I believe that it’s my responsibility as a creator to showcase diversity in order for everyone to feel included. If we don’t have diversity within the content we create, then there is going to be an audience that might not relate to it since they don’t see themselves represented in it…there will be an emotional barrier to entry. Everybody deserves to feel an emotional connection to entertainment
As a part of our interview series with the rising stars in pop culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Zach Brandon.
Los Angeles native Zach Brandon’s inspired guitar work, strong melodies, and distinctly personal lyrics combine the elements of classic and contemporary styles of artists like James Taylor, The Eagles and John Mayer.
The 23-year-old artist’s songs are defined by guitar-led musical spontaneity and by an unfiltered emotional honesty with themes that touch on love, loss and the bitter-sweet terrain of life.
His new full-length album “Sand and Stone” is a collaboration between Zach and multi-Grammy® award winning writer/producers Charlie Midnight (James Brown, Christina Aguiliera) and Jan Fairchild (Justin Timberlake, Mos Def.)
The album outlines the ups and downs of Zach’s personal journey and the struggle to find a positive way forward even when faced with heartache and loss.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Igrew up in Los Angeles, California in a very close-knit, non-entertainment family with my older brother, my dad and my mom, but when I was 16 my mom passed away. Growing up without a mom was definitely hard on me and my entire family, but I have grown a lot, and I feel grateful for everything I’ve learned from the experience.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always had a love for music, when I was young, I played piano and then drums before picking up the guitar, and even though I didn’t think I would get to pursue music as a career, I still felt a natural pull toward making music as a form of self-expression. I started writing songs at 15 when my mom got sick but I kept it all to myself. I graduated high school the following year, put my guitar back in its case, and left it along with my songwriting at home as I moved to college. Everything changed in my freshman year, when I got seriously injured while playing soccer and after a major hip surgery and two herniated discs in my back the following year, I was left in a lot of pain. Being in so much pain severely impacted my morale and I hit my rock bottom. I felt so aimless…I just kind of stumbled through the year, and that’s when I went back to songwriting because it had always given me an outlet to put words to my feelings..I found my footing back in music, and decided that I was going to pursue what I love no matter how unpredictable that path might be.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most interesting part of my career so far has been the recording process with my partners and producers, Charlie Midnight and Jan Fairchild. I’m very old school in terms of my general creative process, and so learning from their classic recording methods was an amazing process for me not only because of how well it fit my musical style, but also because of how well it fit my personal style. We recorded full demos with almost every single part worked out before we ever began recording in the big studios, which enabled two key elements in achieving the recording of this album:
1. The fact that we were able to fully work out the demos allowed me to have the creative freedom of not being rushed. We got to try every single idea I had for every song, and so by the time we were ready to record, I didn’t have any remorse surrounding any parts that I thought would have been great.
2. Being so practiced helped me feel extremely grounded in the music and the emotion of the songs.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Honestly, I’ve made so many funny mistakes that it would take too long to say in one sitting. But, what I can say is that I’ve learned that it’s important to never take yourself too seriously — people only remember your mistakes if you make a big deal out of them.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m really excited to be promoting my first single and the video for “Top of the Hill.” It was very satisfying to work so closely with the director, Shantie Midnight and her great team to give a visually emotional representation of the meaning of my song. I’m also looking forward to being able to get back out there and perform my music — I want to inspire people to get through their losses as well as find their strengths and hopefully feel less alone. For me, that would be the highest form of satisfaction.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film, music, and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
It is important that the entertainment industry reflects our diverse world whenever possible because it is a leader in influencing people’s perspectives and world view. I don’t really have a “three reasons” for this one, but I will say that I believe that it’s my responsibility as a creator to showcase diversity in order for everyone to feel included. If we don’t have diversity within the content we create, then there is going to be an audience that might not relate to it since they don’t see themselves represented in it….there will be an emotional barrier to entry. Everybody deserves to feel an emotional connection to entertainment, which is why I paid such close attention to the diversity in the cast of my music video for Top of the Hill. It’s a song for anyone who wants to follow their dreams — it doesn’t matter who or what or how you are, just that you are chasing what you love — and so in order to give emotional access to as many people as I could, I knew that diversity had to be a key element of the video.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1.Someone else’s success does not take away from yours.
