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 Aguilera) 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.
Unheard Gems: Welcome, Zach Brandon, to Unheard Gems. We are so excited to have the opportunity to talk with you. How are you doing today?
Zach Brandon: Doing well! Staying away from all my friends, playing guitar, and playing the new Animal Crossing game!
Unheard Gems: Just so our readers can learn a bit more about you, what has been your musical origin story?
Zach Brandon: I was a high energy kid, so when I was 7 years old my parents thought the best thing to do to settle me down was to get me piano lessons, and once I was tired of piano, I switched right into drums, and then to guitar a few years after that. I just felt a natural pull toward making music. I started songwriting when I was 15, but it was in college when I had my “ah-ha” moment and decided that I needed to follow my love for music no matter what.
Unheard Gems: I love doing this challenge especially with new artists to our platform; if you could describe yourself using only 5 words what words would you choose?
Zach Brandon: funny, diligent, courageous, determined, and happy. Unheard Gems: We are in love with your debut single “Top of the Hill”. You have an amazing voice and your storytelling is beautiful. What is it like to have this single out in the world? How did you choose this single to be the first look at you as an artist?
Zach Brandon: Thank you, I really appreciate that! The song is about believing in yourself and following your dreams no matter how hard that may seem - it’s about not giving into the pressure of making what other people consider “safe choices.” I spent too much of my life doing the latter, and I finally decided that the satisfaction I get from risking everything to do what I love is worth everything else in the world. I hope that the song inspires everyone who hears it to follow their dreams - to reach ‘their own “Top of The Hill.”
Unheard Gems: Can you tell us about your process and inspiration for this song?
Zach Brandon: I always start with the musical skeleton of the song (not lyrics), and I ALWAYS start on acoustic guitar. This song was no different - I wrote the guitar part, and then I wrote the first line of the verse, and then it just graced me with its lyrics. The song is about not letting go of whatever your dream or passion is, and it came to me in a time where I needed it. At the time, I was experiencing my own self-doubt and fear of failure, and so writing this song helped put it all into perspective for me - It reminded me that success is relative and that it's really about the journey and having courage of conviction to follow your heart.
Unheard Gems: Some of our readers won’t be super familiar with your story but you had a pretty serious injury in your sophomore year of college. That is definitely a moment where it is natural to feel overwhelmed and helpless but you turned it into something more, you’ve said that’s when “the songwriter in you was born. “ What can you tell us about that experience for you, what you learned and how you redefined yourself? I feel like so many people can learn from that in one way or another.
Zach Brandon: I got seriously injured while playing soccer in my freshman year 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 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 my music, and decided that I was going to pursue what I love no matter how unpredictable that path might be.
Unheard Gems: What is next for you in terms of music and life? What are the big plans and goals for the rest of this year?
Zach Brandon:This is such a crazy time with the virus, so firstly, I hope that we all get through this safely. My second hope is that people can find shelter, as well as an escape, in the songs I am planning to put out this year. 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.
Unheard Gems: We always like to know who our Unheard Gems artists are listening to, if you could recommend to us another artist you think deserves more recognition in the music industry who would you recommend?
Zach Brandon: X Ambassadors. I know they’re already big, but they should be huge. Unbelievable writing, and Sam Harris has a CRAZY voice.
Unheard Gems: Lastly, for all of our readers, where can they find you and your music and is there anything else you want to leave us with that we didn’t talk about in our questions?
Zach Brandon: Make sure you’re staying indoors! It’s about keeping others safe too and not just yourself.
Website: https://zachbrandonofficial.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/heyitszachbrandon/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/itszachbrandon Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/heyitszachbrandon/ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJUrd30kcgY23enm4j94zjw
Interview by Hannah Schneider