Cross The Divide - Bringing People Together Through Music
TRR: How’s the weather in New Hampshire today?
ZP: It was very cold this morning but it seems to be warming up a little bit.
TRR: How warm is “warming up” in New Hampshire?
ZP: I believe it’s now about 15 degrees. It was a lot colder much of the week, hanging around 2 degrees. But now it’s warming up a little.
TRR: 15 degrees. And that’s considered “warming up?”
ZP: (laughing) Uh, yeah.
TRR: 54 degrees in South Florida and my heater is on in the car, and the seat heaters.
ZP: That’s South Florida beach weather. We’d be walking around in t-shirts and shorts.
TRR: If I’m going to be around 15 degree weather, I better have skis on.
ZP: laughing. Yeah, I hear ya.
TRR: Alright. Enough with the weather. Cross the Divide. That’s a cool name. Where did the name come from?
ZP: It’s kind of multi-faceted. I’m a Christian and with my Christian roots and stuff, it comes from a picture that has a cross and a ravine kind of thing. Also, we are a band and we want to reach people where they’re at. A lot of our songs are about hope and fighting through the tough times and stuff. So, we wanted to give songs to people to help them get through different and difficult situations.
TRR: You formed the band in 2010. Are the 3 of you the 3 original members?
ZP: We have a different drummer now. He [Jake] has been with us since 2014 now. He stepped out for a little bit around 2017 but came back near the end of last year.
TRR: How did the 3 of you meet?
ZP: I worked with another guitar player and met Jake. He was playing in another band at the time. And when Jake joined my band, we actually brought in a 4th member, the guitarist he was playing with, and tried that for a while. The guitarist ended up leaving a bit later but Jake’s been with me ever since.
TRR: And, your bassist is Chase?
ZP: Yep, Chase is on the bass.
TRR: Cool. Now we’ve got the lineup in order.
ZP: That’s the lineup.
TRR: Cool. Now we’re moving along. Zach, when did you first get interested in playing the guitar?
ZP: I picked it up at age 14 but I’ve been doing music as long as I could remember.
TRR: What got you really interested in music?
ZP: I grew up on the Beatles [from my mom]. Music is something I’ve always gravitated towards. I played saxophone as a kid and would pick up a lot of different instruments and learn them on my own with a teacher or lessons. It just came naturally to me.
TRR: You’re basically self-taught?
ZP: For the most part. I took some lessons on the guitar but very briefly. Other than that, every instrument I play, which is about 20, I’ve taught myself.
TRR: 20 instruments? Wow, you don’t need a band.
ZP: (laughing) Well, you can’t play them all at the same time. (laughing)
TRR: Well, that would be pretty cool to see, at least to see you make the effort.
ZP: (laughing) That would be a bit entertaining, anyway.
TRR: Without a doubt. Let me ask you this. Growing up in New Hampshire, what was the music scene like? I could tell you about the scene in South Florida, Nashville, LA, Boston, Seattle, New Orleans. But I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about the music scene in New Hampshire. So, what was it like?
ZP: Anyone who knows the music scene knows it was happening in the 90’s and early 2000’s and somewhere around 2008/9, it just tanked. It was crazy during my high school years. We could have a show in your backyard and not even announce it, have a no-name band and you’d have about 50 people show up. It’s a lot tougher now, I’ll tell you that.
TRR: Are you seeing a reemergence of rock music in New Hampshire? We’re slowly seeing a reemergence, especially in Southern states like Georgia, Tennessee, Carolinas, Texas, Louisiana.
ZP: I’m starting to see a little bit of that this way. We’ve had a bit of a hand in that. Our band from 2014 to early 2017, we were going gangbusters. We had a lot of other bands around us learning how to build followings and working with us. So yeah, I’m starting to see some positive changes.
TRR: What happened after 2017?
ZP: Our band took a bit of a hiatus from live shows.
TRR: Why was that?
ZP: We were going through some drummer changes, doing a lot of writing, and taking on family responsibilities. I have 3 kids and one more on the way.
TRR: Hey, congratulations on that.
ZP: Thank you.
TRR: I know how you feel. I have 4 kids myself. They can be a handful. But, kids are great.
ZP: Oh definitely, for sure.
TRR: So, during the break from touring, you never had thoughts of breaking up the band.
ZP: Oh, no. That was never a thought. We’re in this for the long haul and as far as we’re all concerned, the sky’s the limit. We’ve got some really awesome tracks coming out, being produced by Noah Henson of the band Pillar.
TRR: I was going to ask you about that but keep going.
ZP: (laughing) Sorry, didn’t mean to jump the gun.
TRR: No worries. Keep it going.
