Zac Wilkerson showed musical talent at a young age, prompting his father to teach him to read music before he could read words. He began singing in a small country church in Buffalo, Oklahoma at the age of 4. After picking up his father’s guitar in his pre-teen years, Zac was heavily influenced by the range of styles found in his mother and father’s record collection. His father’s Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Sr., Charlie Daniels Band, Steve Miller Band, and Eric Clapton records mixed fluidly with his mother’s Ray Charles, Bill Withers, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, and Temptations recordings. These sounds eventually led him to explore the music of Jimi Hendrix, BB King, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Lightnin’ Hopkins. This eclectic mix of assorted sounds formed the foundation for his musical influence.
So what does Zac Wilkerson sound like? It's a sound that you'll have a hard time classifying into a single genre. Elements of Country, Gospel, Blues, Soul, Motown and Southern Rock mix fluidly even within the same song. Much discussion has taken place over exactly what genre Zac Wilkerson fits in best, and when asked directly Zac will shrug his shoulders and give you a definitive "I don't know."
"Growing up, I was exposed to so much different music because of my parents' influences that I never learned the difference between 'country' and 'Motown' until I was older," he explains. "Back then it was just 'music' and we would sing "Hey Good Lookin'" and then "Goin' Up The Country" was right behind it and "These Arms of Mine" was soon to follow. I didn't know those songs didn't all 'go together'."
When he began making original music this disregard for genre was evident. "I never had a focused goal as far as what I wanted to come out or be produced, I just did it. I know that sounds trite, but I never thought to myself 'One day I want to be a Country singer' or 'I want to be a Blues star.' I just wrote and played what was in my head."
As his songwriting matured, the mixture of influences pops up often in his songwriting, from the main line country ballad "Hold On' to the Motown infused "Let Me Love You" to the alt-country, southern rock, americana mixture of "Be My Juliet."
Zac approaches songwriting in very organic "non-genre specific" way, too. He explains, "As a songwriter I'm constantly observing what's happening around me. . . how people are treating each other. . . how love and fear and desires drive people. . . and all those little unspoken things that are happening right behind someone's eyes that you can see happening, but you don't have the full picture. I imagine these things as conversations and then I try to distill all that down, and then tie all that raw emotion on to the back of the melody. Usually, it's not until the song is completely finished that I step back and realize 'Oh, I've written a soul song.' "
When performing live, this eclectic mix of influences is down right profound. Zac's voice borrows just as heavily from Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin as it does from Hank Williams Sr. and Patsy Cline. It's the strength of those styles that sets Zac's voice apart.
"As a young kid singing was something we just always did. My dad is still a great singer and he's the one that got me started," Zac explains. "But from the beginning, he always challenged me in it. One of my earliest memories is hearing my dad say to me 'Sing with all you've got, or don't sing.' He knew I had a voice, and he wanted me to use it."