Jack Johnson is not the only UCSB grad making noise in the music biz. This month, Zach Gill-the Bay Area native/Ellwood resident who plays keys for Jack and is the frontman for the Isla Vista-spawned band Animal Liberation Orchestra (ALO)-released his debut solo album, Zach Gill’s Stuff. An all ages-friendly album of piano-laden, lyric-driven tunes powered by Gill’s distinctively raspy ‘n’ smooth voice, Zach Gill’s Stuff is an epic view into the playful mind of a globe-trotting songwriter, who also happens to be a loving father to his daughter and husband to his wife Jessica, who’s organizing the nonprofit aspect of the Jack Johnson Tour. He chatted with me on the phone for a few minutes last week while with Jack in Kansas City, where rumors of a barbecue run were in the air.
How would you describe your solo debut? It feels almost like an autobiographical sort of take on my life from the past 10 years. There are a lot of songs about family life, and some of the earlier songs remind me of my post-college time. Creatively, it was the first time I’d gone into the studio without a band, and without much of a plan either. First, I thought I’d just make an album of me singing and playing the piano, but it evolved into something else.
How was it working without a band? It was interesting. It felt more natural for me. When I’m collaborating with the Jack project, I try to do things that will fit in well with that context. There are things I wouldn’t do. And it’s the same with ALO. You’re always trying to kind of make it fit into what you think the thing is. This [album] was really neat, because I didn’t know what it could be. : When I hear it, it’s the sound of creativity just starting to unfold, like ice starting to melt.
So the next album might be even more creative? I feel like there are a lot of possibilities with it. What was nice about this album was that I didn’t have to suppress anything. The album has been a long time coming, and now that it’s finally done, it’s just super gratifying just to have made it. I kind of feel like I was almost clogged up for a couple years because I’ve been putting this off. Now it’s out there, I’m doing shows by myself, and I’m doing a tour with Mason Jennings in the fall. It’s so nice to be out there with the audience and not worrying about the things I would normally be concerned about. It feels new and fresh to me, and that feels great.
The song “Family” was featured at the end of the film Baby Mama. How was that? It was really neat just to be in a Lorne Michaels-produced film. It was a wild thing to have him be involved in the choosing of the song. It was interesting to see how it fit really well with the final scene, how something can come from one context and fit so well in another context. That’s what’s so cool about music: It’s inspired from a personal place, but once it’s out there in the world, it starts to get broader and broader as people use it in their own deal.
Explain the album name, Zach Gill’s Stuff. The “Don’t Touch My Stuff” song began on a whim-the original version was very different-but it turned into this thing, and became like a theme song for the whole album. : I felt like the last 10 years were pretty reflective as far as thinking about my mom and dad, the influences they had over me, interviewing my grandparents, learning about their stories. And I felt like “stuff” became an all-encompassing term for the things in one’s head.
How’s the album being received? It’s been selling real well; so far, so good. I couldn’t be happier.
See Zach Gill play from Zach Gill’s Stuff on the side stage at Harder Stadium on August 27, and see him jam with Jack on the main stage, including the song “Family.”