Music is meant to feel “lived-in,” not unlike a favorite old jacket or a first car. At least that’s what multiple-platinum two time GRAMMY® Award-winning Arkansas-born and Nashville-based maverick Zach Williams would say. Through a fusion of southern rock spirit and country soul, Zach creates music with an exterior which is worn down in the best way, but all heart underneath rough guitar riffs and gravelly vocals.
You’ll not only hear his journey in the music, but you’ll also see it in his unfiltered storytelling—how he went from a tiny town to international stardom, selling out shows, toppling charts, and collaborating with the likes of Dolly Parton. Along the way, he battled addiction, anxiety, and insecurity, coming out on the other side with a whole lot to say.
After living through the lowest of lows and the highest of highs, he made a choice to trust his gut more than ever in 2021. Doing so had certainly served him well up to this point, so he wholeheartedly embraced his most formative inspirations, including rock and old school country. He also didn’t hold anything back during the writing, confronting all of those moments with a stark honesty and a sharp pen honed over the decade preceding. He ultimately needed to live through it in order to commit it to paper.
Now, he’s projecting his voice like never before on his third full-length album, A Hundred Highways [Provident Label Group].“I love music that hits me in a place where I think, ‘Man, that guy or girl has lived through it right there’,” he exclaims. “I believe you can hear it in the break and tremble of the vocals. I’m going to keep all the cracks and truth in my music.”
In order to find this truth, he took stock of the trip thus far. Given the extra time off the road in the middle of the Pandemic, he dug deeper into himself. Where his 2019 album Rescue Story examined his battle with drug and alcohol addiction, seeing him arrive at his purpose, A Hundred Highways picks up where he left off. In the process, he evolved by further leaning into rock ‘n’ roll and blues, speaking as candidly as ever in the lyrics.
“For the first time, I just spoke what’s on my heart,” he admits. “I wasn’t thinking of a genre or a format. We didn’t care about a radio single or fixing anybody’s expectations. I said what I needed to say, because of that this album means everything to me.”
Taking his time, Zach re-teamed with long time collaborator and producer Johnathan Smith. He recorded out of his own studio as well as Sound Emporium in Nashville and the world-famous Blackbird Studio. Writing for his longest span yet, Zach placed himself in the mindset of both his darkest and brightest moments.
“Over almost two years, we kept chiseling away until we felt like we had the right songs for the project,” he elaborates. “I’ve kept my past close because I don’t really want to go back to it. Keeping those memories in the rearview prevents me from returning to who I was. I don’t want to be that guy in real life, so I’ll think about him in the music. I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve. It’s who I am.”
The track “Looking For You” illustrates the scope of his songwriting. Zach’s voice echoes with grit on the refrain, “Down a hundred highways of empty pursuit, and a thousand foolish things I went through. I didn’t know it back then, but now I do. I was looking for you.”
“It might be the most personal song on the record,” he reveals. “It reminds me of an old saying, ‘The first place you find something is the last place you look for it.’ I’ve tried to fill all these holes in my life. The material things I thought would make me happy didn’t. In some respects, this sums up the record. I’ve been down a lot of roads to get to where I am today.”
Then, there’s “Jesus’ Fault” with Walker Hayes. It marks the first time Zach cut a song he didn’t write on, but upon hearing it, he had no choice. Inhabiting the words, he approaches the opening line from a place of wisdom and experience as he immediately proclaims, “That Bible by the bed ain’t a coaster no more. It’s still got some rings from the bottles before.”
“I needed to record this song,” he smiles. “In the second verse, Walker talks about his dad and their relationship. My relationship with my dad was a lot different, so I said, ‘I’d love for you to be a part of this and sing the verse if you’re interested’. He told us to send our version. When we did, he replied, ‘Dude, I was working out at the gym, and I started crying listening to the song. I’d love to be a part of it’. It’s a country tune through and through.”
Elsewhere on “Praise Opens Prisons,” Zach directly calls out to fellow addicts, “Are you bound? Lost in addiction, ya can’t seem to kick it. Well, I know a way out.”
He penned the confessional “Love is a Battleground” for his wife. Punctuated by soft slide guitar and piano, he expresses gratitude, “Yeah, you kept on coming for me, ‘cause you knew love is a battleground.”
