“Oh My Sweet Carolina” is one of my favorite songs. Ever. As Ryan Adams strapped on his acoustic guitar in the middle of an amazing set at Governor’s Ball this past Saturday, my heart leapt in anticipation of hearing this gem, or perhaps another of my more mellow favorites from his catalogue. But there was a distracting pulse bleeding from the main stage: beats, bloops, and yes, even a few pew-pews courtesy of the other headliner of the evening, Deadmau5. “This song is not going to match that robot music over there,” Adams snarled. “Seriously, it’s like a Terminator nightmare.” The crowd cheered in approval; Deadmau5 may have had the lion’s share of the attendees, but Adams certainly had his faithful followers there to watch him sing, play, and rant. “Try writing this on your fucking iPhone!” he yelled, and then dedicated “Oh My Sweet Carolina” to the T-800, which was a more “old school” Terminator than the T-1000.
Adams’ new backing band may not have had the same unique ferocity that the Cardinals exhibited (his band from 2004-2009), but they brought a welcome raw rock energy and tore through some fan favorites like “When the Stars Go Blue,” “Cold Roses,” “To Be Young” (before which he said “This next one’s an oldie. Well…it’s an oldie where I came from”), and newer songs like “Dirty Rain” and “Gimme Something Good.” Adams was in a chipper mood in spite of the robot music remarks; he lead the band in an improvised minor key blues about a hotdog vendor in the crowd. With his vast catalogue and notorious onstage antics, you never know what you’re going to get from this guy.
“Thank you for choosing human beings instead of robots,” Adams said as they bade farewell after their final tune, “Come Pick Me Up.” The following day, there was back and forth twittering between the DJ and the rocker that seemed to have ended this mini feud amicably, with Mr. Adams stating that he was being sarcastic with his ‘robot music’ jabs and that Deadmau5 should ‘build that dream machine.’ Deadmau5 said he thought the whole thing was funny.
But to bring my fangirl mentality to full swing, Mr. Adams liked my photo on Instagram! My caption mentioned the human beings v. robots bit, and my friend Ross, who plays guitar in St..Lucia, commented on the photo: “Awww, is he grumpy? Does he need a nap?” And Ryan wrote back: “only when exposed to your shitty band, asswipe : )” Both Ross and I got a big kick out of this interaction; I assume Ryan was once again joking, as he and St..Lucia both played Coachella, and they are most certainly not shitty. Also, he included the : ) . So basically, we’re all best friends.
I am packing up my bags in an art deco style flat I rented for $50 per night in Green Market Square, which is more or less the Union Square of Capetown. Right outside my window, people come from all over the country to set up shop and offer wares of original artwork, biltong (amazing jerky-like meat snack), hand-carved elephant statues, and Zulu warrior masks. I have just rolled up some paintings and stuffed wine bottles wrapped up in t-shirts into my suitcase. Capetown has been home base for the better part of two weeks, and is one of the most cultural and exciting cities I have ever seen.
Me & Isaac from Modest Mouse
We played the Park Life Festivals in both Capetown and Johannesburg, and were the only other American band on the bill except for Modest Mouse, whom I have adored since living in the dorms at age 18 (sidenote: I most certainly got a picture with frontman Isaac to send to a very jealous ex-girlfriend who is an insane fangirl). Except for some expected technical difficulties with northern hemisphere plugs not playing nicely with southern hemisphere outlets, the shows were amazing, and the South African people could not have been more accommodating and friendly (Howzit, Bru?!)
We learned about the tumultuous history of Apartheid and the changes Nelson Mandela brought to the country. The promoters, who were native to the region, drove us through some of the most affluent neighborhoods, which are only a mile or so down the road from the shantytowns and townships that remain very impoverished and dangerous. It certainly made us realize how much we take for granted.
DUHN nunt...DUHN nunt...
OK so let me get to the part about the sharks. We drove a couple hours south to Gansbaai (and by we, I mean everyone except for Matt Sanchez, because he’s a total wuss). Before heading out to sea, the marine biologists showed us a brief safety video and reminded us not to be complete morons and stick our hands out of the cage. Most of us would abide by this rule. So we cruise out to part of the Atlantic where many sharks usually hunt, put on wetsuits and goggles, and climbed into a cage in the shape of a king size mattress. The chum guy (not sure of his official title) would toss a fake wooden seal into the water and drag it towards the cage, and lo and behold, giant great white sharks would emerge from the murky water and try to gobble that fake seal with ferocious speed and cunning. We saw a total of eleven sharks, and many of them multiple times. As you saw from my little shark documentary (sharkumentary?), James had to be a “badass” and reached out and grabbed a few fins and rubbed a few bellies of these man-eating sea creatures. Why he does these things, I’ll never know.
