Perfectionism prevented Zach Phillips from recording for 13 years.
“I recorded The Wine of Youth mostly in secret during the summer and early fall of 2019 at producer Gregg Montante’s San Diego home studio, after a 13-year hiatus from performing and recording” says Zach Phillips, who has spent over a decade running the education programs at the National Association of Music Merchants. “Why didn’t I release music during that period? Perfectionism. I didn’t think I wrote anything that seemed novel or different enough from anything else that I’d released. This project, on the other hand, felt very different from the start. The songs came quickly, the arrangements came quickly, and despite the somewhat elaborate production, the recording happened quickly. The songs also seemed to have a unified thread, both sonically and thematically, or at least they did in my mind.”
Phillips served as the editor of a music products trade magazine before relocating from Chicago to San Diego to work for NAMM, just under eight years ago. Previous to that, he fronted the Chicago band Zach & the Walk-ins for a few years and recorded two independently released folk rock LPs. “This new album The Wine of Youth is a slight departure from those, insofar as the production is a bit more involved, and at times the arrangements are more angular, to offset the simplicity of the songs. Those earlier albums were much more straightforward singer-songwriter pieces.”
Now based in Carlsbad, Phillips calls his first San Diego record “A tribute to the old, weird California, the California of the desert, mountains, spiritualists, and lovers. The California that giveth and taketh away, over and over and over again. In other words, the off-the-beaten-path, less-celebrated essence of the state.”
The video for the album’s lead single “Ladybird” earned over 3000 views in its first three days online. Other songs include “Hey, San Diego,” “Doesn’t Feel Like California,” and “Cascadia,” the last concerning west coast earthquakes.
“The spirit of this state was a powerful, ever-present muse. So often, we think of California in terms of beaches and entertainment. Maybe because I’m an outsider, I’ve discovered California to be a place that gives a lot, but also asks a lot of its residents. My first wildfire was a real eye-opener, and this was after living through blizzards and tornadoes elsewhere.”
As for his current sound, “I think of my music as essentially folk-rock or alt-country, but with an experimental chamber-pop spirit. The intention was to create an old-school album that worked as a song cycle, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but also to make sure the individual tracks hung together well enough for the age of streaming and Spotify.”