Zachary Knowles Details His Writing Process, Virtual Studio Sessions, and "super sad songs" [Q&A]
Zachary Knowles is still a new name being heard throughout the music industry but don't let that fool you. Knowles began stealing the hearts of his listeners from the very beginning. Knowles' latest release, "super sad songs," is only going to expedite that love. I had the privilege of hearing this awe-inspiring track before its release and I have been on the edge of my seat awaiting this day, ever since. In my opinion, it's a song that needs to be heard by everyone and I'm looking forward to watching the response as the streams climb.
"super sad songs" is a sublime track that embodies the hardships of heartbreak that every listener can relate to, and transforms those feelings with an uplifting melody. The organic acoustic guitars mixed with subtle, swinging hip-hop production makes his sorrowful words hit home for a diverse spectrum of listeners.
“I took responsibility for every action
Apologizing for things that I didn't even know that happened, but
You were so caught up in the miscommunication
Emotionally attached to the things that didn't matter"
That's a lyric in this song that every listener will have the ability to connect with. We had the pleasure of "virtually" sitting down with Zachary Knowles to discuss this single and find out what it truly means to him.
Ones to Watch: Zachary, congrats on the release of "super sad songs"! On an Instagram post, you mentioned that you were the most excited for this release, can you expand on why this song in particular is so important to you?
Zachary Knowles: Dang that's a great question. I think this one's so special to me because it started out as something that I honestly wasn't planning on finishing, and I didn't think I'd put it out. I felt like it was strong, but I just wasn't sure where to take it production wise. It wasn't until Dylan Bauld, who's an absolute wizard at producing, got his hands on it. My team at FADER had sent him my vocal and the guitar track for the song and what he sent back blew my mind. He brought whole new life to it and I instantly fell in love with where it could go from there. I finished writing the song very soon after and immediately got in contact with him so we could finish it. We had several zoom calls to fine tune some things and then I flew out to LA to finalize it and wrap it up for release. It's also super special to me because it's a solo writing project for me, meaning I did all the writing. I write on every song of mine, but I've gotten into more writing collaborations in order to learn more and get more perspective on the writing process. This song was purely a result of me sitting in my room with a guitar and just playing and singing until it felt right. I think that's why I love it so much.
Where does your passion for music come from and when did it start?
I feel like I've always had an interest in music honestly. I grew up listening to music because my parents would always have something on in the car or the house so I started singing when I was really young. They bought me a light up keyboard in the first grade and I started learning smash hits like "twinkle twinkle little star" in order to memorize piano chords. From there I just never really stopped. I continued to sing a lot and when I got into 7th grade my mom pushed me to enter the school talent show. I'm actually mad at myself because I put my performance up on Youtube afterwards but wound up deleting it unfortunately. My family's probably got it somewhere. Once I got into high school I linked up with my friend Tyler Ray and started recording covers and posting them on SoundCloud, eventually leading to my own originals. People at my high school and in my home town showed me a lot of support so I feel like that helped give me the confidence to keep going. After that I fell in love with the creation process and how vulnerable and real it can be and knowing that people connected with my songs and lyrics just fueled that passion.
What is your writing process?
Most of the time I'll start with some cool chords that I like and just start singing random melodies and words until something pops out that I like. I'll pull out my phone and start recording them in the voice memos app and slowly start piecing everything together until it feels right. Then I'll add lyrics and start recording and slowly build from there. I always write on either guitar or piano and start from scratch before building the rest of the production around it. I love starting from scratch because it makes the song feel very organic and I think with my sound it's important to me that there's this element of rawness that remains even after its fully produced.
Since the pandemic started, how has your process changed/adapted?
Being stuck at home definitely presented big challenges. I honestly feel like it made me work harder and forced me to push myself creatively outside of what I was used to though. I had to quickly get comfortable with the world of zoom calls and what that looked like when it came to writing new music and communicating with people. It's definitely been hard at times not to feel discouraged because it's easy to get stuck in your head and overthink melodies or lyrics or whatever it may be when you're isolated. Add on the absence of physically being in the same room as someone you're writing with and it takes away a whole side to the creating process as well. It's for sure been weird, but I've made some really cool stuff that I'm super proud of during this weird season, including "super sad songs" and some other projects I can't wait to share.
Many of your songs embody lyrical dissonance, sad lyrics with an uplifting melody. What do you want your listeners to take away from "super sad songs?"
I love mixing sad lyrics with happy melodies and production because my hope is that those who are going through a hard time can hear them and relate to them, but walk away feeling uplifted and hopeful due to the positive feel of the production. With "super sad songs" I wanted to paint this picture of someone who's honestly just sad and confused, but deliver it in a way that leaves people feeling refreshed and inspired.
What music did you grow up listening to?
I grew up on a bunch of different artists I feel like. I listened to a lot of Justin Bieber, John Mayer, Chris Brown, Sean Kingston, JJ Grey & Mofro, Pat Green, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and a ton more. Justin Bieber was a big one for me because he inspired my vocals a lot. Sean Kingston was huge for me in Junior High, and I've always had a sweet spot for good country music and classic rock.
Is this the first song you remotely worked on with a producer? If so, how was that experience?
I think this is the first song I've fully worked on remotely with someone yeah. The experience making it is why I'm so in love with the song. I had only written about half the song when I got a demo that was produced out from Dylan Bauld. I was blown away and immediately finished writing the rest of the song because I knew it needed to come out as soon as possible. The process working with Dylan was actually incredibly smooth. He just brought so much life to this song and I'm so thankful that he was interested in the project and chose to help because he seriously turned it into something so special and powerful.
It looks like you've been traveling to Los Angeles quite a bit, do you see yourself moving there in the future or will Texas forever be your home?
I get this question a lot haha, and honestly it would be pretty hard for me to leave Texas. I really like the system I've got going right now where I work from here and then travel out to Los Angeles every month or so. I feel like it keeps things exciting for me because each time I go it's like a rush of motivation and inspiration. I'm not totally opposed to the idea, but I just think there's something really special about Texas that would be hard to get away from.
Who are your Ones to Watch?
I love this question. Lately these have been my go-to's: Peter Fenn, Public Library Commute, Fiji Blue, and Kyle Lux.