Transcendentalism: Zach Churchill’s Lifelong Sojourn into Music
“The vulgar is always taken by appearances, and the issue of the event”, Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, 1532
The photograph adorning the cover for the forthcoming album from Zach Churchill is evocative, appropriate, and, quite perhaps, singular. The makings of the world outside the scope of mankind, as the former actually exists—misty, silent, alive, encompassing—are rendered in all their primal glory. Moreover, they’re contemplated through the eyes of the individual, a child, seemingly imbibing them as a way to perhaps get past himself to that which is, as the artist termed it on the LP, Greater Than.
It would be easy to conceive of such a project, or even the artist baring it and himself to the world at large on October 28th, as introspective. Easier still, would it be to focus on the events of his life as a moving, breathing reality show or ongoing social media campaign, some sort of trite marketing ploy to attract the notice of a generation with an ever-shrinking attention span.
But that would be a patented disservice to this sensitive musician who’s latest offering, “Reach You”, dropped today. His voice, what he proffers to that wide world depicted on Greater’s artwork, is much more meaningful and, for those that know, akin to Thoreau’s treatise Walden.
“I realized my best thinking got me into a lot of troubles,” Churchill admitted. “I had to finally say: alright, there’s got to be something, a power, that’s greater than that, that I can tap into for direction, and growth, and inspiration. I call it by many names. It could be the ocean. It could be nature. It could be God. It could be whatever you want to call it.”
The realization Churchill referenced is perhaps one of the fundamental aspects of his songwriting. Before any such effluence can occur, one must understand, contextualize, deconstruct, and construe meaning (a sort of visceral semantics) from life itself to present anything of substance to the world. That’s exactly what engendered “Reach You”, a tale of two star-crossed lovers distanced by miles, continents, and oceans—and one still ongoing public health crisis.
It’s the third and final single Churchill is dropping before Greater Than’s release. The other two included “Hover” and “Surrender”. “Reach” may be considered a cautionary tale of prioritizing the chimerical over reality, or idealism over pragmatism. A bouncy ballad imbued with his poignant tenor, it chronicles a relationship the musician describes as a “fantasy” when people meet under circumstances that they ultimately can’t live up to. “Reach You”, then, is about acknowledging the difference between illusion and fantasy before progressing to a perhaps healthier space in which there’s “real intimacy,” Churchill mused. “That’s what we really want at the end of the day. Even if we go about it in crazy means, we all just want to have connection and to be loved.”
“Love, love, love, stop making a fool out of me,” Martha & The Vandellas, “Love (Makes Me Do Foolish Things)” , 1965
Churchill’s gift to sing began, disputatiously enough, when his grandparents used to sing duets to him as a baby. He eventually began writing and performing music as an adolescent during junior high, and reached an epiphany of sorts during this epoch. “At some point I picked up a guitar in junior high,” Churchill mentioned. “And once I picked up a guitar, that was just kind of it. I completely devoted myself to it and in high school began songwriting. At that same time, around junior high, I got introduced to like, Led Zeppelin, classic rock, and Bob Dylan, and songwriters. So, high school’s when I started really exploring writing.”
Greater Than will actually be Churchill’s second LP of 2022. His debut was released in January and contained songs that took a long, hard look at his recovery from a heroin addiction that very easily could have been fatal.
Consequently, he has turned to his music as a means of a figurative reawakening for furthering his life beyond the throes of addiction, and one much attuned to those forces that surpass the circumscriptions of man’s five senses.
“The album title Greater Than, for me, really has kind of a couple meanings,” Churchill reflected. “I’m in recovery and they talk about having a power greater than yourself. It’s really reminding me that I have a higher power. It also kind of means to just constantly try to be greater than you were yesterday in growth.”