Momentous Mondays: Influential artists of the next 5-10 years – Week 10: Zach Williams

I’ve been thinking about a weighty concept of late. I’m not sure what it is that prompted me to dwell on such a heavy topic, but…here goes. So; if the only way to empathise with someone is to imagine yourself in their shoes, well howabout I ask you all to close your eyes for a moment. Now let’s imagine. Let’s conduct a little hypothetical exercise, and put ourselves in the shoes of a murderer or a liar or a cheater. Is that a bit of a stretch? Yes? Ok, so now howabout we imagine ourselves to be…someone who’s a bit less evil-y. Maybe someone who is prideful, lustful, egocentric, narcissistic or the littlest bit envious. Now then…let us imagine that we are at the end of our rope, wanting to change, wanting to become a better person, if not for ourselves then for our family and friends. Yet we do not know how to change. Do you think such a person realistically exists? Someone on the cusp of changing for the better, but not there yet? If we’ve been brought up a certain way, and then find out we don’t like the way we’ve lived previously, can we change? Even if we have the capacity to, does making a complete 180 degree change make sense, and is the cost of losing our worldly relationships worth it, or too great? The world may say that what you are right now, and what you’ve grown up as, is what you are for eternity, and there is no room or margin for alteration; as in there is nothing in the world that can make you, or persuade you to change your behaviour, or change the reason for your behaviour. But is that really the case? Can a person who has made bad choices really change for the better? Can they be an inspiration to others and provide hope and encouragement, even when they still struggle with their demons and their better judgement?

I’d say yes, most definitely- look at Robert Downey Jr, Mark Walhberg, Demi Lovato… I’m sure there are others- but these three in particular have had trials and adversity handed to them ten thousand times over, throughout the years. And these three celebrities have risen up to the occasion and have shown the world how they deal with their demons- how they are still dealing with their demons every day, and how they can be a light to the world in and amongst the darkness. But generally…well you know the saying of ‘a leopard can’t change it’s spots’? That probably applies to the general population, the average Joe. We all aren’t celebrities, we all aren’t in the public eye, we all don’t have a million followers or fans, cheering us on from the sidelines. When we’re broken, we only have our close friends and family. Is that enough? Most times when we fall, we don’t get back up. It’s the harsh reality that we live in. Yet the artist I’m going to briefly talk about today, deserves special accolades- and yes he is a future influencer, and he is going to help us believe again that there can be happy endings, not just for celebrities, but for the commonfolk like you and me. He’s experienced life at the top and life at the bottom, and he has indeed made a 180 degree turn (like from Saul to Paul in the Bible), even when everyone around him wasn’t expecting it, and his former bandmates in disbelief. Are you excited to read about they artist I’m talking about? Of course, you are! His experience might change your life. I hope it does. I pray it does.

Once upon a time, in a faraway place (actually not that far, only in Jonesboro Arkansas!), Zach Williams was born in 1978. Up until 2007 at the age of 28/29, we don’t know much about his past. In fact he was an enigma and a mystery up until he formed his independent rock band Zach Williams & The Reformation. Not that any of those details during that time for Zach is important for the rest of us, but anyway I digress. The formation of Zach’s mainstream rock band started him off on a journey that he and all of us never really expected, and on a journey that saw him change dramatically from a person he loathed to a person we all loved and respected. See Zach’s old band was a heavy rock band. I haven’t heard their music at all- but I assume they’d be similar in genre to a band like Skillet, Switchfoot, Lifehouse, Daughtry, Anberlin, OneRepublic, and other powerhouse pop/rock and rock acts along those veins. And I guess at the time, Zach and his friends did what guys in rock bands did. They partied hard, and…well I actually don’t know the intricate details- things are scarce on the internet and I can’t really find much information on what he did. But if you believe Hollywood’s depiction of new-ish artists and young people going off to party at house parties and clubs- either a heightened depiction or an accurate analysis of how life in the fast lane actually occurs; then possibly Zach was heavily into, or maybe coerced into, some really shady and questionable stuff surrounding sex, drugs, alcohol, the whole works. I don’t know if he was, but no news means he probably was surrounded by that stuff, and possibility captivated and enamoured by it. Who am I kidding! Zach loved all of that 99%, I’m sure of it!

