Question & Answer with Zak
1. How did you discover you wanted to be a songwriter?
I have always loved music and writing and I wrote my first song when I was in the 3rd grade in 1978. It went like this:
Rain and slush and icy hail,
It makes me feel rather stale.
When I turned to go outside
I slipped and I fell and I broke my hide.
I got up, my pants were soaked.
I was so mad that I could have croaked.
The story's done, can you understand
That was 32 years ago and I still haven't come up with the last line.
2. What kind of music did you grow up listening to?
My mom loves classical music and my dad loves bluegrass and old time country music so I heard a lot of music from those genres when I was a child. Also, on summer nights I would fall asleep to the sound of my Grandma Lucille playing the piano and singing opera. If you listen and look carefully, you will probably hear all of these influences in my music.
3. What were your favorite songs as a child?
My Baby Does the Hanky Panky by Tommy James & The Shondells (3 years old)
Hound Dog by Elvis Presley (3rd Grade)
I Love a Rainy Night by Eddie Rabbitt (4th grade)
The Beach Boys entire catalog (4th grade)
4. What was your favorite television show?
The Mickey Mouse Club (with Annette Funicello), Mister Rogers, Speed Racer, SWAT, Emergency, Leave it to Beaver, The Lone Ranger, Batman, The Dukes of Hazzard, CHIPS, Little House on the Prairie, The Cosby Show
5. Who are your biggest Musical Influences?
Cat Stevens, The Beach Boys, Stan Rogers, and John Gorka.
6. What kind of music do you listen to now?
I like music when it's good, no matter what genre. I love intelligent lyrics and pretty melodies.
7. Do you have any siblings?
I have a brother named Alex who is 4 years younger and a sister named Katharine who is 8 years younger.
8. Did you ever get into any trouble with your siblings?
No, we were all little angels, except for sometimes.
9. Did you enjoy reading as a child?
Yes, I have loved to read since I was very little. It all started with my parents reading to me and teaching me how to make pictures with my imagination. The first book I ever read by myself was Go Dog, Go! "Do you like my hat?" "No, I do not like that hat!" This still cracks me up. I read lots of Encyclopedia Brown and Hardy Boys. I couldn't get enough of suspense. Then one day my dad gave me the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and I was blown away by the imagination, characters and mischievous humor. Even at that young age I was very aware that the author respected my intelligence and I keep this in mind when I write songs for children.
10. Who were some of your favorite authors?
Roald Dahl, Madeleine L'Engle, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, George Selden, Katherine Patterson, and E.B. White
11. Do you have any fond memories from family vacations?
Once a year my parents, brother and sister and I would pile into the family station wagon and drive all the way from Cincinnati to Florida. We would listen to bluegrass music on the radio as we drove through Kentucky to Chattanooga, Tennessee where we always stopped at the same Howard Johnson's hotel. It had an indoor pool with a waterfall and a water slide that looked like you were in the rainforest. The next day we would drive to Disney World and have the time of our lives.
12. What was your favorite candy growing up?
13. What's your favorite candy now?
Twix, Snickers and Kit Kats.
14. Are any of your songs autobiographical?
Yes, many of them are. Except the one about nose picking, which is only loosely autobiographical.
15. If you had one line to live by, what would it be?
Follow the Golden Rule