Back to NYC to rehearse the new material for upcoming shows and re-adjust to the time zone. See you soon I hope, Capetown!
As you may or may not know from reading my wikipedia page, I majored in TV production at the University of Georgia–the renowned Grady College of Journalism. I hustled to music school right after graduating, so my aspirations as a filmmaker were shelved for a bit. But I have been working with American Authors and Island Records to conceptualize some promotional content for the band’s current studio work in the form of episodes. I am now equipped with a fancy new Canon 5D and plenty of accoutrements to make a feature length film. And to be able to document this paramount chapter of the band’s career is going to be sensational to say the least.
We are heading to South Africa this week to play some festivals in Johannesburg and Capetown, and I’m definitely bringing my new axe (the camera) to get some footage of lions, tigers, and sharks (there are no bears, but we are definitely going on a cage dive to get up close and personal with some giant sharks). So look forward to some fresh content soon, and don’t tell my parents about the whole shark thing.
p.s. I don’t yet have a wikipedia page, feel free to start one for me.
My friend Conan let me take this photo at his desk.
It’s going to be a fun change of pace to be the most important Zachary onstage at my upcoming show at Rockwood Music Hall, as I typically play second fiddle to “Prettyboy” Barnett at my day job. After the past year of touring with American Authors, I have had the privilege of hearing so many different bands, singers, songs, grooves, styles, productions, soundchecks, beats, etc. all over the world, and it has definitely reminded me about the power of music to connect with people. It reminds me of a fun Dave Grohl quote: “That’s on the great things about music. You can sing a song to 85,000 people, and they’ll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons.”
So I don’t think I’ll have quite as many people show up to my gig as Nirvana or Foo Fighters (I think the capacity of this venue is in the neighborhood of 100), but I’m nevertheless thrilled about sharing the new tunes with friends, fans, and the typical foray of weirdos who wander in from the Lower East Side. I usually play with a three piece horn section, which is a blast, but this time I’m going to have an extra guitarist and keyboardist to play a (mostly) brand new batch of songs, some of which I have co-written with members of some of my favorite local bands like Rocket & The Ghost, St. Lucia, and Matt Sucich.
American Authors have shows coming up in Orlando, San Francisco, Mexico, and South Africa over the next couple months, and a new record is in the works, too. I have started playing guitar for another artist on Island Records named Connell Cruise, sort of a World-Music-Sam-Smith type with a dynamite voice and a Zack-Morris smile.
Well, they’re not getting married; they got married about four years ago. And after doing some rearranging of boxes and guitar cases in my apartment a few days ago, I stumbled across an old hard drive with oodles of Flip video files, including these wacky wedding videos from my good friends from Berklee who got married in Austin in a very unique style. I asked them if I could leave in all the prurient details, and they said of course. Please excuse the sometimes poor audio quality, and my haircut. Enjoy.
A year ago today, I quit my hotel job to hit the road with American Authors. And oh man, what a year it has been: 18 countries. 200+ shows. 100+ flights. 10,000+ of miles of pavement. Countless new friends, fans, and family. Amazing food. Too much booze, probably/definitely. And I might have a story or two that will make you laugh, cry, high-five me, or wince.
What better way to cap off such a wild year than playing at the biggest New Year’s party in the world: Times Square in New York City. A million people in attendance in person, not even counting the millions watching from all over the world. We had to show up to Hard Rock Cafe around 2PM to make sure we had ample time to get through Elmo, Elsa, and the security barricades surrounding the main Square. The fashionable folks at Kenneth Cole were nice to enough donate some new suits to make us look spiffy (furthermore, ripped denim is rather cold when it’s 30 degrees outside). The event was sponsored by Cosmopolitan, Cover Girl, and Moet Champagne, and we wouldn’t be performing live on CNN until 9:20PM. And for a bunch of bored musicians next to an open bar with seven hours to kill, I am proud to tell you that we behaved ourselves.
NYPD walked us out to the stage through the droves of people while Florida Georgia Line was finishing their performance, waving along the way to thousands of rosy faces with ski caps and waving mittens. Apparently during our show, Kathy Griffin asked Anderson Cooper live on TV: “So what’s your favorite American Authors’ song?” “I never even heard of this band,” Mr 360 responded. Really, Mr. Cooper? I suggested to Dave that he tweet at them:
And moments later, Kathy actually read the tweet on the air! Take THAT Cooper! We promptly got some haters tweeting at us: “Who the F are you!! AC is a news legend with way more followers! You guys suck!!” etc. So we tweeted back that we were just kidding and Happy New Year and stuff. I’m not sure if that counts as having a “Twitter war” with a “noteworthy member of the media elite”, but hey–I’ll take what I can get.
