It's been a while since my interview with Zach and I couldn't be more excited to get this bad boy out to the world. A diamond in the rough, Zach Cornell brings Country Music lovers that traditional sound intertwined with blood, sweat and tears. A guy who works his ass off and has a passion for music can be heard in every line and every verse. For those who are late to the party, UPstar. Music is pumped to introduce you to the talented Zach Cornell.
Get To Know Zach
"Well, I'm originally from a small town right outside of Amarillo, Texas. My dad was the one who got me into Country Music. He was always playing Hank Jr. and Charlie Daniels and I just loved the sound out of the country instruments. I loved the harps, dobros and that stuff. For a while I just liked the sounds of it, I didn't know what I would do with it. I played a little bit here and there, and knew about 3 chords, but it was more of just a hobby. Then I moved to Wichita Falls, which is north of Dallas, to go to college. When I was at college I would write a little bit. It was more for when I felt like I needed it, after a break up or when I had something on my mind. At that time, I would write these songs, but I would never sing or look at them again. I had some buddies who talked me into going to some open mics. I just happened to meet someone who ran one of these places and they said they would book me a spot to play. I went and maybe made like $30 the whole night, but it got me thinking "wow... I can make money doing this''. Then, I started to take it more seriously. I never really knew what I wanted to do, didn't have a major in college for my first 3 years, no idea the direction I wanted to go in with my life. Then it came to me, I was able to make money playing at these bars. I loved doing it and writing songs. For a while, I just honed in on playing music and fine tuning my craft. I met my wife in 2018 as she was finishing up school in southern Oklahoma. She was like "if you like writing and playing so much, why don't we move to Nashville?". We just got up and moved about a month before we got married."
Zach Cornell Is A Storyteller With A Damn Good Voice
Take an hour out of your day and just listen to Zach Cornell's album "Devil's Been Working", because holy shit this man has something to say. Released back on November 13th, 2020, this debut album brings his story to life. A unique voice that has some Chris Stapleton flare, mixed with honest and raw songwriting, Zach Cornell is worthy of some love. In the next few years he will be playing shows and people in the audience will be like "holy shit who is this guy"? They’ll frantically find him on Apple Music, Spotify or Tidal if you're down with that. A true diamond in the rough who will make old school music lovers feel like traditional music is here to stay. Zach Cornell: a star in the making.
Inspiration Behind His Album "Devil's Been Working"
"I wrote the first song right when I met my wife and it's the first track on the album called "Next to Mine". We had only been dating a few weeks so I was terrified to show her, but it worked out. That's what really started the process, I wanted to write a bunch of songs not just about my life, but with her. She was really the first person I co-wrote with. She would have ideas and tell me to change things. She inspired every song on this record at some point. Every song is tied to her in one way or another through different experiences. This album is for my wife. There are a couple love songs in there, but I love murder ballads and "Simple" is the closest I've gotten to writing one. "Devil's Been Working" is a collection of songs I've been holding onto. What really helped me was being able to write songs that I wanted to sing. For a while I didn't do that and the writing wouldn't click. I'm really excited for people to be able to listen to my experiences and connect them to what they have going on in their lives."
Q & A With Zach Cornell
Q: Musically, who are some of your biggest influences growing up and now?
A: "I'd say some of the big ones are probably Jim Croce, Van Zant and Tom T. Hall. Some of the guys in that realm. Most of those guys aren't considered country, but I really loved the story telling. Even like John Prine and Jason Isbell - I just always wanted to write songs to that level. Honestly, I think everyone is still trying to. I wanted to write something that I can imagine being on a John Prine album. Lyrically, those guys have been a huge influence on me. Musically, Jason Isbell has been my biggest influence. As far as the sound that I want, there's always mixes of other things like Hank Jr., Otis Redding and Bill Withers who just have so much passion and soul in their music. I try my best to put all of those influences in my music and see what comes out the other end. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it sucks, but I think it's getting better."
Q: What's it been like growing up with Texas Country and moving to Nashville and seeing a whole new side of the genre?
A: "Well I think in Texas, growing up there, we like to tell you how big Texas is and how much we love it. In the back of my mind I just thought everyone loves Texas Country. When I got to Nashville, a lot of people here don't even know some of the artists I listened to, because it's such a different scene. In Nashville, you have the mix of people who write songs for modern country radio and those who are traditionalists. Everyone has their own little clique, which I love. I try to write with people from all different groups. In Texas, it's hard to write something that isn't Texas Country and it's hard to get booked if you aren't going to play a ton of Cody Johnson and Randy Rogers. I love those guys, but it is nice being in Nashville to be able to venture out. People love all sorts of music here and I think that's really cool."
Q: What was life like growing up in Texas?
A: "Yeah, my dad opened up a feed store for livestock and stuff when I was in first or second grade so my childhood was spent in or around that store. I think what shaped my taste in music was that he would deliver a ton of corn or hay somewhere. I would go with him for a 3 to 4 hour road trip and just listen to a few country albums. That got me really close to my dad and when I got older I would do those drives by myself. I just loved the thought of driving an old truck with some hay on the back - which I know is kind of redneck. I was always around horses. My dad bred them for several years, until that market collapsed. I didn't realize how much that meant to me until I moved out. I think everyone gets a taste of that; you don't appreciate certain things until you leave. I never thought I would have a career in music. The only reason I got a guitar was because my sister bought one, she didn't play it, so I took it from her."
Q: What has been the best concert you've ever been to?
A: "My wife and I had always wanted to go to the Ryman. When we first moved here, we were always busy and never got tickets. We both love Ray LaMontagne. He was passing through a day that we were off. We were able to get tickets. The show was weird, in a good way. We've seen him a few times and when you go to a concert you expect to go and rock out and sing along to everything. This show was just the most soothing show and it was really what we needed. He was so good live. It was a two hour acoustic set and we had so much fun - just in a different way than we expected. I didn't even want to drink, I just wanted to sit back and listen."