a. I spent a lot of time worrying that the success of artists, especially in my genre, takes away from the available space. However, I learned that it’s actually the opposite
2.You won’t find success because of one blog post or one song that blows up.
a. Success in music is about getting on base, not hitting a grand slam. Would you rather be the “exciting” player that swings for the fences and strikes out 95% of the time, or the consistent player who gets on base 75% of the time? I would take the latter every time- it might not be as pretty, but there’s a reason that they say “slow and steady wins the race.”
3.Hit and run
a. Keep moving — if you aren’t failing or succeeding, you’re doing something wrong (P.S. see number 2).
4.Being an ~artist~ isn’t precious (especially at the beginning)
a. If you upload that photo and it only gets 12 likes, don’t delete it and repost it. If you put out a song and it only gets 900 streams, don’t take it down and launch a “new marketing strategy.” You gotta get down and dirty, and you have to allow momentum to be seen by your fans — in my opinion, having a history that isn’t “perfect for PR” actually is perfect for PR… it makes you human.
5. Be vulnerable to life
a. Allow yourself to revel in small things, allow yourself to enjoy what you actually enjoy, and allow yourself to be inspired by what inspires you… not what you think is most marketable. After all, you’re an ARTIST, so don’t try to fit in to what everyone else is doing.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Make sure you’re always doing what you want to do. If you don’t feel like writing, don’t write. If you don’t feel excited about a song, don’t record it. But keep in mind that there’s a fine line between doing what you love and being stubborn. The difference is, being stubborn will tire you out — to be steadfast is to always be at war. Do what you love, but be open to change and opinions from the people that you trust.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I can get to the point where I am a person of enormous influence and inspire a movement,
I would focus on the two causes I care most about, which are cancer research/care and saving the environment. Cancer research is simple — donate. But if you can’t, there are other ways to help, too. For example, I know that through the American Cancer Society, you can offer your time to take cancer patients to their chemotherapy sessions/other doctor visits if they don’t have anyone to take them. Regarding the environment, I think a movement towards small things like getting rid of vegetable bags at grocery stores (I mean seriously… you wash them when you get home anyways) could have a huge impact on the environment. It’s easy to get intimidated by the overwhelming task of “saving the planet,” but things as seemingly insignificant as the vegetable bag example could have a huge impact on a grand scale.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have a few people, but if I had to choose one, I would choose my dad. My dad never had much interest in the entertainment industry, so he hasn’t been able to “help me get to where I am” (in fact, I have taught him pretty much everything he knows about my career/industry), but what he has done for me is create the foundation of who I am, and that is something that will be with me no matter what industry I’m in. Among other lessons, he has taught me that character is the most important asset you have, he’s taught me that one lie can destroy all the trust you’ve gained, and he has taught me that health and happiness are more important than anything else in the world… if you have those two things, you have everything.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Deserve’s got nothing to do with it” — Charlie Midnight. Before I ever met Charlie and started working with him, this was one of my mottos (not verbatim, of course), and being that we get along as best friends outside of music, I had zero surprise when I found out this was the title of his book that he’s working on.
This quote means that no matter how hard you work or how good your results are, you’re never entitled to anything. Instead, success involves perseverance, and for me, this quote accurately represents what it takes to be a strong artist. It represents that no matter how many times you get knocked down, you have to keep trying and trying and trying.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Jimi Hendrix or John Mayer. To my ears, those are the two people that I think make the guitar speak like a human voice in the most beautiful way.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Zach’s new music video: Top of The Hill: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QuDy6ZMsAdI
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!