Times Square went bananas at midnight. Streamers, balloons, confetti, music, fireworks. Drinking, kissing, screaming, dancing, shouting. By this point, we had certainly warmed up with some champagne and whiskey and were chock full of New Year’s cheer. We started our indoor show at Hard Rock around 1AM, followed by OAR, still in our suits (naturally), and brought the house down at this classy and exclusive Manhattan soiree. At 2AM, they served hotdogs, pizza and tater tots, which was my second favorite part of the night.
So for January through March, we have a handful of shows in Detroit, Utah, Mexico City, Phoenix, Orlando, and San Francisco, and in April we head to South Africa for the first time. And if you live in NYC and are not busy on March 1st, come see me play with MY band (The Zac Taylor Show) at Rockwood Music Hall. Until then, Happy New Year’s, MLK, Groundhog’s, and Valentine’s Day.
As far back as I can remember, the Macy’s Day Parade was on TV every Turkey Day morning, while we peeled potatoes and dressed the bird, and before my grandfather inevitably turned the channel to football. We just got back from two-week European tour, which was cut a little short by getting to ride on top of the Cracker Jack float, just after Meghan Trainor, and just before Nick Jonas. When I told my folks we were performing at the parade, they definitely flipped. On Wednesday, we flew from Munich to JFK, where we all had our own drivers holding signs with our own names who put our bags and gear in our own Escalades to drive us to the Dream hotel where we all had our own rooms. I don’t mean to brag, but I say this because we usually cram into a minivan with guitars in our laps and share a few rooms at Holiday Inn Express, or even La Quinta Inn if it’s a good deal.
Lobby call was 7AM, and we watched other performers walk through the revolving doors, including the Vamps, Ronald McDonald, and KISS. We were picked up in a van and taken to the start of the parade, where the guys did some interviews, the Cirque du Soleil pirates warmed up juggling, and we all took selflies with Ron (ald McDonald, who cracked a I-have-big-and-feet-you-know-what-that-means joke). We had to rearrange some drums, stands, and ourselves so we would fit on the 7-foot wide platform overlooking a miniature baseball field and some little league all stars.
And then we started moving. Past Central Park, past the Metropolitan Museum of Art, all the way up past Radio City Music Hall, on display for hundreds of thousands of onlookers, many of whom staked out their turf at 5AM to get a spot right along the parade route. We waved, danced, froze, and waved some more, grinning and laughing like the lucky idiots we were, basking in the frigid New York air, 20 feet above the street. It might have won the best moment of the year award, in a year full of outstanding ones. For the TV part of the parade, which was the final 90 seconds before we hopped off, we had only some basic instructions: play to the cameras on the left, not the few hundred people on the right, because there are 25 million people watching at home. And to disguise the lip syncing (if you think people really sing at these events, go stand in the corner for time-out), we were told to keep the microphones close to our mouths.
As the massive float made its final turn down 6th Avenue, the driver hung too hard of a right, and we got jammed on the barricades for a minute or two before they pried it loose, and then hustled towards the cameras to keep schedule. Surely someone would cue us, as it such a highly watched event. Surely the muffled sound that we could barely hear at that moment definitely wasn’t the 90-second version of “Best Day of My Life” that we were supposed to mime along to. But just in case, we started playing along after a few moments of confusion, in the off-chance that we were wrong, and that was our big moment. “Our slot is probably coming up any minute, so get ready boys!” Nope. That was it. Huh?
So we goofed a bit, but we didn’t let a bit of unorganized parading ruin our fun, as the whole day was completely surreal. We warmed our hands and feet back at the Dream hotel, had some coffee and huevos rancheros in the lobby restaurant, and looked at the photos and videos we took from atop the float, marveling at our crazy morning. Of course some boneheads put our ‘lip-sync fail’ on YouTube, but you know what? Haters gonna hate. We have watched it a bunch of times and just laughed; we are a rock band, and therefore not good at lip syncing. Sue us.
This is a story of the stars being crossed. About 15 years ago, I went to Chastain Amphitheater in Atlanta to see BB King, with Tower of Power and Kenny Wayne Shepherd opening the show. My friend John Paskoff and I went with our guitar buddy Lawson, who had season tickets for Table #1 at Chastain, right next to the stage. TOP was amazing with their horn section and funkiness; KWS band was a blues-rock explosion although Kenny remains a bit of a Stevie Ray hack; and while BB could only stand for the first number and then had a seat, the legendary Bluesman delivered an awe-inspiring show, a pinnacle experience for us young guitar players. Every note that man plays: goosebumps.
