He may be in his mid-twenties, but Zach Person already has an impressive resume. The guitar phenom and singer-songwriter was playing at Houston’s House of Blues before he was old enough to drive. And rather than enrolling in college after high school, he opted to audition for American Idol, where Harry Connick Jr. called his sound “refreshing” and Jennifer Lopez said he was “from another time.”
With his self-titled debut album, Person moves beyond the label of guitar prodigy and steps into his own as an artist.
Person’s debut shows he has the musical chops and songwriting skills to stand among the artists who inspired his move from Houston to Austin — performers like Jackie Venson, Gary Clark Jr. and the Peterson Brothers. This current crop of Austin-area blues musicians — Person included — proves the blues isn’t strictly a traditional American folk music style. It’s also a modern medium for artistic expression.
Beyond blues, Person’s music also contains elements of pop, soul, gospel, indie and classic rock. He skillfully blends his diverse influences and avoids creating a disjointed musical hodgepodge. In the process, he exhibits the fearless eclecticism that’s been the hallmark of American music.
The opening track, “Can’t Stop Running,” sets the album’s energetic tone with distorted slide guitar and a steady, danceable beat. By the second chorus, a square-wave bass synth joins the party and ensures the listener this isn’t strictly a throwback affair. The feel-good, retro pop melodies of “Radio Man” and “How Long” are sure to get stuck in your head, while the minor key blues of songs like “Back To Me” and “Let Me Know” add a brooding swagger to the EP. Person’s acoustic guitar picking on “Wanna Fly” is reminiscent of Appalachian claw-hammer banjo and pairs perfectly with the song’s gospel-style vocal harmonies.
In a live setting, Person’s songs are even more alive. Aside from synth and bass backing tracks, Person and drummer Jake Wyble are responsible for the entirety of the band’s live sound. And these two dudes know how to make a lot of noise. On stage, the peaks are higher and wilder; the valleys are deeper and more intimate. Person’s guitar solos are extended into the territory of classic rock odyssey. Wyble’s drumming is both free and controlled behind the kit. At times, the intensity and dynamics of his drumming threaten to steal the show from the band’s namesake.
But Person wouldn’t have it any other way. “He’s not just a drummer — he’s a composer, a writer,” Person says. “He has a great musical mind and ear.” The two worked as a team shaping Person’s rough demos into polished, radio-ready songs.
Person has already opened for some of his blues guitar heroes. He received some valuable advice from living legend Buddy Guy. “His main message was keep your head clear,” Person explains. “Stay focused on the craft. Don’t get distracted by all the temptations and flashing lights of the industry.”
So far, Person has taken this advice to heart. He signed a unique deal with upstart label Blackdenim Records. Not only does Person maintain control over his intellectual property, but he’s also an equal partner in the label itself. Person says this partnership with manager Christopher Durst and producer Will Loconto gives him a lot of space to focus on the music. “They’ve positioned me as well as possible,” he says, “to be able to thrive as an artist.”
If you’d like to catch Person in person before he embarks on his first European tour, you can find him at the following shows:
May 1 Dreamfest Dripping Springs
Tuesdays Geraldine’s Austin
starting May 5
June 18 Sugarland Town Square Sugarland
June 26 Haute Spot Cedar Park