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Zach Williams guided by his faith

Swapped rock lifestyle to get back to his roots; at Embassy on April 26

Zach Williams will be at Embassy Theatre on Wednesday, April 26, with opening act Blessing Offor.
Alan Sculley

Alan Sculley

Whatzup Features Writer

Published April 19, 2023

With his latest album, A Hundred Highways, Zach Williams feels he has made the kind of album he’s always wanted to have in his catalog.

“I wanted this record to sound as true to my roots and as true to the music that I grew up on as anything I’ve put out,” Williams said in a recent phone interview. “We kind of touched on a little bit of every genre of music that I’ve grown up on, from country to gospel to bluegrass to rock and blues. It just feels really good to have a record from front to back that feels like it covers all of that ground. And for the first time truly, I really feel like this record feels like me. So I’m really proud of it.”

Williams will be joined by singer-songwriter Blessing Offor when he stops by Embassy Theatre on Wednesday, April 26, as part of his A Hundred Highways Tour.

Change in direction

It’s been a lengthy journey with its share of ups and downs that Williams, 41, has taken to arrive at this point in his career.

Growing up in Jonesboro, Arkansas, with a father who was a worship leader and a mother who sang on praise teams, church was a big part of Williams’ life. So perhaps he was destined to find his way into the Christian music scene, where he is one of the genre’s fastest rising stars. 

However, before he took the Christian music route, he had a very different life.

He began his career in earnest in 2007 with the Southern-tinged rock band Zach Williams & The Reformation, which toured the world and released two independent albums, Electric Revival in 2009 and A Southern Offering in 2011.

Williams indulged in a rock n’ roll lifestyle, which included drinking and drugs, which threatened to cost him his second marriage, which included two stepchildren.

“It turned into an escape for me from, you know, things I had failed at, things in my life that didn’t work out,” Williams said. “It was really easy to turn to drugs or a bottle when things weren’t going right and just forget about those things and not have any responsibility.”

He reached a low point while touring in Spain during an eight-hour bus ride to his band’s next show.

“Me and my wife had this big kind of argument,” he said. “I didn’t even make any sense on the phone and she was kind of pretty much saying, ‘Look, I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.’ I woke up that next morning as guilty as you could feel about life and just knowing, ‘Man, how did I get to this place?’ ”

As the bus rolled along, the driver was scanning radio stations and stopped on “Redeemed” by the Christian rock act Big Daddy Weave. Something in the tale of redemption resonated with Williams and he realized he could still be saved.

Williams called his wife to tell her he was coming home when the tour ended in two weeks, and he was leaving the band and would get his life together. He got sober and started going to church, where in fairly short order he became a part-time worship leader.

Second chance

As time went on, Williams started to get musical ideas and began writing songs, realizing he had a story to tell about finding his way back to God.  

Williams and his guitarist from The Redemption, Robby Rigsbee, formed a group to play Christian music. On Christmas Eve 2014, Williams filled in as worship leader at his church, and Jonathan Smith, a music producer and songwriter who attended that church, was impressed. Before long he invited Williams to come to Nashville, Tennessee, and join him in a songwriting session with Mia Fieldes.

 One song they wrote was “Chain Breaker,” and it helped Williams get a deal with the Provident Label Group/Essential Records. “Chain Breaker” became the title song of Williams’ 2016 debut solo album, and he watched the song go No. 1 on Christian singles charts. Three more hit singles followed, including a second chart-topper, “Old Church Choir.”

Williams was off and running with his second music career, and his 2019 follow-up album, Rescue Story, which dealt in part with his journey in quitting alcohol and drugs, gave him another No. 1 single with “There Was Jesus,” which featured a guest vocal by Dolly Parton.

Bringing lots of friends

Now comes A Hundred Highways, which was released in September and builds on Williams’ story of finding Christ and embracing sobriety and responsibility.

To help share his songs and messages on the concert stage, Williams has assembled an 11-piece band that includes a three-piece horn section and a pair of backing vocalists.

 “It’s been my dream for about the last six years  to be able to put a band like this together,” Williams said. “I’ve always been a huge Bob Seger fan, and the Allman Brothers, bands like that. I’ve always loved going and just watching great musicians play their instruments. 

“So I feel like I’ve been able to find some of the best in the business. I have a great band that travels with me, just a good group of guys and it’s really fun every night.”


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