Zach Longoria is making a name for himself by creating some of the most endearing blue-eyed soul around. He blends that sound with a tinge of alt-country and rock, for something a little fresh, especially in terms of the city. And he hustles hard at what he has to do, which comes across not only in his music, but in any conversation you find yourself fortunate enough to have with him. You can listen to a few tracks from his latest, Up Up Away, below, and check him out this Sunday with Alanna Royale and Devon Gilfillian at The New Vintage. We caught up with Longoria to ask him why he chose music, how you balance adulthood and art, and which Ninja Turtle he is most like!
NN: Relative to that, why play music at all? What does being a musician do for you in the long run?
ZL: I was a 9-5 working stiff before I decided to do this, and frankly I’m so glad I did. Music is something so inherent in my being that I literally couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It’s the only job that I have ever had where I wake up everyday and can’t wait to get started. For example when we got to record our last album at La La Land, I got up early, hit the gym, and then was usually waiting outside like a puppy waiting to be let in so we could start the day. I did that everyday. First one in, last one out. I very much believe that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to do, so it doesn’t feel like work, but it is. I can’t speak to what music will do for me in the long run; I hope its successful enough to sustain itself to where I can do it forever.
NN: What is your musical resume? Did you start solo, or have you been in other projects? What is the order of operations in the Zach Longoria Project? Are you the primary songwriter, or is it collaborative? Which do you prefer?
ZL: I started out solo. I remember calling everywhere to get acoustic gigs back then, but I got my first gig at, of all places, Manny and Merle downtown. ZLP is just a beautiful story in and of itself. I love those people so much. The amount of love and support we give one another is magic in my opinion, I am so lucky to have happened upon this band. The first ZLP record was predominately my songs that I had written before we came together, although Chris Gzrech (keys) and I wrote ‘The Truth’ together. As we progressed, writing became more collaborative. Generally, Chris and I will get together and write the music portions and get a nice structure going, then we take them to the band and let them go nuts, after that we fine tune it. The last step is lyrics, and while there are a few that I wrote solo, my primary lyric writing counterpart is Gina C, her and I usually work those out together.
NN: How would you describe your music to someone perhaps unfamiliar?
ZL: Generally when people ask what our music is like, I tell them R&B… but real. R&B has a lot of sub-genres, but we are a little bit of everything with a dash of jazz.
NN: Tell us about Up Up Away. What was the writing process like? How is it a departure from your previous work?
ZL: UP UP & Away was a song about us. It’s about what all musicians go through, and how grueling the grind is. I remember writing the music and just listening to the recording on my phone of me playing guitar, while I was running in Cherokee park and Up Up & Away just wouldn’t leave my brain. Next thing you know Gina comes over and we said “this should be about us,” and boom, we wrote a song. I knew that this would be a little different then our normal style, but that’s ok. If Beyoncé can do a country song and Florida Georgia Line can rap, I think we can do one rock song per record, ha-ha!
NN: What most informs the writing of your lyrics? Are there any subjects that are off limits or that you might shy away from? If so, why?
ZL: Lyrics can range for me. Sometimes they can be fun like in ‘Dance Till You Die,’ and sometimes I like to say something. For instance in like in ‘Heaven,’ I describe the longing for “the thing,” but also the contempt for those who think they know how to achieve it. I pull a lot, as does Gina, from personal experiences. My path in life has been a hard one, parts of it my fault, some not, so I have some real material and emotions that I can always tap into. Everything is on the table though. Why put yourself in a box?
NN: I know you to have strong political opinions. How are those opinions manifested in your music, if at all?
ZL: Well we have a little number called ‘The Truth’ and it’s all kinds of political. I write about political stuff all the time, but I thinks it’s important to say something that touches a nerve in everyone. If your gonna do it you should try and get everyone to listen to it and like it. ‘The Truth’ is about political disenfranchisement, but I wrote it in a way so everyone could resonate with it regardless of political party.
NN: How do you hope to see your legacy?
ZL: I hope my legacy is that I’m a good father, husband, friend, and decent human being. Obviously I would love to have all the accolades in the world, but if I can check that list, I think I’m a success no matter what.
NN: Speaking of, what do you see as success? How do you measure that?
ZL: Well given the list I provided I can only measure that by the way I am perceived by those individuals.”
NN: What makes for a good show and why? What about a bad show?
ZL: Good shows are when you connect with your band, everyone is hitting hard, not thinking, and just playing. When we become one sound, that’s when we know. I’m sure a lot of bands have that. When we are on it’s real easy to tell, but when we are off it’s also easy to tell. With a band our size you really have to have your shit together. A lot of our music has very specific parts and if one goes it can create a domino effect. Luckily those have seemed to stay behind us. *knocks wood*
NN: As a parent, how do you balance adult responsibility and art?
ZL: It is hard to balance that, but it’s my bed to lie in. A lot of times I work schedules around when I have the kids, so I can spend as much time as I can, but sometimes it doesn’t always work out. So you can imagine a 4 year old, 7 am wake up, comes pretty early on those days.
NN: I understand you were in England recently. What took you there? What did you take away from the experience?
ZL: Well, I was invited to the U.S Embassy in London for an election night watch party. It was a surreal experience. To watch this election abroad was a perspective I never thought I would get in my life time. I found it incredibly enlightening to hear how informed Brits are on our politics and political system. I also found it interesting to hear the fears they have for a Trump presidency, and how dumbfounded they are by his nomination, much less in his becoming president.
NN: Which Ninja Turtle do you most identify with and why?
ZL: Hands down Raphael. He is my spirit turtle on so many levels. One, pizza. That’s a given. Two he is rough around the edges and at times and asshole, but underneath he is a good dude.
NN: What happens when you die? Get weird with religion!
ZL: I don’t know and neither does anyone else. I feel that we are all connected to a thing, and that when are minds are free and hearts are open we can all feel that. You don’t need church, synagogue, or a Mosque to feel the human connection or to be spiritual.
NN: What non-musical things have you excited recently and why? Have you read, watched, eaten, or drank anything worth mentioning of late?
ZL: I am really into Westworld right now. That show is absolutely off the charts. Toss in an Anthony Hopkins villain and I’m hooked.
NN: What are your top three desert island albums?
ZL: In no order…