Music born of struggles and family history
Christian artist made the best of shutdown
Photo by Noah Hanson
October 20, 2021
Grammy award-winning Christian artist Zach Williams will bring his Rescue Story tour to the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum on Friday, Oct. 29.
While the COVID-19 pandemic forced Williams to reschedule his tour, he expressed to Whatzup that there were positives to the global shutdown, calling it “a nice time of reconnecting with family and friends that I hadn’t seen in a while.”
Finding the Fans
Even in the midst of the pandemic, Williams found a unique way to continue playing live music in front of his fans.
“We were fortunate enough in September of last year, we started going out,” Williams told Whatzup. “We had a promoter that kind of figured out this drive-in movie theater model.”
According to Williams, these drive-in theater shows gave fans around 60 concerts from late 2020 into May 2021, calling the idea a “Godsend.”
“We were so grateful just to be out on the road,” he said. “We were a small percentage of bands that were actually out touring.”
Shortly after resuming the Rescue Story tour, Williams contracted COVID-19 in late July 2021 and had to quarantine for 10 days.
“For about three days when I had COVID, it was pretty rough,” Williams said. “But for the last seven days I was in quarantine, I didn’t have any symptoms or any fever and so it wasn’t too bad on me. The biggest thing I was concerned about was getting back out and playing a full show and feeling like I had the energy to do it because I was still pretty run down.”
Personal Experience in Music
His Fort Wayne performance comes just over two years after Williams released his latest album, Rescue Story, in October 2019 — an album Williams penned with his own personal experiences and struggles in mind.
He said the inspiration for Rescue Story, and for his music in general, is “always just the things I’m going through in that season of life where I’m at. I’m always trying to write from some personal experience of something I’ve been through. And also I try to write songs that everybody can relate to in a way because most of us go through the same things.”
According to his website, in Williams’ past, he had been “seduced away by the illusion of rock stardom, and the drug and alcohol excesses that can so often accompany that lifestyle.”
Now, however, Williams is a “renewed man.” This conversion is evidenced by Williams’ song of choice on Rescue Story.
Williams said that his current favorite track on the 2019 album is “Slave to Nothing.”
“Obviously I’ve been a slave to many things in my life and had a lot of issues and things go on, but not anymore,” he said. “So that’s kind of what that song says.”
Williams also thanked his fans for telling him stories about how his music has helped them through their own struggles.
“I think it’s awesome when you hear stories from people who hear these songs, and it’s helping them through a situation that they’re going through in life because obviously that’s why you’re writing them. Your hope is that people are going to hear these and it’s going to impact them in a way that’s going to set them on a different course.”
“And then for me,” Williams said, “once the songs were finished, you know, we had all these songs written, and you kind of put these songs together in a way that kind of tells the story of your life in that season. For me, I thought the appropriate title was Rescue Story, and we had this song called ‘Rescue Story,’ and so it’s kind of like, ‘You know, that felt like the lead song, the lead single,’ and it felt like it told the story of every song on that album.”
Rescue Story is the artist’s sophomore followup to his 2017 solo debut album, Chain Breaker, which earned Williams his first Grammy award. Another Grammy would follow for “There Was Jesus,” a track on Rescue Story that featured renowned country singer Dolly Parton.
In May 2021, Williams topped Billboard’s Christian Airplay Chart for the fourth time with “Less Like Me,” another one of the tracks that can be found on Rescue Story.
In addition to these achievements, Williams has won six GMA Dove Awards.
Williams says that family led to his tastes in music and inspired his work.
“I listen to all sorts of music for inspiration,” he said. “Obviously growing up in the South, where I grew up, kind of in Arkansas, my grandpa listened to country music. So I was always listening to Jerry Reed and Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings and things like that.”
“And then I had uncles who listened to Southern rock,” he remembered, which exposed Williams to rock classics like The Allman Brothers Band, Bob Seger, Bad Company, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Williams’ father was a church worship leader, which also influenced the country singer’s taste in music.
“It was kind of a melting pot, and so for me it’s still that way. I love to just listen to things that are kind of current but also listen to things that feel classic and then take inspiration from those and try to come up with my own sound.”
Two other performers will take the stage that evening. We The Kingdom and Cain will also perform at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum on Oct. 29.
Cain, a trio composed of three siblings, released their first EP in early 2020. The band released a remixed version of their hit song, “Rise Up (Lazarus),” featuring Zach Williams in 2021.