Zach Person's guitar journey was born out of one of the worst situations imaginable: the tragic death of his father.
“My dad was a prison guard in Maryland’s Jessup House of Corrections,” says Person, explaining that while on the job his father was attacked and killed by inmates who were into “shady stuff.” Person was 9 at the time. Thankfully he had a loving mother who “wanted to make sure I was able to channel all that and stay busy,” says the now-24-year-old musician from his home in Austin.
Person expressed a desire to learn guitar, so his mom bought him a First Act starter model “with a little battery-powered speaker in it.” That instrument didn’t just help Person process his grief, it also started the young player down a road that would lead to some truly uplifting, and life-altering, experiences.
In 2016, after years of woodshedding and playing in teenage bands, the guitarist/singer auditioned for American Idol, where he wowed judges Keith Urban, Harry Connick Jr. and Jennifer Lopez with his take on Gary Clark Jr.’s Next Door Neighbor Blues.
The following year he played onstage with Buddy Guy (“I’m thinking, don’t blow this!”) and later appeared on high-profile bills with Foo Fighters, Anderson .Paak and more. Person’s most recent triumph is the release of his self-titled full-length debut – a solid collection of blues-based jams infused with rich electronic textures and indie-rock attitude.
“I consider myself a bluesman, of sorts, that’s always going to be at the core…,” says the musician, who cites Stevie Ray Vaughan and BB King among his influences. “[But] I like to pull aspects of all the music I love: fat 808 drumbeats of hip-hop… timelessness of Americana and country… complex chords of neo-soul.”
2019 Fender Jazzmaster HH, 1989 Gibson Explorer, 2019 Gibson Les Paul Special Double Cut, 1957 Gibson LG-1/LG-2 “Conversion”
Milkman The Amp 100, 2x12 Vertical Marshall Cab
Strymon El Capistan Delay, J. Rockett The Dude Overdrive, T.C. Electronic Vibraclone Rotary Pedal, T Rex Effects The Quint Octaver
Ernie Ball Slinky Electric Strings (10-46), Ernie Ball Medium Light Earthwood Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Strings (12-54)
Dunlop Primetone .88 pick, Keyser Capos, brass slide, Shure 55SH mic, Mogami cables
Person’s musical open-mindedness is apparent throughout the 12-song album, as the guitarist and his bandmate, drummer Jake Wyble, unleash gritty slide jams (Can’t Stop Running), soulful fingerpicked compositions (Wanna Fly), foot-stomping bops (Carolina), indie-electronic moments and fierce soloing (Send Me Away) and one grooving, fuzzed-out reworking of Elvis’ All Shook Up.
Person has come a long way since he picked up that First Act. His gear, naturally, has evolved – his current favorite axes are a 1989 Gibson Explorer and 2019 Fender Jazzmaster HH – and his creative ambitions continue to expand. Next up? Hitting the road when COVID restrictions lift. “My hope is that I can expose the blues to a new audience and a new generation of listeners,” Person says. “Modernize it… but keep its spirit.”
- Zach Person's self-titled debut album is out now.