“Love is a fight,” he remarks. “My story with my wife was poking its head in. When I was in my wildest and most reckless times, she was there. She stood by my side when everybody told her, ‘Man, you need to leave this dude. He’s nuts. He’s crazy. He’s a loser. He’s never going to change’. She fought for our family. I keep going back to those places in the songs, and I’m grateful she never gave up.”
The single “Heart of God” explodes with emo>on and feeling, coupled with a music video equally as resonant. “I know you’re hurtin’, I can see it in your eyes,” Zach sings gently with a sense of empathy and emo>on that spills out of the speaker. The track has proven to be one of Williams’ fastest growing singles, and showcases Zach’s soaring vocals mixed with power, and both tenderness and grit.
The album opener “Big Tent Revival” resounds with the raucous and rowdy energy of a hometown party soundtracked by rock ‘n’ roll twisted up with dusty bluegrass. It channels moments of “listening to bluegrass in the square as a kid and hanging out at my grandparents.” He goes on, “The song brought me back to all of those memories, pulling on the heartstrings with nostalgia.” “Up There Down Here” hinges on the twang of a hummable chord progression as it ponders what might be going on beyond this life. On “I Got You,” his robust vocals take hold, offering a moment of assurance in the hook. “It’s a conversation,” he notes. “It imagines hanging out or driving around and essentially talking to God about your problems with this being the response, ‘I Got You’.”
It took a long time for him to get here. Zach grew up in Bono, AR—a small suburb of barely 2,000 people outside of Jonesboro. His old man led worship in church, and Zach accompanied his parents to music practice as a young kid. One day, he recalled a family friend opening up a guitar case and effectively changing his life. “I saw a red cherry burst Les Paul, and I couldn’t explain how I felt,” he remembers. Dad kept a guitar in the house with a myriad of music charts. Throughout high school, Zach spent countless hours listening to the likes of Pantera, Rage Against The Machine, Guns N’ Roses, and Soundgarden. He often mimicked Axl Rose and Chris Cornell in his car by himself. Simultaneously, he excelled on the basketball court, achieving a full scholarship to Northwest Arkansas University.
During college, he attended his first blues festival, which proved transformative in its own right. Blown away by Luther Allison and Keb’ Mo, he picked up a guitar for the first time. Developing an infatuation with the blues, he immersed himself in stalwarts a la Robert Johnson in addition to The Black Crowes, Gov’t Mule, The Allman Brothers Band, and Bob Seger. “I always loved a melting pot of music,” he notes. “As I discovered my voice and sound, I took all of those influences and tried to adapt them into who I am.”
After grinding on the regional scene as Zach Williams & The Reformation, he kickstarted a solo career with his debut LP Chainbreaker in 2016. The record earned a platinum certification, picked up a GRAMMY® Award and yielded platinum singles “Chainbreaker” and “Fear Is A Liar” as well as gold “Old Church Choir.” After a whirlwind tour cycle, he returned with Rescue Story.
The platinum single “There Was Jesus” [feat. Dolly Parton] scored Zach his second GRAMMY® Award. In this time, Zach tallied nearly 1 billion streams and counting.Ultimately, Zach traveled A Hundred Highways to get to his most definitive body of work to date.“In the end, it doesn’t maPer what you’ve done, where you’ve been, and what you’re going through,” he leaves off.
“It’s not about how you start your race; it’s always about how you end it. I’m taking things one day at a time. Every day, I have an opportunity to be a bePer person. And that’s what I’m trying to be.”
* Artist performance times and days are subject to change without notice
What They’re Saying
“I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit move each day. It was as if those at Hills Alive had a new
sense of how important it is for us to have times together with brothers and sisters in Christ.
We (the church worldwide) missed that during the covid year.”
“I must say that Gods hand was truly on all the volunteers.to set that stage with so few was truly Gods hand at work. I would like to say thank you to all that donated so much of there time. So much goes into this it is only through the love of Christ that it is even possible. LOVE YOUDan
ALL, YOUR BROTHER IN CHRIST”
“Hills Alive NEVER disappoints...an amazing reset! So much joy and thankfulness is just felt within the park.”
“My husband felt the spirit moving in him and my 7 year old granddaughter was singing word for word everything she heard the whole thing was amazing”