Nashville-based songwriter Zach Vinson plays Tidballs tonight with Thee Japanese School Girls.
After a four-year hiatus Vinson released most recent effort “How We Spend Our Days,” in 2015. Check out my q&a with Vinson below. He dishes on overcoming self-doubt, his songwriting progress and the eclectic influences he draws on.
How long have you been making music?
I started playing piano when I was 8 (and mostly hated it) and guitar when I was about 14, which is when I joined my first band. I played with those guys until I was 19, which is when I started doing the solo thing (roughly 2006). I moved around a bit, ended up in Nashville in 2010, and have been there since.
How would describe your songwriting process? Do lyrics come to you first sometimes?
Writing is kind of a mysterious process that I don’t always understand. The Nashville way is to view it very much like a machine, and I see that there are some good aspects to that mindset, but that hasn’t really worked for me. The music often comes first for me, playing around until I land on an idea I like. I’ll usually start filling in some lyrics with an idea of what I think the concept for the song is going to be, and those lyrics usually end up getting scrapped by the time I finish. It’s hard to force a song to be about something that it’s not ready to be about. A lot of the times, I’ll finish (or nearly finish) a song, grow to dislike it more and more, ignore it for a while, then come back to it months or years later and re-work it into something I’m satisfied with.
Talk about your biggest influences? Any music you’ve discovered lately that has resonated or been inspiring?
Probably the most obvious influence is Ben Folds, since there aren’t a whole lot of other male-fronted quirky piano rock bands. But there are a lot of other things hiding in the background: Ben Kweller, Nada Surf, Weezer, Over the Rhine, classical music, jazz, etc. As far as recent discoveries go, I’ve been listening to a good bit of Julien Baker, Noah Gundersen, and Courtney Barnett in recent weeks.
I read that you took a four-year hiatus between releases. As a creative minded person I deal with a lot of self-doubt, was that a layer to wanting to take time off? What’s it been like to come back and continue to craft intriguing music after the hiatus?
Self-doubt was part of the equation for sure. For a lot of years, I had the mentality of keeping my head down, working as hard as I could on music, and hoping I ended up in a good place. Then one day I lifted my head up, looked around, and realized I wasn’t sure what path I was on and if it was one I was even enjoying anymore. In this day and age, it’s not like the world “needs” me to keep playing music, you know? I still wrestle with that at times…am I adding to the conversation or adding to the noise?
So I took a few steps back and simplified things to the point of saying, “I want to make music today.” And so I would make music. and the days I didn’t feel like that, I didn’t make music. I really didn’t know if I would ever pursue it seriously again. Eventually the joy and wonder of creating music started to come back, and I made some healthy changes in the way I think about writing, performing, and being an artist.
What can attendees expect from your live show?
I’m traveling with a full band, so it’s a pretty high-energy rock show for the most part. If you threw Ben Folds, Ben Kweller, and Weezer together in a blender, it would probably come out in a weird puree that sounds something like this.
This your first time playing Bowling Green? Are you familiar with the music scene here at all?
This is indeed our first time in BG! I’ve tried to book shows here a few other times, but it hasn’t worked out. It’s so close to Nashville, that it’s a perfect place to start or end a run of shows, so I hope we can make it a regular stop in the future. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Tidball’s, but I’m not super familiar with the rest of the scene, so I’m excited to meet a few people and learn the ropes a bit.