E.Z. Shakes, the latest nom-de-plume for Columbia singer songwriter Zach Seibert, creates Americana that is equally stark and poignant. His debut EP is a collection of four narrative-driven songs recorded live at Mac Acres in Blythewood, SC as part of The Woodshed Archives. “Catch Hell” is an apocalyptic hymnal warmed by Seibert’s well-worn voice and the chilling phrases of a pedal steel guitar. Seibert joined me for a brief chat about songwriting, inspiration, and the importance of community.
You can buy a copy of E.Z. Shakes here.
SC: Can you tell me about the lyric “I've met Jesus and I've been to Oklahoma, / haven't looked back and I can't say that I'm gonna, / I took my last deep breath when I was 21.”?
ZS: The song—if taken as a whole—is sort of a Carpe Diem sort of thing. Our lives are our lives full of failures and missed opportunities, but, there's this one opportunity that I've grabbed over and over again because it's always there. I haven't always grabbed it with success and fact most times I end in failure. This is where the guilt comes in. We grow up hearing that if we don't go to church etc. etc.; we can't possibly know Jesus but that's just a lie.
The line about meeting Jesus and going to Oklahoma refers more or less to when I was a kid traveling full of piss and vinegar for the Lord. Don't get me wrong—I long for those days but they came with great consequence. My candle burned bright but there was no one else around that I can relate to so I died on the vine. I was too punk rock, I guess. Taking my last deep breath at 21more or less refers to me walking away from organized religion.
SC: What was your writing process like for “Catch Hell”?
ZS: My songwriting process for “Catch Hell” was much like a lot of my songs. I sit down every now and then pick up the guitar and I try and come up with a melody around a couple of simplistic chords and then go from there. If it don't work out in 5 or 10 minutes I put the guitar down. With two young’uns running around the house and being married and working full-time it's difficult to have a process or time apart where it's just you and your instrument so you take it where you can get it.
SC: What is your writing process like? Do you write everyday? Do you keep a schedule? Do you wait for inspiration?
ZS: I don't necessarily play everyday although I have been lately. I find inspiration comes a lot from playing with people that are better than you are and that you love.
SC: How does your community of songwriters influence you?
ZS: As far as a community of songwriters goes Columbia has got a great cast. There are lots of inspirational songwriters and people who are doing it on a daily basis so that helps a lot. I'm constantly getting to hear new songs that my peers are recording and so that definitely spurs me on to push myself.
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