Everyone gets a little lost sometimes, especially these days. It’s what we do once we find our way again that defines us and gives us a chance to shine with our newfound light.
Americana singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Zack Joseph expresses this sort of resilience in a triumphant comeback with his lively new single “High,” which officially drops today. The song is set to appear on his forthcoming album Keeping Me Sane, his first collection since a self-titled EP in 2017, which is due this April.
With the catchiness of pop and a distribution of folk and country throughout, the near-theatrical song is full of such emotion and confidence that it possesses a dose of universality helping it appeal to a wide audience.
Joseph, a native of the scenic and rural Youngstown, NY, said of the single’s contents: “I just kind of combined the idea of God, love, self worth and doubt, and the feeling of ecstasy when you’ve got a nice buzz going. All these things can make you feel great, but then end up controlling you, dragging you around, and making you feel terrible.” The flip side of this situation, which the song represents through its upbeat personality, is that “even with all the bad things, it’s been a very fun ride most of the time, and it’s important to experience all sorts of situations to become a better you.”
Joseph got his musical start back in grade school when he picked up the cello, which he would study through college, but it was because of his family that his love for the craft blossomed and grew. “I really credit my great Aunt Linda as my biggest influence at the time because she was the one really guiding my way,” he shared. “I started writing more and more and would record songs with my aunt on a tape recorder for hours on end at her house.”
To this day, he incorporates these roots into his songs: “I also try to include cello on as many recordings as I can and always perform it myself.” This instrument has shaped his artistry in more ways than one, saying of his origins, “I do think being classically trained from fourth grade up through college has influenced my writing every step of the way.”
Joseph even compares his own voice to the instrument. He claims that not only is it “very similar in range to the notes a human can sing,” but he often will “joke that I sing like a cello when people comment on my pretty heavy vocal vibrato.”
This vibrato is part of what makes “High” such a compelling song. His powerful vocals, cello-like or not, are able to compete with the exciting production and still come out on top, allowing the listener to appreciate the story and complementing the jovial, bubbly production.
These feelings of freedom, joy, and self-assurance were some of his target themes within the song. Within a story of toeing “that fine line between ecstasy and destruction,” there is the underlying message that “getting lost—even if only to find your way again—is part of the journey, so why not have a little fun while you do it?”
“High” comes after a three year hiatus from music, following his return with December 2020’s “Runaway Train,” a period which was filled with self-discovery and artist development. When he moved to Nashville, he was exposed to a type of “music diversity” that opened his eyes to a world of possibility. Joseph explained that this revelation came after being, “sad for so many years. Music allowed me to dream, push boundaries, relocate, leave a religion behind, come out of the closet, and uncover this powerful and hopeful person inside me.”
Now looking ahead at this new era with Keeping Me Sane, Joseph shared that during that time, “I never stopped living or writing. There is still strong folk, Celtic and country influence there, but I really wanted this album to sound fresh and more relatable to a broader audience.” He achieves this goal by somewhat depersonalizing his songs, treating them as if the characters within are in a movie, creating an effect where his “music can relate to many different people because it’s not specifically about any one person.”
Though the album and subsequent promotional touring was meant to take place last year, Joseph has hopes for being able to fulfill those plans soon. As the touring season draws close, he has set some goals for himself that are based in practicality, describing how, “a ‘dream’ gig would be one where everyone can pack together in a venue and have a great time with friends and family we haven’t been with for some time. But realistically, I’m hoping to book a few outdoor music festivals this year, and it would be great if one of them could be on a bigger stage than I’m used to.”