Artist Spotlight: Zack Orion
If Mumford and Sons were one dude with a suitcase drum and a case of musical wanderlust, it might just sound something like Zack Orion...
“The banjo is always refreshing. Every time I pick it up, it just feels like something new and dangerous could happen.” — Zack Orion
BMF: You’ve been a well-known subway busker in NYC for years now. Is the subway something of an incubator for musicians?
Zack: “Incubator is the best possible word for it. It’s like New York is the mother hen, and we’re all just underground waiting to hatch and tell the big, beautiful world what we’ve learned by living in this crazy city.”
BMF: How is playing in the subway different than playing a more traditional venue?
Zack: “Playing guerilla-style on the sidewalk or a subway platform is definitely what made me, and I’ll always love it. But I’m also not sure how I ever handled it. It can sort of be a brutal environment. Well, half brutal, half warm and loving. It just constantly asks you to respond to the brutality or the love, and through the years I’ve never really mastered that. I really like the warmth of people coming out to listen to music on purpose, when they don’t have to leave after one song.”
BMF: On making the switch from guitar to banjo:
Zack: “When I switched to banjo, it just had a little more impact than an acoustic guitar with me kinda mumbling under my breath in a falsetto voice and not being very confident. The banjo is always refreshing. Every time I pick it up it just feels like something new and dangerous could happen… Now I try to keep things shiny. I made my suitcase drum shiny, and the banjo is shiny, and that makes me feel shiny. I try to reflect light and create light.”
On playing alone vs. playing with other people:
Zack: “There’s a pattern of contraction and expansion. There’s confidence as well that comes from doing the one man band thing. You have to be pretty bold to go it alone. But it’s also the most fun thing in the universe to play music with a bunch of people who are really good. Just making sounds. Music for the sake of music. It’s super inspiring to do that, and super inspiring to come back and play on the streets on my own. It’s really awesome. This is the first time in my life where I’ve noticed that pattern. So I’m really happy right now.”
BMF: What do you draw creative energy from, outside of music?
Zack: “Traveling through America… This country is so beautiful. Going from one of the mystical forests in Washington to one of the martian deserts in Utah... I think that what’s had an influence on me is the curiosity. I’ve never really just been able to hang out in one place. So it’s not necessarily one place, or one action, but right now it’s sort of the need to figure out what it’s all about. I can be curious now, and then eventually move to a small town, and be a part of a community, and get my hands into the dirt, rather than the subway dust.”