But hang on, you say; isn’t this story, this really, really true story, an uplifting one, an inspirational one? Yes, yes it is. Then why, you say; is Zach letting his demons have a hold of him and not doing anything about it? Well you gotta remember that I haven’t finished telling you all about Zach’s testimony yet- I’m still at the point where God hasn’t got a hold of him and turned his life upside down yet. So, on with the story. At some point Zach began touring and making music with his band, and then he married and had a family. In 2012 that’s when everything changed, when a conversation with a bandmate late one night snowballed into Zach questioning his role in the band. Back home he and his family started going to church again (because Zach did grow up in a Christian home, but later on brushed God aside in favour of his band and everything that the world had to offer!), and together with Zach hearing a song on the radio (Big Daddy Weave’s “Redeemed”); everything clicked for him. He changed his life, did the 180, and left the band- even though I reckon he was the lead singer and the chief songwriter. In fact- yep the band did disband; and if I were one of the band mates I’d be bitter and angry and Zach somewhat ‘deliberately’ crippling my chance at stardom and ending my ‘one’ shot and becoming famous and making it big. I don’t know where Zach’s former band mates are right now, but I believe that if they saw the change in Zach, as evidenced from his two solo CD’s since that day, well I’m sure they’ll be amazed and thankful that God got a hold of Zach in that moment and moulded him into the person He wanted him to be.

You know how one song can change your life? You could be doing to dishes or lamenting over a breakup, or checking your weight, or playing video games. If a song comes on the radio or your Spotify or whatever music device you listen to these days, that totally wrecks you and grips your attention 110%; well then you’re gone. Gone not in the sense that you’re a slave to whatever the song says; but gone in the sense that whatever if on your heart now because of this song, is now the new normal- and that’s ok. An uplifting song that permeates your soul and changes you for the better is supposed to be a very good thing, and is supposed to help you put your life on track. It’s not the song that is magical, but I guess the writers behind that song. If your life is changed by a song, you have the songwriters and the artist to thank. I guess in that respect, Zach owes Big Daddy Weave everything, for releasing “Redeemed” into the world. For without “Redeemed”, we’d never hear Zach tell his testimony through Chain Breaker the album and “Chain Breaker” the song. And as eloquently as I could write about Zach’s testimony, let me just lay it all out there in Zach’s own words (according to two sources), so that you guys can be blown away by how God works, and be blown away at how a person can emphatically change their life for the better!

I’m sure everybody has that friend that doesn’t go to church and every time you ask him or her to go to church they tell you they don’t need to go because “they have a personal relationship with Jesus.” Well that, my friends, was me. Even though I grew up going to church every Sunday and though I knew right from wrong and I said I was a Christian, there was absolutely nothing about my life or the way I lived that reflected these things.   Not only was I lost and living in sin, but I certainly did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I was consumed with my music and everything that goes along with the so-called lifestyle of a rock & roll band.

I was totally living a lie. I put myself and my priorities before my wife and my children, and honestly tried to justify all of what I was doing with my music. I can remember saying things to my wife like, “You knew who I was when you met me and now you expect me to change” or “I’m not doing this for myself, I’m trying to make a living for our family.” It wasn’t until truly coming to Christ that I realized or could even admit that what I had been doing was wrong. I am who I am from the experiences I’ve had, and I can only learn and grow stronger from the mistakes I’ve made. That’s also the beauty of God’s amazing grace – you can ask for forgiveness of your sins and He holds nothing against you.

Until March of 2012, I toured in a band for four years. We had two major tours in Europe and one USO tour in Japan, all the while touring the U.S. as much as possible and living like the true rock star I thought I was. You can imagine how hard that was on my marriage and my relationship with my family. Without going into details, let just say I partied way too hard and everyone else had to deal with it.

All of that changed though around Easter of that same year. We were playing two shows somewhere in Missouri and a band mate and I were going back to the hotel and get some rest. But, as usual, I didn’t want to miss a good time so I ended up going to a bar with the rest of the band. I was surprised when I got back to the hotel that night and find that my band mate was still awake. We ended up talking until morning about why we were still doing the band thing, how we were both just completely tired, but at the same time, torn with the decisions we knew we needed to make to change things.

I think for me it was around that time when God really started to work on my heart. We were not going to church anywhere at the time, but my wife had been trying to get me to commit and go for quite some time, so I decided to give it a shot. The first time we came to Central I remember thinking that it was way too big for me, but I also remember thinking ‘I feel totally at home,’ which, for someone like me, had really never felt at church. I didn’t feel judged or looked down on for the way I dressed or looked, and that spoke volumes to me. I knew right then that this was where my family was going to go to church. We started attending Central and I immediately felt something changing inside, but I was still struggling to let go of some of my old ways. I knew we had a month long tour of Spain coming up and I was not looking forward to it. I was still going out after shows but I always ended up staying up late like before, talking about God and going to church.

