The traditional sounds of country music played through his Wisconsin childhood home. Being the seventh of nine children in a home where music was always around, Zakk Grandahl brings his roots into writing music while paying ode to his inspirations including the likes of Keith Whitley and George Jones in his upcoming EP If These Roads Could Talk. Read on to learn how the anticipated release came to be…
Zakk’s new single “Bar Hoppin” releasing February 5th brings the Midwest weekend tradition alive in a country music melody we can reminisce about and look forward to doing again someday. Turning the story of a joke or bad time into a song makes his music honest and relatable. Zakk captures the good and bad in a musicians’ life in five songs comprising his debut EP If These Roads Could Talk.
The first single and opening track “Lonely At The Top” pays tribute to the late Keith Whitley and tells the story of ups and downs in living life as a musician. From the moment he heard “Lonely At The Top” years ago, Zakk knew he wanted to record it. “It is very relatable because musicians have moments where they are tired of all the things that come along with being a musician and want to quit playing. When I picked songs for this EP, this is one I wanted to cut right away,” says Zakk.
Following the Whitley cut is “Bar Hoppin”, a song Zakk didn’t plan to release as a single, but discovered how much his Midwest fans loved it at live shows. “That song started out as more of a filler song, it was the last song I wrote for the EP. The guitar player in my band was going out with some friends, when I asked him what he was doing that night he said he was going bar hoppin, it’s a very midwestern term. When I got off the phone with him, I started mumbling the chorus to that song in my head. I went home and finished writing it,” explains Zakk, “I’d forgotten about it then leading up to recording the EP, when we would play that song out (at shows) everyone seemed to like it the most… when they heard the song, they instantly loved it.”
After the fan fave is a song true to Zakk’s experiences on the road as a musician. “Livin the Dream” was written after a Minnesota show he played in the middle of nowhere. “We played for five hours and in the middle of the show, the owner of the bar just left. They didn’t leave any money for us, just bailed on us. So we had drove all the way there and played for free. When we got done packing everything up, I started writing ‘Livin the Dream’. It is dedicated to other musicians. Everything in that song happened to me at one point. Like bars not paying us and figuring out how we are going to get the money to get back home now,” tells Zakk.
What started as a joke between Zakk and his guitar player became one of his favorite songs written. “Lyrically, I think it’s my favorite song I’ve written. My musician friends love it because most of the things that happen in that song, they can relate to in one way or another,” he shares, “Whenever we had a bad show or something went wrong we would say ‘We’re livin the dream’… It’s looking at all the not so great parts of being a musician, but at the same time you are doing what you love to do.”
The next track is another ode to one of Zakk’s musical inspirations, George Jones. ‘“Honkytonk Downstairs’ is one of my favorites; one I’ve always wanted to record. Having this song and ‘Lonely At The Top” is a way of paying tribute to my favorite singers,” says Zakk.
Concluding the EP is ‘Loneliest Part Of The Day’, Zakk says was written about a quote by Hank Williams Sr. “He said, ‘Right before the sun goes down and it gets dark outside is the loneliest part of the day.’ The song is about someone battling alcohol addiction. I have friends and family that have struggles with addiction, so the song is about the mindset of what those people go through when they’re battling the addiction. That was one of the first songs written for the album.”
While it can look like someone is living their dream, Zakk understands the struggle musicians can face with having confidence to play live and put their music out there. “I didn’t put any music out for a long time because I was a shy quiet person. To this day I still have stage fright. I would say the biggest thing I did that helped was being myself. I think someone should be themselves, put out what they love and not care so much about what people have to say. There’s always going to be people who have negative things to say. It’s easy to get caught up in the negative. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of people say positive things about my music.”
While live music has been on pause, Zakk is looking forward to touring again this year. “The coolest part is playing in front of people, seeing them react to my songs, it’s a really cool feeling. I’ve had people come talk to me about my music after shows. They relate to something I wrote or it struck a chord in them. That’s one of the coolest feelings, to know you wrote something that someone connects with,” says Zakk.
Listen and download “Bar Hoppin” this Friday February 5. Be sure to visit to zakkgrandahlmusic.com and follow him on social media @zakkgrandahlmusic to be the first to know when new music out with If These Roads Could Talk set to release March 13.