A few years ago, Denver-raised singer-songwriter Zach Heckendorf put down his guitar and all but quit music — a surprise to anyone who had watched his quick rise to success and followed his early dedication to songwriting.
"Writing in general has always been a natural form of expression for me, whether that's in song or journal form," he explains.
Heckendorf had been writing songs since he was ten years old. At sixteen, when he was a student at Cherry Creek High School, he released his debut EP and started touring with national acts. By eighteen, he had signed to the label Universal Republic, postponed college, and was on track to be a professional musician.
"After a couple years of being with a major label, it became clear that it wasn't working for either party, and I struck out on my own, producing and funding albums with the help of Kickstarter and revenue from touring," Heckendorf says. "At some point, though, I got burned out with music entirely and decided to finally return to college in hopes of finding a new career path."
He applied to a program at Columbia University for non-traditional students, hunkered down in New York City, and decided he would put down the guitar and hit the books. But he couldn't drop music altogether, and he soon was writing songs again.
The album he'll release this summer comprises songs from his three years of college. His music falls into the Ed Sheeran/Lewis Capaldi school of pop — the stuff of earnest young men with big feelings, singing danceable songs with catchy hooks.
"It's funny, because I don't always experience my music as pop, but I know it has many pop elements," Heckendorf notes. "That said, I've always had an affinity for pop music. My first two concerts were Backstreet Boys at the Pepsi Center and NSYNC at Mile High Stadium. Pop hooks and melodies have always made sense to me, and because of that, pop themes have worked their way into my music. I'm still drawn to all the big names in modern pop: Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, with a special affinity for Charli XCX, who I would consider slightly off-kilter, experimental pop."
To drum up excitement for the album release, he's started dropping music videos. His latest is "Up," an upbeat song about staying positive.
"It's about consciously creating the mentality that allows a person to view their current situation as just another stepping stone on the path of self-discovery," he explains. "The song also reflects my belief that this is the ideal mentality for both personal growth and societal growth. We have to be able to help ourselves first before helping others. We also have the humility in order to know when we need assistance."
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The video, which was shot around New York City and directed by Kyle Rothwell, includes shots of Heckendorf bopping around New York City destinations, from Coney Island and Rockaway Beach to Gleason's Boxing Gym in DUMBO.
Ultimately, he wants the song and its video to encourage people to take risks and embrace optimism as they do so.
"My hope is that the song can serve as a gentle reminder to listeners to keep looking up, toward whatever goal or ideal versions of themselves they're striving for," he concludes
Find out more about Zach Heckendorf's latest releases at his website.