- Tickets range from $19.75 to $199 for the 7 p.m. MPAC concert.
- They are available at mpaconline.org or by calling the box office at 334-481-5100.
Zach Williams is set to turn the Montgomery Performing Arts Center into a place of worship on April 12, with a nearly sold-out concert.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Williams said. “We hope to reach some people coming to this show who need an encounter with God that night.”
Tickets range from $19.75 to $199 for the 7 p.m. MPAC concert. They are available at mpaconline.org or by calling the box office at 334-481-5100. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Montgomery is pretty close to a comeback gig for Williams. Although he grew up in Jonesboro, Arkansas, the two-time Grammy winner was born in Pensacola, Florida.
If you’ve ever seen Williams live, he said he expects a new experience with the addition of a horn section and backing vocals to his band. He will perform some of his new music from a deluxe CD and some old favourites.
Although expressing his faith is difficult for some, Williams doesn’t feel shackled by those kinds of constraints when he sings or speaks. Williams said talking about it was a good way to open the door to people facing their own challenges. He knows more than a little about these kinds of challenges.
“I lived a completely different life before I became a Christian artist,” Williams said. “I’ve played rock bands and travelled. I’ve made a lot of bad decisions and lived a pretty reckless life. Since I gave my life to the Lord in 2012, it’s been a way for me to talk about Jesus by sharing my struggles in my past and telling them what God can do.”
Williams found a way forward while sitting still
Life was a winding road for young Williams, who dropped out of high school and earned his GED while working for his father in construction.
“My dad led the cult when he was a kid,” Williams said. “I was in the music business, but I went to school on a basketball scholarship.”
At 19, during his first season in college, he tore ankle ligaments.
“I had to wear a red jersey my freshman year,” Williams said. “My roommate had an acoustic guitar in our apartment. When I couldn’t play sports that first year of school, I picked up his guitar and fell in love with music.”
He taught himself the basics, took guitar lessons and started writing poetry.
“That was it for me,” he said. “Once I realized I could play the guitar and start singing, sports took a back seat and music became my passion.”
A little over 20 years have passed since then, but it was not a direct path to Christian music. Williams was part of the rock band Zach Williams & The Reformation for about 7 years, touring the United States and Europe. It might have looked like a hit, but Williams said he was an absolute wreck.
“I was living a lifestyle that just wasn’t working,” he said. “I had a family and I was trying to be that type of rock star. I was living pretty reckless and wild.”
With his family in his prayers, Williams said he gave his life to God on June 10, 2012. Soon after, he joined Christian band The Brothers of Grace, before going solo as a Christian artist in 2016.
“My wife, she’s the backbone,” Williams said. “She’s the reason I can do what I do. She sacrifices a lot so I can be on the road doing what God called me to do.”
They have four children, aged 23 to 9. “I have one graduating from college this year and one graduating from high school,” he said. “The youngest two, my wife, are homeschooling. We have quite a flexible schedule so they can get out on the road and be with me whenever they want.”
Are the kids showing any sign of wanting to make music?
“My youngest daughter, definitely. She’s got the virus for sure,” Williams said. “My second son is a sports enthusiast, and the other two are all art enthusiasts.”
Getting into Christian Music with ‘Chain Breaker’
“I think Christian music has taken a bend in recent years,” said Williams, who said genres like country and rock are going back to their gospel roots. “Certainly there has been some crossover success.”
To continue to reach new audiences, Williams said tapping into mainstream markets is an important step, but he won’t go any further.
“I don’t want to cross over and be a country artist or a rock artist. I’ve lived that life before,” Williams said. “I don’t want that lifestyle, but I really don’t mind having my music on these stations so people can hear it.”
Williams is constantly writing lyrics and titles for future projects. “I always draw from the seasons of life I’ve lived and the experiences I’ve been through to try and find inspiration,” he said.
When his 2016 hit “Chain Breaker” was first fleshed out, Williams said he had no idea what impact the song would have on listeners and himself.
“I remember finishing that song and the people I wrote it with were super excited,” Williams said. “I was excited. Don’t get me wrong. But, to begin with, I hadn’t signed a recording contract yet. I didn’t think the radio would play the song, because I thought it was too country. and too rock and I didn’t know if it would be accepted on Christian radio I didn’t know if it fit the format.
It was more than accepted and in 2017 won both New Artist of the Year and Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year at the GMA Dove Awards.
“I was blown away by how successful this song was,” Williams said.
“There Was Jesus,” a 2019 Grammy-winning duet with country legend Dolly Parton, is another milestone for Williams.
“He’s one of the most down to earth people I’ve ever met,” Williams said. “She just had a way of making you feel like you were the only person in the room. We worked one day for about five hours in a studio in Nashville on her roles. She’s a lot of fun.”
No, Dolly won’t be following Williams on his tour, but he’s still able to bring their song to live gigs like Montgomery’s thanks to special guest Anne Wilson, who will also be opening for him.
“(Wilson) is on tour with me, she goes out and sings Dolly every night,” Williams said.
While it feels good to perform at venues like MPAC again, Williams has been busy during the pandemic. Between September 2020 and June 2021, he played around 75 shows.
“We’re working with a promoter who discovered this drive-in movie model,” Williams said. “We were blessed to be a small part of the music industry that was spinning and working at the time. It was definitely a tough season, a tough time, but God provided as he always does and taken care of all of us.”
VIP Experience Ticket Holders Should Go Hungry
For the 50 people lucky enough to partake in the Montgomery concert VIP experience, it will be an evening of music and fine dining by Williams’ friend and personal chef, Paul Fields.
“We have a buddy of mine from Napa Valley, California who tours with us,” Williams said. “We organize a VIP meal before all the concerts.”
It’s not a light snack. Fields will prepare a five-course meal before the show.
“I’ll come in, tell stories and play some new music that I’ve written,” Williams said.
As good as the food is, Williams might not fill up before the show.
“I don’t eat every night,” Williams said. “I can’t do it and sing for an hour and a half. But I ate quite a bit and I can say it’s great.”
Follow Williams online at zachwilliamsmusic.com.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Shannon Heupel at [email protected]