Meet ZACH STONE, Country Music’s “fresh face!” The “ball of fire” hit Nashville with intent to make his mark. While attending Belmont University (the prestigious alma mater to award-winning trendsetters Josh Turner, Trisha Yearwood, Brad Paisley and numerous others), Stone’s talents were recognized as the winner of Belmont’s “Best Of The Best” (an industry showcase that spotlights the most promising performers from a pool of more than 8000 students). The music business graduate captured the attention of showcase judge John Pisciotta (Jetpack Artist Ventures) who inked Stone to a publishing deal. Jeff McMahon (who toured with Tim McGraw for nearly two decades and was recognized as an ACM Nominee for “Musician Of The Year”/2002) joined the Zach Stone team in July 2016. Partnering with Pisciotta, McMahon and some of Nashville’s Alist songwriters, Zach recorded and released his sophomore 6- song EP titled ASHES–produced by Rex Schnelle (Brooks & Dunn/Trace Adkins). Zach has garnered early attention for his street and stage cred. He was a featured performer at the Spotlight 615 Country Radio Seminar (CRS) showcase in Nashville this past February. Zach is a dynamic performer who makes an immediate and memorable first impression; he exudes a magnetic, quiet confidence that translates his charismatic determination.
Nashville Music Guide has the opportunity to do our Lucky 13 with Zach and here is what he said …
Lucky 13 with Zach Stone
What was the first song you ever performed?
I was just twelve years old when I performed “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw. Despite the “life” message, Tim McGraw was one of my heroes and that song, specifically, is the one that sparked my interest in country music and performing.
Did you come from a musical background?
When I think of an artist with a “musical background,” I think about performers who have been influenced by parents or siblings that are music entertainers by profession. While, I don’t usually say that I have a prominent “musical background,” we had a piano in the house; my dad always played his drums, and my uncle was a performer. So, maybe we could have been the next Partridge Family! Everyone in my family has an affinity for music and participates as a hobby. As for me, music is how I try to make my living; it’s a whole new ball game.
How do you balance your music career with your other obligations in life?
Very carefully, and often, not well! My house is literally covered in dry erase boards. I have a big dry erase calendar that I use to layout my month’s agenda and others to prioritize my “to-do” lists. Then, my ADD takes over and I’m screwed! So I’ll make my lists on the boards and I use an old sock to erase things as I accomplish them. While it sounds weird, it works for me! Seriously, those boards are my lifeline. Between the dry erase boards and my iPhone calendar, I’m pretty much covered.
What is a typical day/week like for you?
My day activities fluctuate all the time, but my weeks are always full of co-writes, phone calls, and meetings. I’m constantly answering emails, and if I don’t talk with my day-to-day manager at least five times, then something’s wrong. (I think I talk to my day-to-day more than my own mom; in fact, I know I do, because she reminds me every time I see her. So, Mom, if you’re reading this, I’ll call soon, I promise!) I love to work out; so I spend a lot of time at the gym. I also share a place with my best bud; we always find time in the day to push each other around and make fun of each another before asking: “What’s up?” and then saying a prayer for one another. He’s truly like a brother to me and, as an only child, that time is invaluable to me. I also spend a lot of time trying to connect with my Godly role models and the men that I look up to, just to gain some perspective and keep growing in my walk with Jesus. To sum up my ideal day: Wake up. Go to the gym. Eat lunch at Hattie B’s with a friend. Co-write on Music Row. Conduct a phone interview. Plan a show. Play my guitar and talk to my day-to-day exactly five times. Oh, and call my Mom!
What personal advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue this career?
A wise man once asked, “How bad do you want it?” When I heard Tim McGraw sing that song, I thought I knew what he meant. I found out how little I knew when I moved here. This industry is all about the grind. You’ve got to want it deep down; you’ve got to start prayin’ and start chasin’! There’s no backup plan here; it’s live by the sword and die by the sword. To some people, that’s intriguing, and the pressure lights their fire to keep pushing through. But, if you don’t have that deep-down “burn” inside you, I, personally, don’t know how you can make it. Music is my ultimate labor of love…and dang, I love it!
If you had to do it all over again, would you still choose this career? Would you do anything differently?
I’m doing what I love, so that’s a tough question. If I had to do it all over again, I’d have a second shot at my baseball career. But, I do believe that I have much more to offer the world with my music. I love being on stage and the only thing I’d do differently in my music career is to focus more on the “right” concentrations. I’ve learned a lot of great lessons from many great mentors, as well as through my own successes and failures. It would be awesome to get a couple of “do-overs” (but life is about growth and learning from mistakes). …and maybe I would have practiced more on piano as a kid! For the most part, I’m proud to be where I am and I can’t wait to see where we are headed next.
What would be your advice to artists that are new to the touring circuit?
Anyone touring has to know social media is your best friend. I wish I had learned this sooner; I’m still working on it! But man, if you’re out there working your butt off, grinding away on the road… First: good for you and keep it up! Second: share the journey with your fans! Walk around after your shows. Meet people. Sign autographs. Ask for their email addresses, or ask them to follow you on Facebook; then stay active and post the picture you took with them on your page so that they stay engaged. The more personable you are, the more you’re apt to collect little groups of friends/fans along the way. I have friends from shows all over the country now and every time I go back, those are the folks in the front row!
