Most children have dreams of becoming an astronaut, a ballerina, or a rock star. But those desires often end exactly where they start — as dreams. However, every now and then somebody has the ambition and persistence to make their seemingly impossible aspiration a reality. With dedication and tenacity, Zach Gill made his musical passion attainable. At age 39, the Santa Barbaran has not only raised two children and maintained a happy family but also spent the last 11 years touring the world and performing in sold-out arenas as the pianist for Jack Johnson.
He never expected to be fortunate enough to pursue music as a career, but after graduating from UCSB, Gill was asked by college friend Jack Johnson to perform at one of his shows. He quickly became a permanent addition to the band and began playing music full-time as Johnson gained worldwide popularity.
Gill also fronts his own band, the Animal Liberation Orchestra. In 8th grade, Gill and his three classmates — Steve Adams, Dan Lebowitz, and Dave Brogan — started a band, later called ALO. The foursome continues to make music and is currently recording a new album estimated for release in the fall of 2015.
Gill is charismatic and spontaneous. As a child he was constantly looking for ways to make people laugh or smile, and that hasn’t changed — he may possibly be the only musician to ever crowd surf while playing an accordion. “First, it was trying to get in front of people; now, it’s trying to stay in front of them,” he joked.
Though there are highlights, being a musician is not as glamorous as it often appears to be. Gill expressed how, even though music is a release for him, the lifestyle can be taxing, especially with a wife and children. “It’s hard when he leaves the family for long periods on tour,” added his wife, Jessica Scheeter, “but in my mind I know being a musician is the only career that would allow him to express himself. He wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.”
Being a musician is rewarding for Gill in many ways. “The creative process is fulfilling,” he said. “It’s really amazing to work on a song and watch it grow through the process — from idea to demo to full production.” Also, positively influencing others with his music gives his life and career much meaning. “Hearing fans share stories about the music helping them through a tough time is the best thing anyone could hear,” he said.
Gill is constantly admiring the work of aspiring musicians, as he knows it can be difficult to succeed in the music industry. “It’s important to stay true to your vision,” he advises new artists, “but don’t be afraid to adjust. Sometimes a little tweak can put things in a positive direction.”
Whether it’s showcasing his piano skills in front of an audience of thousands or singing his original songs in area venues, Gill continues to express his love for music while proving that with commitment you can make any far-fetched dream a reality.
Jaden Gill interviewed her father, Zach Gill, for an assignment for Girls Rock S.B. (girlsrocksb.org), a nonprofit that teaches girls to express themselves through music.