After the huge, action packed, Carnival of Madness tour, Zach Myers, the prodigious guitarist from Shinedown has been touring the country with his good friend Zack Mack in what they have aptly named the "Weird and Wonderful Traveling Rock Show". I got a chance to sit down with him before his set Sunday at Uli’s Haus of Rock in Lansing, MI to chat about some differences in touring with a band vs. one person and some defining moments in his career.
What are some of the differences between touring with Shinedown and touring with just Zack?
We do it in a van, which is the biggest difference. There is no pyro blowing up behind me. There is no crew. There is no set list. We just kind of do whatever we want which is cool. Each show is utterly and completely different than the next show.
Do you have a preference? Or is it just cool to take a break every now and then and do this?
I love both. I truly love doing both. I love playing with Zack. He is one of my favorite people to play with but at the same time, I love playing with Shinedown. That’s my home. That’s home base for me.
You had a record deal at 14? How was that? How did you feel having a contract at 14 while other kids were in middle school?
I had just finished middle school. I thought it was great! I loved it. For me it was more about enjoying doing it. I always knew I wanted to play music. You know, it was definitely different to be taken out of the school system and go on tour but it was worth it obviously, as I am still doing it 16 years later. I just turned 30 so…
Yes! A few days before my birthday. Happy November birthday by the way.
Happy Birthday to you as well!
How do you determine your set list for these shows?
There is no set list. We write a map and call it a set map. We write down songs we may want to play and I don’t think it’s honestly stuck to that list one time. I think we have changed one thing on it every night. It’s never gone like…this is what the set is.
What has been the most defining moment of your career?
I think having a platinum record this day and age to me means a lot. The debut of Amaryllis selling 110,000 records in the first week nowadays for a rock band is unheard of. And to have 19 number one songs in a row. Those three things I will remember forever.
When you are on the road, what do you miss most about home?
Food! Sweet Tea, my dog, my fiancée, obviously not in that order.
If you could jam with any musician dead or alive who would it be?
Zack Mack! (laughing) I would probably have to say Stevie Ray Vaughn. If I could jam with Zack Mack and Stevie Ray Vaughn at the same time that would be pretty cool.
How did you and Zack meet?
We actually…did you ever see the movie Mean Girls?
That has nothing to do with how we met (laughing) but actually, we hated each other from 14 to like…25 and we had never even met. He had the same initials as me and even though I had gotten signed, when I came home I was still playing clubs around Memphis and he was doing the same thing. He was a blues player and a kid and people would confuse him for me the same as they would confuse me for him. Like “oh hey you’re Zack Mack” and I was like “NO! FUCK!” and when we actually met we hit it off and were on fire so it was weird to think that we didn’t get along for so long.
You have a management company, how did you get into that?
It started with Sore Eyes simply because of connections. For me getting involved with them was because they had such a drive. You could tell them to do anything and…
Shi would do it!
You could say “Hey I need you to plow a field because it’s going to make your band better” and he would go do it. Then, when I stopped managing them it was simply scheduling conflicts. Shinedown is so busy. It was so hard to keep up with and it was honestly going to be that or our friendship and I have been friends with him for a long time and it was just time to move on. That was kind of the end of the management endeavor. It will probably never happen again. It is so much work. I have so much respect for my manager seeing what he does.
Have you ever been star struck?
I get star struck by odd people. I get star struck by people like Will Hoge who comes out and opens up for Shinedown, you know people like that. I met Stevie Wonder and that was crazy. If I met Bono I would probably have a heart attack! But, yeah I get star struck by odd people…doesn’t even have to be a big band.
If you could give a few words of wisdom to musicians who have been at this for years and it hasn’t happened yet, what would you say?
I think that the biggest thing I could say to any musician other than practice is to be as open- minded as you can possibly be about anything musically. Don’t shut yourself out and say “I am a blues player period. That’s what I do” “We’re a rock band period”. Listen to everything. I am such a big hip -hop fan. I love hip -hop. GOOD hip- hop (laughing) and I love country music. Every kind of music, but when I say stuff about hip- hop…like…I posted something about the Jay Z song the other day off the new record and I just got so much negative…shit…about the fact that I like that song and it’s a fucking GREAT song to me. I don’t give a shit if it’s a polka song if it’s a good song. That’s why we do this tour, to play good songs. For me, that’s what it’s about. So be as open- minded as you can be, don’t say no to anything, any interview, don’t say no. Do whatever you can to get yourself in front of people, radio stations, whatever, and always be nice to people. You catch more bees with honey you know? And I think if you are nice to people…I always tell people that I have never met someone who was nice throughout their life and regretted anything.
Well I don’t want to take up anymore of your time. I really appreciate you doing this interview, thank you so much!