Local Spotlight - Musician Zac Walthall
“I just don’t want to do anything else.”
When asked what it is that drives him to create, this is Zac Walthall’s answer. Luckily, the next First Friday Evening Market in Downtown Camden will welcome Zac as he shares his creative vocal and instrumental talent at the June 1st event.
Son of pastoral parents, Zac’s roots are planted here in Camden where he was raised on the church's praise team, the foundation from which he not only sang but also learned how to play different instruments as those musical slots needed to be filled. Zac was also raised with piano lessons, "mainly because [his] mom was making [him]." Prior to graduating from Harmony Grove, he played the saxophone in the school’s band and then continued with musical academics as a college student at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia. One of the most difficult classes he’s had at college so far has been for ear training, which involves a number of challenges like singing music before seeing it on sheet paper, writing musical timing on sheet paper just by listening, and learning to hear chords and melodies and then play them. Zac continues his study of music outside of class, too, watching YouTube videos on technique and trying to replicate the sounds through listening. Putting in a lot of hard work on his own time, Zac explains that, “nobody sees you playing that one lick 400 times, but in the end, it makes me happier than anything else.”
With interest in a variety of artistic outlets, Zac also serves as the Arts and Entertainment Editor/Staff Writer for Henderson State University’s student newspaper and online publication, The Oracle, while continuously working with film and media production, as well as digital art and photography. Not only is all this going on while Zac completes his Master in Liberal Arts degree, but he also continues to sing and play a variety of instruments and has been in a few bands. The Dirty Delph Boys was put together as a horn band with bass and drums, but this was short-lived due to it being “difficult to hold practices with ten different people that had ten different schedules.” Zac also jammed in Grammar Candy with fellow musician and artist Freshawn Womack, he played in Jazz Cabbage with fellow student Jake Wyatt, and in Snarky Puppy with Michael League. While the band Redd Tape is currently on hiatus, Zac does still play with them when they tour locally. Zac is no stranger to live performances, with fond memories of playing in places like Vinos and The Joint, both in Little Rock, as well as the Studio Theater where he played bass during a production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Prior to our interview, I thought it would be a good idea to familiarize myself with who Zac Walthall is and what he's all about, and one of the first things I found was a link to a website called Soundcloud. From there, I was able to listen to three of his songs, including "Cansado” (Spanish for “tired”), “Stoicism,” and "Rainy Day.” With an electronic and instrumental vibe, I was immediately reminded of the sounds and stylings of bands like Kings of Leon and Mumford & Sons, and I thought I could even detect a bit of Dave Matthews. The songs are from Zac’s album called Retrospect, a project he dove into during his freshman year at HSU, just wanting to put something out. He was most into the acoustic punk rock genre and “sad boy music,” as he calls it, at that time, and like a true artist Zac can be his own worst critic - “[The album is] not as good as I thought it was then, but I thought it was a good representation of who I was at that time." (I personally really dig the moody, jazzy, introspective, and lyrical vibe that the songs have, and I bet our readers will, too...listen to it here) Zac is aware of the changing nature of creativity, though, as it does grow and change along with the artist. He considers Retrospect a personal experiment for finding who he was as an artist, but he explains, “I don’t really identify with that person much anymore, so I’m working on new material this summer that will be a more accurate reflection of who I am now.” His leading influence these days is the musical and lyrical stylings of Grammy Award-winning jazz bassist and singer, Esperanza Spalding.
In the meantime, First Friday will offer everyone an awesome treat when Zac both plays the piano and sings live covers from hit artists like Foreigner, Stevie Wonder, and Van Morrison. Downtown Camden can expect a jazzy and funky good time as Zac brings his own style to the gig, which falls just a few days after the two-year anniversary release of his debut album. Zac tells me, “I'm happy my hometown is giving me this opportunity. I can't wait to come see my family and friends and give the gift back to my hometown.”
Camden looks forward to having you, Zac!