Meet Texan musician Zachary Knowles, who stuns with his new EP, Magnolia
Named after his small hometown, the five-track EP is an introduction to the musician and his subtle, lo-fi sounds.
Over the last few years, there's been a distinct uptick in this musically subtle, but emotively potent sound that's paved the careers for some of music's now-biggest (Billie Eilish an obvious example); all specialising in this kind-of lo-fi, yet rich brand of pop. There's plenty of positives to be found in this sound's exponential rise in popularity and its success on streaming services, however one of the biggest comes in the next generation that are being discovered through people's fascination with this sound, a wealth of talent both local and international being unearthed and thrown into the spotlight as the world races to find the next big star.
Texan musician Zachary Knowles isn't exactly new - his work stretches back to singles in 2017, with EPs and guest collaborations littering the time since - but he's definitely someone discovering an entirely new audience through this wave of lo-fi pop, and its increasing dominance amongst the commercial pop world. The 21-year-old is somewhat of a cult figure - despite not being a household name just yet, he has songs in the millions of plays and an audience that laps up his every move - but every thing he does takes him a step closer to that full commercial breakthrough, and his new EP is included that.
Arriving at the tail-end of April but finding new success every week since, magnolia - Zachary Knowles' second EP - is a collection of tracks that showcase his lo-fi sounda and his ability to take it and drift between several differing types of textures and flavours in doing so, incorporating a wealth of influences into his distinctly flavourful sound. Throughout the EP's five tracks, Knowles showcases as much of his varying sound as he can; sweeping between elements of indie, electronica, R&B and bedroom-pop while bridging them all together with a sheen and polish that's become synonymous with musicians like Knowles: genre isn't so much a sound as it is a feel, as cliché as that may sound.
Magnolia shows this perfectly. On ghost, a woozy production sparse with melody forms an underlay for the musician's vocal to rise and fall amongst; twanging guitar left to its most subtle as the harmonies come together to elevate the vocals that navigate through them, beautifully too. I don't feel the same presents something a little similar, albeit a touch more upbeat and punchy; the single's production hitting with a heavier emphasis on percussion that much like ghost before it, mutes much of the non-vocal melodies in its verses.
In the EP's latter tracks, however, is where Knowles' versatility shines. Cherry wine is a twinkling moment of acoustic bedroom-pop that could easily have a home on the Call Me By Your Name soundtrack - smatterings of R&B and indie intertwining as a result of influences in Frank Ocean and Bon Iver alike. On jungle, he veers into woozy hip-hop (kinda); a snapping, snare-dominating production forming a rap-ready underlay that doesn't see Knowles rap over the top of, but instead swirl and dance amongst, his vocals far more on the soulful side than what typically meets productions like these.
No matter what flavour of woozy R&B Zachary Knowles approaches, you know the Texan musician is going to approach it with a certain sheen that makes him stand out - and that's what's important these days, in a time where the internet has made music as saturated as it's ever been. He's someone on the come-up, but jump in front of the pack and introduce yourself to Zachary Knowles and his washed-out new EP below:
Tell us about yourself?
I’m from a smaller town called Magnolia, TX. I always loved singing, but kinda kept it to myself for the most part. I was mainly embarrassed of what people would think if they heard me, and the idea of people watching me scared me big time. I even had it in my head at one point that I would never do shows, because I didn’t think I could honestly. I used to struggle with anxiety pretty badly, but music was a way for me to express myself, and I feel like singing about the anxiety helped me get through it and get passed it in a lot of ways.
In high school, I kinda put myself out there and threw some covers up on SoundCloud. They got a lot of really good feedback from everyone at my school, so I just kept doing it. Going into college I discovered I actually had a passion for creating, and started diving deeper into that. I released my first EP feelings, and have since been pushing myself to create things that I love. I’m 21 years old, still have a year of college left, and I drive a 99 Isuzu Trooper. Life is good.
What’s the ‘vibe’ music-wise?
I feel like I’m inspired by a lot of different styles. I grew up listening to artists like John Mayer, Sean Kingston, and Justin Bieber, Justin probably being my biggest inspo, even to this day. I like to think of my music as “dreamy” or “chill pop” or something. It’s always kinda hard to explain to people honestly, but I feel like you could listen to it while on a date, but also listen while feeling sad if that makes sense. I just wanna share what’s on my mind and it’s always cool to see what environment people listen to it in and how they relate.
What are your production and writing processes usually like?
Lately I’ve been trying my hand more on the producing side of things, so I’m trying to experiment with new sounds, ideas, vocal stuff, all that. But as far as my process, I’ll usually find some chords I love first. Then I’ll just sit and mumble random words and melodies while recording them on the voice memos app on my phone. If I find something I like, I just roll with it and try and base the song idea off how the song feels itself. I work closely with Peter Fenn, who produces most of my stuff at the moment, but I also love meeting new people to work with. I just wanna build relationships and music has been such a cool way to do that.
Can you tell us about your new EP, Magnolia?
magnolia was created during a really cool time in my life. I was just starting to travel more to LA and New York and I was in the middle of the signing process with Fader, so there was a lot going on. I like that though, cause I feel like when I’ve got a lot going on it usually leads to some creative ideas. I was meeting a lot of new people during that time, and worked on a few different songs off the project with multiple people. I feel like because of that, the project’s got versatility but also stays cohesive. It’s also named after my hometown, because I wanted to always have a reminder of where things started.
What does 2020 have in store for you?
2020’s been a weird one so far with everything going on in the world, but honestly this is the most creative I’ve ever felt. I think because there’s so much going on it’s allowed me to draw inspiration from a bunch of different sources. After releasing magnolia, I got a really cool vision for the direction I’d like to go with my new stuff and I’m really freakin pumped for what’s next. I’m releasing some singles pretty soon that I think are really special, and after that I look to release another project, probably in the form of an EP.
What do you want people to take away from the project?
I’ve always loved seeing how people relate to my songs. Sometimes they take it a completely different way than what the songs are actually about, but it’s so interesting and awesome. Something I’ve thought about recently is how deep and vulnerable music is. I can’t think of very many professions where you openly talk about life experiences, struggles, beliefs, or whatever it may be, where everyone gets to listen. It’s like people are getting a front row seat to your personal life in a way. So I guess from this project, or just my music in general, I just want people to connect with it however that looks. I’d like to know that my music helps people, either through a hard time or to keep them going when they’re having a great time. I want people to feel like they know me in a sense, and like they have someone to relate to when they listen to my songs.
Where can we find more of your music?
My music can be found on all streaming platforms, as well as YouTube! I try and get it out on any platform there is so everyone can have a chance to listen.