ZP: Yeah, we have some really killer tracks coming out. It’s just a 4 track EP but we’re going to release the singles one at a time and use them to make a lot of noise all at once. They’ll be a little edgier than what we’ve had out in the past. Some of the stuff we released in 2016 was a kind of throw-back, had that post-grunge era like Seether, Creed, but not that dated but had that vibe. The newer stuff has more attitude.
TRR: Cool. I’m looking forward to hearing some of those new songs. Personally, who are some of your musical influences?
ZP: Goodness, the list if forever long but I come from the 3 Doors Down and Creed era. I also listened to a lot of the EMO bands from the early 2000’s but I kind of draw from everything. As far as guitar, Mark Tremonti, for sure. I listened to a lot of POD as a kid. There’s a lot of interesting guitar players but Noah Henson is one of my top influences. So, it’s been really cool to get to work with him.
TRR: Have you ever had the opportunity to meet Mark?
ZP: Unfortunately, no. We did open for Alter Bridge a few years back but didn’t have the opportunity to meet him at the show.
TRR: He’s a really great guy, very down to earth. We had the opportunity to interview him several months back and he was great.
ZP: I love Tremonti, his band. Honestly, that’s probably my favorite of his 3 bands. I love Creed but I really enjoy hearing him sing and the thrashing element of Tremonti.
TRR: As far as Creed, they had a huge following but also, a lot of people looked down at them? Why do you think that was and is?
ZP: I don’t think everyone loves Scott Stapps voice and that could be one of the issues. But, a lot of it probably comes down to his ego. Everything I’ve heard and have seen, I get the impression he’s a nice guy, but you don’t know what goes on behind the scenes and personally, it’s none of my business. From what I’ve heard, that was one of the major driving forces that broke up the band in the first place, his ego. Also, those guys blew up so fast and were all over the radio and after a while, I guess people just got tired of hearing them. But I love Creed.
TRR: It could be. We’ll just have to interview him here at Tru Rock and I’ll let you know how it goes.
ZP: (laughing) I’ll watch for that.
TRR: How do you guys write your songs? Is it very collaborative?
ZP: We’ve done a lot of different things. A majority of the songs, I write. I come up with the basic outline of it. I write the lyrics and then I bring it to the guys and they put their spin on it but for the most part, I do most of the writing.
TRR: Do the 3 of you have to collectively approve a song before you record or perform it live?
ZP: For sure. A lot of times we’ll just start with a riff and just from that, we’ll decide even before it becomes a song, if it even gets that far, to decide if it’s even worth keeping. Some of the songs we’ll nail down the way we want it and then when we do demos, we end up changing a lot because we fell it’s not quite right the way we want it.
TRR: You’re not alone there. That happens all the time.
ZP: Yeah, for sure.
TRR: Do you consider your band to be Christian rock or maybe Spiritual?
ZP: We are Christian influenced for sure but we’re not targeting the Christian market at all although we did chart on Christian radio. Our intent was to always be a mainstream band. There are definitely messages that are faith oriented in our music but we’re definitely not making our songs just for people of the Christian faith. We’re making it for everyone of any faith and if they get a message from it, that’s cool from us. We just want to love on people and give people something to listen to and enjoy and have a good time.
TRR: Speaking of Christian based rock, you also toured with POD. Did you ever have conversations with them about their writing philosophy?
ZP: I actually had the chance to hang out with those guys. They’re awesome. I’ve spoken to them about band life, balancing that with their family and some faith stuff. Sunny is one of the most down to earth guys I’ve ever met. They’ve been to the top of the charts and disappeared for a while. That was their intention, to take a break and spend some time with their families. They also went through a lot of stuff professionally. They’re just really great guys. At the end of the day, they love their fans, who have given them their career, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the family, where the life really is.
TRR: How do you find that balance between being in the band and having a family? It’s not easy, not even for someone who works the 9 to 5 and then goes home to be with the family. How do you do it, find the time for both and do well at both? It’s like having 2 different families to be responsible for.
ZP: (laughing) For sure. It’s multiple full-time jobs, for sure. I just don’t sleep. (laughing)
TRR: What’s your most memorable show you’ve done?
ZP: There’s been some really incredible show and we’ve been fortunate to have opened for some of the biggest names in the industry (Disturbed, Pop Evil, Alter Bridge, POD, Seether, Godsmack). But some of the ones that have been very memorable for me was one that we did way back before anyone even knew who we were. A woman came up to us after the show and told us that earlier in the day, she had been contemplating suicide and after listening in the crowd and heard our music, she decided to turn that around and reassess her life and give herself back to God. That was just from hearing our music. We didn’t say anything in particular. Similar things have happened since but that first one, that’s a special thing and really stands out to me the most. That’s what we do this for.
TRR: Any crazy fan stories?
ZP: We’ve had some people who have more or less stalked us. That’s been kinda weird. We had a woman in Connecticut try to solicit Jake during our set. (laughing) Between songs, trying to get his number, find out how old he is. Stuff like that.
