Outlaw country singer Zach Willdee combines energetic performances with his raw talent to bear a voice bigger than his body and stories older than his boots. After nearly a decade of honing his chops on the live circuit, Willdee plans to release his debut LP Heart That Ain’t Tame on May 6.
Influenced heavily by the depth and honesty of the greats, Willdee conveys simple truths through dynamics in his music and writing. His voice and lyrics, echoing from the golden age of country music, are often compared to Johnny Paycheck and Waylon Jennings, writing from the depths of his soul about life’s trials and tribulations –– bearing the good, bad, and ugly through stories and songs that gain deeper meaning with each listen.
“I write and perform my music to help myself mentally,” he says. “As a form of therapy, you could say –– and hope that I can help someone relate and know there’s someone else out there sharing their experience.”
Inspired by writers like Steve Earle, John Prine, and Merle Haggard, he began writing his own songs at the age of 16. Willdee later apprenticed under Darrell Scott (songwriter for The Dixie Chicks, Travis Tritt, Beyoncé, Zac Brown Band, and others) in 2016, which ultimately sparked him to move to Nashville to pursue his own career singing and writing country music.
Growing up in Massachusetts and writing beneath the shade of the New England pines, Zach Willdee began his musical career busking on the street corners of Provincetown, Massachusetts at just 14 years old. By age 16, he earned the name “The Barefoot Brother.” Lifeguarding on the Atlantic coast during the day and street performing at night he reflects, “They called me that because I didn’t wear any shoes when I performed on the tarmac. They thought it was the funniest thing that this barefoot lifeguard was playing music.”
It wasn’t long before Willdee moved from playing on the tarmac to playing local bars, with lines of people wrapping around the block, waiting to get in. But long before that, Willdee would attend the annual Joe Val Bluegrass Festival in New England with his father. He fondly remembers jumping in on a picking circle at age 12, and then realizing he was playing with the SteelDrivers and Chris Stapelton. “That was before he had hair,” Willdee laughs. “He was still bald with glasses back then.”
It’s not uncommon to see members of the audience singing along to Willdee’s songs at his shows –– and they haven’t even been released yet! The slow rollin’ rambler has been captivating audiences for over a decade and shows no signs of putting the brakes on anytime soon.
Listeners can look forward to tracks layered with the talents of musicians like Adam Duran of Kelsey Waldon’s band (electric and acoustic guitar), American Aquarium’s Neil Jones (pedal steel), Nashville local legend and country singer Tim Bolo (bass), Lucy Cochran (fiddle, backup vocals,) and Chris Weisbecker (drums, producer, and engineer) as well as his own. The multi-talented musician plays guitar, mandolin, bass, and harmonica as well. Having already staked his claim as a regular performer at the iconic American Legion Post 82 and Dee’s Country Lounge, Willdee’s debut release Heart That Ain’t Tame sees this outlaw poised to reach even greater heights.