 3 of the most influential. I wanted to learn the guitar in high school but didn’t have the time or commitment to do so. So the anti-social, college freshmen version of myself would lock himself in his 12×12 dorm room and strum chords and attempt to sing. Eventually that attempt turned into covers and eventually turned into the production of my own lyrics. Given at first, mostly the songs were Dashboard-like…
But hey… college is an emotional time. I eventually got decent enough to play music at the bars…
And then progressed to playing my own music in the local scene…
I carried on with the acoustic stuff for a while before landing a gig as a lead singer for a band called Beyond Me. It was the first time I’d ever been part of a real band! We played everything from basement shows…
to the 5 Points Music Hall…
and even got a side stage gig at Bayfest one year! I still considered this year or so one of the most fun years of my life!
I ended up leaving the band after our drummer passed away. He was working a double shift at a restaurant and tragically fell asleep at the wheel on his way home. Jared was one of the realest, most authentic dudes I’ve ever met. Every single time a Fall Out Ball song comes on I think of him.
I took a long break from music after Jared moved on. I just couldn’t find the motivation to write or perform. 7 years passed before I would find the motivation to start playing and writing again.
In 2017, when I finally came to terms with my jacked up douche shoulder (aka: tore my labrum enough to where my shoulder would easily slide in and out of place when I was sleeping) and had surgery… I had to take a 6-7 week break from running. Feeling stir crazy and like a lazy blob, I picked up the old guitar and started strumming. I instantly felt a creative surge and excitement that I hadn’t felt in almost a decade! I could hold my shoulder in such a way where I could switch back and forth between chords without too much pain and slowly but surely… fell back in love with writing. In the past, I would always write about relationships and the little hardships I had of college life… but now… I was happy, married and didn’t really have any issues that I deemed worthy enough to write about. So what the hell do you write about when shit is going great in your own life? Other people’s stories and situations! Crazy concept right? I found it sooooooo much easier to look objectively at others’ situations and struggles and formulate songs around them. With the exception of 2 songs, I think I wrote the entire Cheers To Our Ghosts album in a matter of weeks.
After writing a bunch of songs and pulling a couple from the archives, I reached out to a buddy of mine that I would get together to jam with from time to time. Blake’s old band TRAI played a few shows with Beyond Me back in the day and we cultivated a friendship over the years. I think the exchange went something like…
“Yo dude… I’ve written a bunch of songs and would love to maybe put together a band. Nothing serious… just a fun group and play some. What do you think?”
I don’t even think Blake heard a single song before saying, “I’m in!!”
From there, I reached out to another member of his former band, Matt, and the next thing I knew we were recording a 5 song acoustic EP with Matt Sanderlin as our producer.
We scooped up Chris Estes (now playing with The Brickmasons) to drum on our debut album and Jack Braxton to play lead guitar. Roughly a year after putting together the band, we recorded and released our first full length album Cheers To Our Ghosts.
It’s been nothing short of an amazing ride! I’d missed performing, writing and simply enjoying the beauty of music!
So where are we now? We’ve settled into our core group: me, Blake (bass), Matt (guitar) and Justin (drums) and have been having a blast playing some local shows!
I’ve also been playing and writing a good bit of acoustic stuff. I put out a real rough acoustic EP under my side project named Anakeesta Sun. It’s more of an acoustic/folky sound and the Huggins Hell EP is a 6 song EP surrounding my love of the Smoky Mountains.
I’ve been enjoying the creative process more and more as the days roll by. I’ve committed to being musically creative for at least 15 minutes a day… even on the days when I don’t feel creative at all.
Going into the new year, I’m stoked to be not only getting the band back rolling again with some new music and possibly new EP (hint hint)… but also continuing to play/write acoustic songs. I do have an acoustic show coming up that will be live streamed at Ryktor! I’ll be playing 8 or so all original acoustic songs!
Cheers to another year of letting the creative juices flow!
2 thoughts on “American Dream Factory”
Great post Zach. Your music is a wee bit after my time (I assume you don’t do any Chad & Jeremy covers, do you?). Glad you rediscovered one of your passions because it would be terrible for it to lay dormant.
Hahah! Not off the top of my head! But thanks Al!