What are 3 things that you have to have with you at all times/never leave home without?
My blender bottle, my phone, and my truck. I’m constantly drinking water or a protein shake, so the blender bottle never leaves my side. I actually get antsy without it and even while I type this, I’m looking around my living room because I just realized it’s not right next to me. I carry my phone with me so that I can answer all of the calls from my day-to-day manager (Jeff), and I’ve written some of my best songs in notes and voice memo apps on my phone. As for my truck, well, I know it sounds strange, but I love driving and I feel uncomfortable riding around in other people’s vehicles. I like to be mobile and ready to jump in my truck, and go anywhere I want at anytime!
As a child growing up, music surrounds us; What type of music did you hear the most back then? How does it differ from what you listen to now?
Growing up, my parents were big into the 70s and 80s classic rock so I feel in love with Foreigner, REO Speedwagon, Journey, Boston, etc. I still listen to all of that today and it influences my music in a lot of ways. Since then, I’ve expanded my repertoire to include music from Wade Bowen and Jason Aldean to Ed Sheeran and Maroon 5 to Eminem and Lecrae. I believe good music, messages and talent transcend genre and with that belief, I’ve learned to appreciate music from all types of genres.
Do you have other interests or talents you would like to share with us?
I’m obsessed with baseball. It’s an addiction and I’m willing to admit I have a problem (but I’m not quite sure I’m ready to deal with it). If you’ve ever seen the movie “Fever Pitch,” I’m totally Jimmy Fallon’s character. The Texas Rangers are my team and I try to follow most of their games while I’m on the road. I also follow all seven levels of their respective farm teams; then, I start watching the rest of the league. My friends tell me I could have my own baseball talk show because it’s all I talk about (when I’m not talking music). I played baseball all year long as a kid and I had some awesome D-1 college and professional opportunities before I moved to Nashville. Baseball will always hold a big place in my heart!
How do you like to enjoy your relaxation time away from the music?
I don’t feel like I ever truly get away from music. It IS my relaxation. When I get time off or time to relax, I generally step away from the business side of the music industry – the constant emails, phone calls, itinerary building, tour routing, etc. Sometimes it’s nice to not have to be a businessman and get to just write/play/listen to the music just for what it is. That way I get to see the music as a creation instead of a product. But after some time, I start to miss the grind of the business side, too.
Who does most of the songwriting?
I don’t know that I’d say I do most of the songwriting, but I’m definitely the “concept” guy. I love developing stories and trying to come up with imaginative ways to twist and turn the lyrics. I’ll spend hours, sometimes a whole day, just trying to create a specific hook so that it turns the song around in an unexpected way. Then, usually once I’ve come up with the story, title, and/or the hook, I’ll take it into a co-write and explain my concepts to my co-writer and we’ll try to hammer it out. It’s fun to see how the stories and lines evolve over time.
What has been the most bizarre thing thrown on the stage with you? How did you react?
It technically wasn’t “thrown” on stage… But, a woman, who was highly intoxicated, once jumped on stage with me; pointed to her teenage daughter in the audience; handed me a Sharpie and proceeded to pull her pants down so I could sign her butt. I froze. I was stunned. I hadn’t experienced anything that close before. It was a scarring moment!
Some final words from Zach …
Without music, I would be playing baseball. But honestly, I’d have trouble juggling my emotions. Music is such a deep experience for me and it’s a constant part of my every day. Whether I’m in the car, writing a song, working out, or just taking a shower, music is my main outlet to share my emotions.
Music is best when played in the shower. I don’t know about anyone else, but my best dance moves come out when I’m singing into a hairbrush staring at a steamed-up mirror. There’s no better start to the day than jamming out in the bathroom as you put yourself together. You sing at the top of your lungs and no one complains, plus the shower has that awesome reverb that makes me think I can sound exactly like Justin Timberlake. I’m telling you, that’s the spot! There should be showers in recording studios.
My music makes me feel a much deeper version of the emotion I’m currently feeling. If I’m feeling sad, I can sit down and empty that emotion onto a page until I’ve created the saddest, most depressing song I’ve ever written. Then I become joyful and proud because I realize I just wrote a killer song! My music helps me extend my emotions beyond the moment, taking me from sad to crying or feeling good to jumping up and down. Often, I’ll finish writing a sad song and I’ll grab my roommate and say: “Ahh, dude; you gotta hear this! It’s SO sad; it’s awesome. Check it out!”
I write the songs because it makes it so much easier for me to relate and relay honestly. Don’t get me wrong, there are some awesome songs out there that I hear and I think, “Dang it! I wish I could’ve written that.” I would be open to cutting those, but I think when it comes to most songs, it’s easier to create something that’s custom-made, by me, than to rely on someone else to convey my emotions. Plus, it’s therapeutic for me.
Support music because I need a gold-plated swimming pool! Okay, I’ll settle for silver. Seriously, it’s the only way to see the music you love grow. If fans don’t buy into the music, then people who aren’t fans certainly won’t. As an artist, I rely solely on the support of my fans and my career will only go as far as the fans carry it. I think it’s easy for people to forget that this is my job. It’s how I make my living every day and it takes a lot of work. Music is fun to make, no question, but it also does so much good in the world and in the hearts of the people who listen to it. That’s why I do what I do every day and the only way I get to continue is through the support of the fans.