TRR: (laughing) Did he help her out?
ZP: (laughing) No. It wasn’t the right situation. (laughing)
TRR: Tell me about the Perfect Storm. Where did the basis for that song come from?
ZP: I’ve been through the ringer with all kinds of stuff. That time of my life when I wrote everything on Fearless, the Perfect Storm, I had several family members die at that time, some friends committed suicide, a buddy who died and left a daughter behind. I went through a divorce to the mother of my 3 children. It was a very bad time for me. It was very hard on my heart, trying to decide what the best for my kids was. It was all of that all at once, the Perfect Storm, and it felt like it was going to destroy me. At times I didn’t know how I would be able to carry on at all. I’ve been through a lot of dark places in various points and there’s always that glimmer of hope and that’s what I always want to offer to people. If I can make it through, they can too and that’s what that song is about, trying to find help in the right places and looking for hope when you feel there is none and that’s what the song is about.
TRR: Congratulations on persevering and making through your dark times.
ZP: Thanks. It definitely was not easy.
TRR: But, you did it and that’s a great accomplishment in-itself. There are so many others out there who don’t have the strength or find that help they need and don’t make it through. Remember that.
ZP: I will and I always do.
TRR: Your album, Fearless. Where did you record it and who produced it?
ZP: That was recorded in Anchor Studio in Windham, Maine. It’s North of Portland. Carl Anderson produced it. He used to be in a Christian band called the Wrecking. They were a Billboard artist as well. It was great, a very good experience. We learned a lot from that and we ended up with a very good record and definitely a platform to launch from.
TRR: What’s the status with your follow-up album that you were to record with Noah Henson?
ZP: We are supposed to be getting our tracks back this week. We’ll see. I’ve already heard the rough mixes, the un-mixed versions and they’re already light years ahead of anything we’ve done and there’s some really good stuff in there and some really raw stuff in there, emotion-wise. If you feel there’s a lot of darkness we confronted in Fearless, this one is going to be a whole new level of that, that we’re talking to people in the worst of places. But, there’s also a lot of fun in it too. It’s going to be a good little record.
TRR: When do you think it will be finished?
ZP: It should be done some time this week. But, we’ll be releasing the first single, hopefully some time in May and get our strategy all laid out and get it rolling.
TRR: Make sure to let us know when you’re going to release the first single. We’ll help promote it right here.
TRR: How did you meet Noah?
ZP: We met Noah, interesting enough at this rally thing with a whole bunch of nobody artists in Nashville, kinda on a whim. It was a suggestion from someone who had been on this mini-tour thing and we were interested in seeing what it was. We heard there would be some industry people there and we met some singing and stage coaches who were really revered. We met Ryan McMann, who used to manage Alter Bridge. It was cool and one of the people we met was Noah. It was early 2017.
TRR: Did you talk to him about having him help produce the next album or is that something you discussed at a later time?
ZP: Actually, it was Ryan McMann who connected us with Noah. He and Noah are actually now business partners. I met Ryan and we hit it off and he heard our story about how we had been taken for some $ and he understood because he’d been there before too. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of scam artists out there. Noah helped him with some similar issues back in the day when he went through something similar too. So he said, let’s see if we can get you down to our studio and get you guys rolling and they ended up helping us out and cut their rate for us and made it happen.
TRR: Yess! The student rate!
ZP: Yess! (laughing)
TRR: The senior discount without an AARP membership!
ZP: Yess! Exactly! (laughing)
TRR: Do all of you share in the responsibilities of managing the band?
ZP: I do almost all of our management, booking, social media, promotions. We’re at the point where we need other people on our team. We just got a girl to help us with our merch so that will make that much easier.
TRR: That can’t be an easy task. Being in a band and all the responsibilities with writing, rehearsing, recording, gigs, tours, and being self-managed, how do you do it? If it weren’t for my editor, I’d probably be in a straight jacket and locked in a room somewhere away from sharp objects.
ZP: It’s definitely a juggling act but we make it work.
TRR: Moving ahead in 2019, what’s on the table?
ZP: We are upping our game in every category. We’ll have a music video for every song from this record. We’ll have new merch, we’ll do some covers, doing a lot of touring.
TRR: Is there anyone you want to give a shout out to?
ZP: I could give a shout out to a million people. All of our fans in the states, all over the world. We couldn’t do this without any of them. All of the people on our street team, our families, friends, Noah, Ryan and all those guys. I could shout out for days.
TRR: This has been cool. Let’s keep in touch and let me know as soon as the new album is finished so we can get you guys some more PR. Hit us up so we can help you promote it. Good luck with the tour, the new baby and the balancing act.
ZP: Thank you for having me in Tru Rock Revival. I’ll let you know when the record is finished and definitely get you some of the songs to hear and put out there.
Tru Rock Revival Magazine
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