From van near Wolcott, local musician submits to NPR Tiny Desk Contest
Zach Gilliam, of Runaway Grooms, creating original content while in quarantine
Local musician Zach Gilliam has been taking advantage of his time in quarantine, writing and recording songs while living with his girlfriend in a van near Wolcott. Gilliam, a member of the five-piece The Runaway Grooms, has been creating music both for his band and to fulfill an individual commitment he made to himself.
“I came up for the winter, needing a break from Nashville. I just wanted to get up in the mountains and write songs all winter,” he said. “So that just happened.”
Gilliam was a tutor with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail this winter while also launching Vail Valley Silent Discos and joining The Runaway Grooms. He said he’s written over 20 pieces of original music. As Zachy G & The Love, Gilliam is getting out his original music to work on “flexing his songwriting muscles.” He recently submitted a solo performance from his van to the NPR Tiny Desk Contest. The winner of the Tiny Desk performance gets to play a set behind Bob Boilen’s desk at the Washington, D.C. office.
“Traveling in my van, all of my guitars and instruments are at other band members’ houses, but I have a mini guitar with me, like a little travel guitar, and we’re living out of a tiny home, a van,” he said. “So I thought this was great — tiny guitar, tiny home, Tiny Desk.”
After hearing from a friend about the contest, Gilliam initially wanted to submit a video with members of The Runaway Grooms, but contest deadlines and difficulties getting everyone together so quickly under COVID-19 restrictions forced him to submit on his own.
“I made original music. I put it out there to the world and I gave it to NPR,” Gilliam said. “It’s something I’m proud of in terms of music that I’ve written.”
On Thursday, May 7, at 7 p.m., The Runaway Grooms will be the first band to take the Vilar Performing Arts Center stage since coronavirus shutdowns — albeit with no one in the audience. The Vilar Center’s Ghost Light Sessions will take place without audiences and will be streamed online live for free, starting with the Runaway Grooms.
Gilliam said the performance will mark many firsts for the band, including its first time at the Vilar Center as well as first show performing all originals, thanks to the time spent focusing on the craft the past couple of months.
“All I have to say is tune in to the Vilar,” Gilliam said of the Grooms’ upcoming performance. “This time that we’ve had has allowed us to create so much music.”
Check out The Runaway Grooms’ new, debut album, “Tied to the Sun,” on Spotify, which has over 50,000 streams and has been added to other playlists gaining more exposure for the local band.
Inspiration from Mac Miller
As a musician, Gilliam draws inspiration from others in the industry.
“Over the ski season, nearly every time I was on the mountain I was listening to Mac Miller,” he said.
The rapper, singer and songwriter passed away in 2018 at the age of 26.
“The last album that he put out, ‘Circles,’ lyrically he was able to express himself so clear and amazing,” Gilliam said of Miller. “You can listen to the songs that he put out and feel his struggle. Mac had fame and fortune, but still had it rough. ‘Hard to complain from this five star hotel,’ he says in his lyrics.”
Gilliam said he felt inspired going through Miller’s albums over the winter, recalling Miller’s NPR Tiny Desk performance in 2017 with over 35 million views on YouTube.
Gilliam’s songwriting has included some personal experiences but mostly focuses on being able to tell a story through song.
“Can you tell a story through your songwriting?” he asks himself.
His Tiny Desk Contest submission features his song “Sometimes,” as Zachy G & The Love. The music video starts outside of his van with views of the mountains before moving into his “tiny home.”
“Sometimes, sometimes, it’s a crazy ride,” the song starts.
“It’s more of an inspiration off of the music that I’ve been consuming,” he said.
His “jazzy, hip-hop rap-type stuff” doesn’t quite flow with the Grooms’ jam-band style, so Gilliam created Zachy G & The Love with the ability to perform his solo music as well as with other members of the Grooms.
To see the Runaway Grooms’ Newsroom Jam performance, featuring the original three members inside the Vail Daily office, visit http://www.vaildaily.com/jams.