Little did I know that after a week or so into the Spain tour, all the while still struggling with my own vices, God had different plans for me. I called my wife after about a week and a half and I told her that after I got home from the tour that I was done with the band. She was shocked because just two nights before, I had called her in the middle of partying the same as I always did on tour. But she knew this time I was serious. After I got home, we talked and I just broke down and cried. I felt so guilty for all the things I had done and all the things I had sacrificed to get to where I was. Nothing I had done made me happy, and I was still searching. I remember listening to Big Daddy Weave’s “Redeemed” the last couple of weeks on the tour and that really helped me with where I was at the time. I also remember hearing it almost as soon as I got back, which really sealed the deal for me with my decision to quit the band (later in the story, it was also the first song I sang at church as a Worship Leader). I asked my wife to forgive me and told her I would try my best to change, something I would have never even considered before. I also asked God to forgive me, and my wife and I got baptized together on September 9, 2012, the day before our daughter Delilah Blue was born. It was at that time that I knew that I had to be an example for the rest of our children – Gavin, Julia, and Zephyn.

After we joined the church, we joined a life group and started taking growth groups at church every Wednesday night, but not playing music anymore was really starting to affect me. I remember thinking how much the lyrics to the Christian songs I had been listening to played such a part in where I had been and where I was going, and I started thinking about this new avenue of life and where God was going to use my gifts and my music. He reminded me it wasn’t about me anymore, and that was where most of my mistakes had been made in the past.

God gave me these gifts, and I felt I had a strong testimony that it would be a shame not to tell everyone what the Lord had done in my life. I am currently writing and recording songs that I am very excited about and believe they represent my journey to this point. It’s amazing what GOD can do in your life when you give everything over to Him. He truly will reveal things to you that you never thought were possible.

Zach Williams’ interview with Jase Rosenburg

I toured in a band for about six and a half, seven years all over the United States and did a couple of tours in Europe. We did a USO tour for the troops in Japan. We had some success in the band I was in. I unfortunately got caught up in the lifestyle and tried to justify my alcohol and drug use because everyone else was doing it, this is rock ‘n roll, this is who I am, and this is who’ll I’ll be the rest of my life, but I left my wife in my early thirties and she had two small kids and we were both in a place in our lives where things needed to change

Unfortunately it took about four years after we married for that change to happen. We were at the lowest place in our lives and I was getting ready to go off on a tour in Spain for a month and we’d started attending this church. I honestly didn’t want to go off on this tour because I didn’t think I could basically walk a straight line. But I left and things went back into my usual party ways and a week into that tour I was in a bus with the bus driver scanning stations and I hear the Big Daddy Weave song ‘Redeemed’ come across the radio station and it just stopped me dead in my tracks…so I called my wife from the hotel room and said I was going to quit my band and cancel the shows. So I came home and asked God to save my life.

When everybody left for school that day I just got on my hands and knees and said, ‘God if there was something in my life I could use for You I wanna do it if that means working in my father’s construction company for the rest of my life and just go to church and be a good dad then I’ll do that… [Afterwards] we wrote the song ‘Chain Breaker’ and the record label heard that song and offered me a record deal. So that song has pretty much launched my career and changed my life.

And now to be a position where I can tell that story on tour with Big Daddy Weave every night and get to share that with people, and the opportunity of doing that song that’s doing for them what Big Daddy Weave’s song did for me is really humbling and an honour to play the type of music I’m playing now. That’s really cool the thing I get to do now…’