At the end of the show, my friends and I somehow managed to get backstage to meet the King himself, and he could not have been a sweeter or more majestic man. He said “Hello there young man!” and signed my Table #1 ticket stub as well as my guitar pick, after which I told him “Please send my regards to Lucille!” to which he replied,”Oh, Lucille done gone to bed by now!” (If you don’t know who Lucille is, shame on you, and google it!).
James, the American Authors banjo player, recently told me his first concert ever was seeing BB King at Chastain in 2000, and I was like “Dude!! I was at that show!” And needless to say: we had a moment. After our live VH1 ‘You Oughta Know’ show at the Hammerstein Ballroom a couple weeks ago, we had drinks with our manager Alex, who was regaling us with some of his early road stories as a sound engineer. I mentioned I was really into the Atlanta blues scene growing up, and lo and behold, he happened to be running sound for BB King way back then…and was mixing. Sound. At. That. SHOW. He was 20 years old at the time, a talented mixing engineer for his age, and therefore a good and cheap option for BBK, Inc. That was his first night on the job as sound engineer for both Kenny and BB, so he was understandably a bit nervous, especially because BB had a 12 piece band and they never do a soundcheck so he had to mix on the fly. But he was there! And me and James were there! And we wouldn’t meet each other until 10+ years later.
At the end of the tour, Alex told me Mr. King gave him $1500 in cash and thanked him for his work, and then signed the envelope the dough came in. Neither Alex nor I can remember where those autographs are at present day; presumable at mom’s house somewhere. But hey: cool story, right?
We have been on the Honda Civic Tour since October 1st, and it has been a wild ride. I have caught up with old friends in California to Texas to Atlanta to Chicago and now: Boston. This show is particularly special, as it is our first headlining sold out show in the city where we all met and started our professional careers. I saw The Blue Pages play here seven years ago, AA’s former band name with the same four members; and it has taken them this long to get their name up on that marquee with those two amazing words, ‘SOLD OUT,’ next to it.
We walked around the Berklee campus after soundcheck and ran into a couple of my old songwriting professors and chatted about the music biz, publishing revenue, Billboard charts, etc.; but we also recalled how terrified we were upon graduating (or dropping out) and moving to New York City with a hope, a prayer, and a mountain of student loan debt. We talked about bellhopping, waiting tables, flipping MacBooks on Craigslist, anything we could do to keep the dream alive. Watching all those students walk around Mass Ave all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, carrying guitars or drumsticks, I wanted to take them and slap them around (figuratively speaking), and tell them how much hard work and degradation they have ahead of them. I wish someone had done that to me in 2010, when I too was naively optimistic, full of piss and vinegar, ready to be the next John Mayer.
We half-joked on the way back to the venue: Berklee should offer courses in bartending and waiting tables, because it’s a necessary skill set for musician survival…
So we decided to be Batman villains for Halloween. We went shopping in Chicago, and managed to throw together some decent costumes from various thrift shops and Halloween stores. Zac Barnett bought that suit for $10 and ripped it apart. Dave took some convincing to be the Penguin, as the Penguin not the sexiest of villains, but he eventually came around and looked terrifying (and you know what? kind of sexy). Matt actually had to tone down his natural brooding aura to pull off the the Joker. As a huge Jim Carrey fan, the Riddler was a natural choice for yours truly.
So who would James be? Bane? Scarecrow? Dr. Freeze? Nope, they all have things over their faces which would not be conducive to singing. The Dark Knight himself? The rest of the band wouldn’t hear of it (the idea was shot down via group text in the costume shop). So we perused the used costume racks, and voilà: Superman! Not necessarily Batman’s immediate enemy per se, but the next movie coming out is entitled ‘Superman v. Batman,’ so we dressed him up in those red and blue tights, threw on a little red riding hood cape (they were out of the Superman ones), and there you have it (it had a huge rip in the crotch by the second night; there might be some lewd fan photos out there on the interwebs)
The show at Mill City Nights in Minneapolis on proper Halloween was awesome, but the following night at Freak Fest in downtown Madison, WI was the best crowd of the whole tour. We played for thousands of tipsy trick-or-treaters at midnight on an outdoor stage in the 29 degree open air. I swapped costumes with Barnett because he wanted to not wear the pink make up and to also have sleeves. What a wimp! (Hypocrite warning: I put on my hoodie mid-set).