Name: Zach Chance
Current Release: Young Man on Thirty Tigers
If you enjoyed this interview with Zach Chance from Jamestown Revival, visit the official website to buy their music, merch and tour tickets.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
It tends to come in all different shapes for us. I think our best songs usually come out of long conversations that Jon and I had about life, love, or any number of subjects, and then somebody starts picking on a guitar, and suddenly it is there in the room with us.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
For me personally, it’s more of a shape or idea. Often times in my head, it feels like a painting that has a mood to it. Working from concrete ideas is just fine, and we do that from time to time, but there’s something special about letting a song reveal itself.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
It really depends on how we’re writing. We were pulling from the source material for the “Fireside with Louis La’Amour” record and translating those stories into three-minute or so songs. On something like that, it was helpful to storyboard the music and really map out where we wanted to go and determine what we thought was pertinent information for the purposes of our song and distilling everything down.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
All of those ingredients come into play. It’s pretty crazy how often inspiration comes from the high of working out or just getting outdoors and being uncomfortable for a while. The same is true for that early morning coffee buzz before I’ve had a chance to eat. That’s one of my favorite times to sit with an instrument.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
It can be so damn maddening when all you want is a song, and you just can’t grab it. But if you show up every day and are open to it, the odds are something good will come along. Repetition is our friend.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
The majority of the time, music and lyrics move in tandem for us. Sometimes it’s a phrase or a few lines that someone will bring in.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
That’s tough to say because it’s all so subjective. Some people have a way of telling a story and using turns of phrase that just stick in you like daggers, and I’m always a sucker for that, but sometimes it’s simple lyrics and just the feeling of a song like a mood or a color that can be so powerful. I’m such a fan of the craft that I think I will always be searching for ways to improve.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
I can’t say there’s a pattern. Sometimes it feels like you’re pulling an anvil up a hill, and sometimes you blink, and the song is there.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
If you can follow where it leads you, those songs always seem to have the most magic. There is something divine when you can grab it out of thin air, and it was only at that moment that the song was going to exist. The problem with song writing is that once you feel like you had that, then you’re constantly chasing that high, and that can drive you crazy from time to time.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
I’m the worst about that. I can go on ten different tangents at any moment. It’s nice to have a writing partner like Jon who can help to reign it in and say, “let’s put a pin in that and come back to it,” and keep us focused on the task at hand.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
It can be such a drug and such a fantastic high. There’s a spirituality to it in that if you can find it, there is a brief moment where you feel outside of yourself and connected to something more significant than the whole. It sounds cheesy to say out loud but it’s true.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
Knowing when to walk away is a skill. It’s easy to chase after a black hole of perfection, especially these days with all the technology available to us, but the more we do this, the more I’m drawn to live-from-the-floor recordings, warts, and all. The flaws are what make recordings relatable to me.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
Still trying to figure that one out. It’s hard to not want to go back and fix things after stepping away for a while, but at some point, you have to accept it for what it is and let your baby out into the world.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
We stay pretty involved and give notes throughout the process. Still, mixing and mastering are such under-appreciated aspects of the recording. Most people don’t sit down and think about how a song is mixed or mastered when they listen, but they affect the finished product in a big way.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
Each process seems like its own relationship. Like someone you dated and have all of these good and bad memories with. You have to learn to appreciate the experiences within that time, and then it’s on to the next one. We always joke that our favorite song is the next one we write.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
I just know that I’m lucky enough to be able to carry a tune and that I fell in love with creating music, just like I’ve fallen in love with other things in my life. What matters more than music or making a cup of coffee is being passionate about something and having an outlet as a creative release.