A to Z 2017: ZACK HEMSEY

And so we've saved one of the best for last! Okay, it also fell into the "Z" slot nicely, as well, but to be fair, I had a few options (Zebrahead being among them). Out of all the featured bands/artists throughout this year's A to Z Challenge, few (besides Trent Reznor and NIN) have inspired me on such a level as Hemsey's music, especially with my writing.

I feel like Zack Hemsey is one of those artists that many people haven't heard of, but are probably familiar with his work. The first time I explored his music was after watching The Equalizer, a Denzel Washington film. There is a very in-depth scene that I believe the entire song "Vengeance" is used in. I made a mental note to look it up after the film ended and have been hooked ever since. This was also when I discovered I knew way more of his material than I had realized, because of his music being used in movies and/or movie trailers (and I'm a movie trailer superfreak).

He has four studio releases, so I'll be selecting one song from each, which is bound to be a nightmare, so wish me luck!

A few tracks from his first album, Empty Room, feel like they belong in the new Westworld series somewhere (okay, maybe a lot of his music does), like "To Return" and "So Many Trails, So Many Tears". In the end I went with the much more lyrical heavy song, "The Forgotten":

That specific song features members of an earlier group Hemsey belonged to called Nine Leaves. I am maybe just now coming into that information, so I will definitely make note to check out their music.

I'm not sure how to describe the change from Empty Room to The Way, which was released just one year later, but I believe there was a slight shift to more robust instrumental/orchestral music. It was present in Empty Room, but wasn't as prominent. It's kind of embarrassing, but I originally had no idea Zack Hemsey was also a hip-hop/rap artists too (before this point I had somehow only stumbled across the more instrumental/orchestral music). When I first heard "Waiting Between Worlds" I was like, wait... what?! Then I found Empty Room and Ronin (which is coming up).

This is the only official music video I've found for any of his music:

"Waiting Between Worlds" starts out instrumental and then kicks into a very powerful, lyrical story. Not going to lie, this song has always been an emotional one for me and seeing the video made me tear up. Especially the storyline involving the older man, not that the rest isn't very moving. It's kind of odd to me that this track hasn't directly inspired anything yet in my writing. Maybe because it's almost too specific? That's interesting to think about.

Songs like "Vengeance" and "Graven Image" are a few of his pieces that I hope to share in my blog series, Soundtrack of the Imagination, which I've mentioned a few times throughout the challenge. They've definitely had an incredible impact on my fiction.

Zack Hemsey's third release, Ronin, came out in 2013. The Way was more instrumental, while I feel Ronin fell more in line with Empty Room, featuring more of Hemsey's flowing and narrative lyrics. But it's definitely punchier than his debut. Many of the tracks are harder and more aggressive. Also, where The Way displayed sweeping theatrical-esque tracks, Ronin is strife with in-your-face rhymes of the same caliber.

One of my favorites from the album is "Don't Get in My Way":

I don't even know how many times I've listened to that song. Inspirational writing tracks from this album include the above, along with "Nice to Meet Me" and "Teaching of a Ronin".

The Way and Ronin are the two albums I've undoubtedly circulated the most. I would often lament that I needed new material from Hemsey, because he's an artist that I hope continues to hone and experiment with his craft. And then suddenly there was Nomad! The most recent album came out just last year and I'm only beginning to digest it all.

I may be way off base, but the album comes off to me as almost an amalgamation of each of his previous releases. There's even the backing vocals which were rarely used, if at all, in The Way and Ronin, but very present in Empty Room. I've only played through the CD once, so I'm really excited to explore and experience his newest release.

Here's a track, "Lost and Found", to wet your eardrums with:

It appears that Zach independently releases all of his work and this makes me think of Jamin Winans for some reason (sorry, I guess the videos on that post have to be added again). It also made me curious about what kind of movie Hemsey would potentially write and direct, if ever doing so. Then I wonder why he hasn't gone the route of creating a soundtrack for a motion picture (like Winans and/or Reznor), because I feel it would be a natural fit.

I have to say, though, that while I really like the one and only music video he apparently had made (or made himself?), "Waiting Between Worlds", it is very literal to the lyrics of the song. It makes sense being he's obviously telling a story, but I want to know what stories lay beyond that. Especially in more of the musical scores that he's created, because I can't imagine you piece together something so powerful without it springing forth imagery.

Like I said, it triggers my imagination for multiple writing projects I have going, even some chapter titles potentially being references to his songs. So what triggers in Zack Hemsey's mind when he creates such vivid music?

Are you familiar with Zack Hemsey? Did you enjoy the songs/videos? Do you have a favorite song and/or album? I don't know if he even does live performances, but if he does, have you ever seen him live? If so, how was the performance? If just now discovering him, do you think his music is something you want to further explore and learn more about? What bands/artists trigger your imagination?