IIt was only months before the coronavirus pandemic hit when country musician and Owensboro native Zach Jennings decided to pursue a full-time music career.
And despite the challenges posed by the virus both globally and personally for the young musician, Jennings, 27, has kept his passion alive – and has always been busy playing shows both locally and beyond. .
Before gracing stages with his vocals and guitar, Jennings first started out as a drummer, recalling that he started when he was “able to walk” and grew up with no problem.
“There was me at 2 years old drumming — I had a Little Tikes drummer thing,” Jennings said. “…It just became natural, really…. It was another meaning – I guess – in many ways for me. That’s how music (has) always been to me.
Jennings switched to an actual kit when he received one on his fifth birthday and began exploring the influences of artists and bands in a variety of genres alongside traditional country music.
“I grew up with old people,” Jennings said. “My dad…was huge on the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Queen; a bunch of that.
“When my friends listened to rap, I listened to 60s and 70s (and) even 50s…”
Jennings began showing off his self-taught drumming skills in school bands at Burns Middle School and Apollo High School.
While Jennings’ band instructor at Burns Middle School knew his skills behind the kit, he began his tenure in the band playing the trumpet, as he had to learn another instrument for the first half of the year, and ended up moving to second chair before he had a chance to show off his drumming abilities.
Jennings continued to perform when he arrived at Apollo but began to walk away from performing in school towards the end of his senior year due to his grades.
“I could barely have electives because I was doing everything I could to pass…” Jennings said. “(In my) senior year, I only played the first semester and then I couldn’t play (in school.)”
After graduating, Jennings decided to brush up on the guitar at age 19 while beginning to sing after years of “dabbling”.
“Once I learned the guitar, that’s when I really started singing,” Jennings said.
Shortly after, Jennings performed at Owensboro’s Theater Workshop’s “Owensboro’s Got Talent” competition at TWO’s Empress Theater with a cover of Merle Haggard’s “Today I Started Loving You Again” – marking his first singing debut. audience.
While Jennings said nerves had set in waiting to take center stage, it was a different story when he finally approached the microphone.
“I knew what I wanted to do as soon as I got up there,” Jennings said. “I was in the spotlight and I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s it. ”
Although Jennings was aware that getting into the music business full-time could be difficult, he was keen to finally take the chance to make it happen.
“I finally just prayed over it and just asked for a sign,” Jennings said. “The next day I came home and my grandfather’s tenor banjo was on the kitchen table. …That was the first thing; it was just a great moment.
As Jennings was determined to pursue a career in music, he confided in local artists he admired, including Josh Merritt, Dan Hall and Andy Brasher, who gave Jennings both advice and opportunities to perform in front of different audiences.
This gave Jennings a chance to grow his own fan base.
“These three guys have been huge in (helping me) and I think that’s what made the difference…because (I feel like) a lot of people are afraid to make connections…and to go to these great artists,” Jennings said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m new to this. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re going to ask. That’s how I’ve always been.
From her first exposure to the area, Jennings began to explore her songwriting style inspired by personal experiences, such as the loss of her father at the age of 15.
He even grew into collaborating with country-rap artists to challenge himself and explore more contemporary country music to entertain younger crowds.
“…It was fun to explore the versatility,” Jennings said. “I try to get out of the box. I’ve been in the traditional country music box and I want to be as traditional as possible but I want to move forward; I also want to do something with modern stuff.
While Jennings can be seen at some solo shows, he is often joined by his full band “The Zach Jennings Band” – currently consisting of bassist Jarrid Hollander, lead guitarist Cole Scott Ethridge and drummer Chase Croley.
The group is described as a “rock and country” group with a bit of traditional country and pop influences, according to Jennings, although he said the members are not primarily country musicians.
“They bring a whole different element to country music,” Jennings said. “I don’t know how it works but it works.”
Jennings also credits Ethridge’s father, Scott Ethridge, with being a “major contributor” to the band by helping transport equipment for shows, helping to run sound, and loaning money to the band. group to buy the things they need.
Although Jennings and the band have been playing steadily for a while, it hasn’t always been easy.
Just as Jennings was beginning to pursue music full-time, her progress was put on hold when several of her live performances were canceled due to COVID.
“It was really tough,” Jennings said. “Mentally it hurts. I went from being in a bar every night to nothing in a weekend. … It was a blow, for sure. It hurts to lose that social lifestyle and overcome it.
The pandemic took its toll on Jennings personally as he started having anxiety attacks and started losing weight.
And just as shows began to resume, the transition to audiences was rocky after Jennings was diagnosed with COVID last fall and had to cancel appearances for about three weeks.
He continued to feel the effects of the virus long after going free and began to have anxiety if his music career would be cut short.
“I could barely finish the shows months later,” Jennings said. “March was the first month I managed to get through a whole show without complications. I was just dealing with a lot (shortness of breath), heart palpitations, high blood pressure…”
Jennings credits his band for helping him through this uncertain time, personally and physically helping him complete shows when Jennings was unable to.
“I owe it to the band…who got me through it all,” Jennings said.
Now that his health is in check, Jennings has no intention of stopping entertaining crowds and growing into something that has always been a part of him.
“Music…has always been there for me,” Jennings said. “Whenever I’ve had a hard time in my life, it’s always something I can turn to and it’s always been my fallback. Even when I got through it and kinda distanced myself from it at certain times of my childhood; it always seemed to pursue me.
And Jennings is keen to live his life pursuing a career he truly loves.
“Career-wise, that’s the only thing I see myself doing. … If you’re not into what you love in your career, that’s something that I’ve always thought you’ll never be happy with; no matter what you do,” Jennings said. “Regardless of all the things I’ve had to deal with and everything I’ve been through, … I want to be the guy when I’m 60 and say, ‘I did this. I did what I wanted. ”