Zach Williams’ interview with Vision Christian Radio

In previous instalments of my blog series, now would be the time that I would dive deep into some of Zach’s stand out songs, and talk about them for 4-5 paragraphs. I would talk about songs like “Chain Breaker”, “Old Church Choir” and “Fear Is A Liar”- hit songs from Zach that have climbed up the charts that have resonated with me greatly- as Zach speaks about how Jesus is a chain breaker, about how we can sing for joy because of a ‘church choir’ in our soul, and about how fear is the greatest liar of all; respectively. I could sit here all day and speak about “Rescue Story”, and that Jesus has saved all of us like how He saved Zach, that ‘…You were the voice in the desert, calling me out from dead to life, fighting my battles before me, You are my rescue story…’. There are a ton of things I could keep going on and on about for ages. And it’d all be valid. But after we’ve read this testimony, this brilliant and astounding change that has occurred, the best thing to do is definitely not more reading. More reading can be a bit of a bore, and besides- anything I could tell you about the song may be applicable in my own life but not in yours. God can speak through the same song in different ways to many different people- so saying my own interpretation is what would most likely could view the song as, well that may be borderline heretical. While God’s word never fails and never changes, and the lyrics in all of Zach’s songs have stayed the same throughout the years, their meanings to individual people’s lives are different. Who am I to say- oh this song meant this to me and thus probably will also mean the same thing to you? I don’t have any right at all. What I can do and what will be more helpful to you all in describing such a prominent future influencer- is to point you to this site’s reviews on Chain Breaker (2017) and Rescue Story (2019). Jon has written these reviews to perfection- better than I could ever write them- so what are you guys waiting for? Read these reviews and be blown away by all of Zach’s rocking songs for Jesus! He’s your new favourite artist now, isn’t he?

It’s definitely a surreal moment when you get to meet your idols and write a song with them, right? No you probably can’t imagine that- nor can I, cause we’re all not musicians and Hollywood people; but that’s exactly what Zach did last year. With Big Daddy Weave being a major help in where Zach is today as he ministers to every person and shares the gospel through song- with one of his releases being an EP recorded live in prison worship services; everything came full circle last year as Zach wrote a song called “Alive” sometime in 2018 when he was touring with…none other than Big Daddy Weave. He played the demo track back to Mike Weaver, lead singer of the band, and now here we are. With Big Daddy Weave’s lead single “Alive”, written by Zach Williams; from their album When The Light Comes. And what a song it is! Radio friendly in nature (obviously!), “Alive” clocks in at just under 3 and a half minutes, however packs a punch emotionally and lyrically. With Mike fervently proclaiming that Jesus has saved us thus now we are alive, we are met with an anthem to declare whenever we find ourselves falling for the lies of the enemy. We can, with authority in Jesus, proclaim that ‘…now I’m breathing in, I’m breathing out, I was in the grave, but God You called me out…’; and we can say with confidence that because of what we done on the cross over 2000 years ago, and because of the resurrection, we are now alive in Jesus. And as Mike descibres how God is faithful and works in mysterious ways, this is such an honour for Zach Williams as he powers on and keeps doing what God has called him to do- spread the gospel to every creature on the planet.

“…as the Lord used ‘Redeemed’ to touch Zach’s life, He is now using a song that Zach wrote, that so deeply speaks to where we are. This song came in its perfect timing, with us coming out of a hard life season and into a season of light. We cannot wait for everyone to hear a song that means so much to us as a band…”

I’ve also said time and time again that belief in the stories behind the song and the calling behind the song is paramount in terms of whether an artist is genuine, and whether an artist is as influential as the public makes them out to be. And we can see how humble Zach is and how on fire for Jesus he is, through his time away from the studio. Having won the GMA Dove Award for New Artist of the Year in 2017, as well as pop/contemporary song of the year (“Chain Breaker”), Zach won a Grammy Award for Chain Breaker the album, and also unveiled Christmas tunes “The Call Of Christmas” and “The First Christmas”- a duet with Tenth Avenue North. As Zach released an EP recorded in prison of all places; he also sung with Dolly Parton on “There Was Jesus” as well as cultivating a real friendship with actor Chris Pratt- and this is how you influence people, friends. Chris is super talented in the acting industry and is super on fire for Jesus as well. By just being himself and authentic, Zach now has an ‘in’ in that big entertainment world. Not that his friendship with Chris is fake by any means, but as God opens doors, we need to remember that He is a faithful God and everything that happens is for His glory and our good. Zach’s friendship with Chris shows us that these guys are human too- we don’t need to place them up on a pedestal to worship. They’re human beings, just like us. And I guess that’s also the main takeaway from this blog- that cause these guys are just like us, makes testimonies all the more remarkable. We may believe that good things don’t happen to average Joes like us, that we can never change. But they do. Good things do happen. Just look at Zach Williams, the average Joe who happens to be a music artist. Jesus really is a chain breaker, and he has indeed rescued us from our own stories and into His story. Isn’t that wonderful and glorious?

Does Zach Williams make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Influential Artists of the next 5-10 years’ list? Is there any song (other than “Chain Breaker”, “Survivor”, “Rescue Story”, “Fear Is A Liar”, and “There Was Jesus”) that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far, or even your walk with God? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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