A! Magazine for the Arts

Zach McNabb (photo by Eric Donahue Photography)

Zach McNabb (photo by Eric Donahue Photography)

Zach McNabb plays across the region

May 29, 2022

Zach McNabb was almost 8 when he picked up a guitar. Today he’s the leader of a band, Zach McNabb and the Tennessee Esquires, which performs regularly through the Tri-Cities area.

“I began taking guitar lessons at a local arts center in Johnson City, Tennessee, and took lessons for a few years. Early on during one of my lessons, my instructor told me my playing reminded him of Johnny Cash. At the time and age, I wasn’t really familiar with who Johnny Cash was. After the lesson that day, I told my mom about it and asked her who he was, so that was the day I learned and was introduced to Johnny Cash and traditional/classic country music. After that day, during one of my lessons that semester, I vividly remember my instructor playing a video of Cash from his television show from around the late ‘60s and early ‘70s singing the song I was getting ready to begin learning that day, which was a song Cash recorded in 1963 called “Ring of Fire.”

“Fast forward, I ended up laying the guitar down for a little while (maybe a couple of years). Then around the age of 13, I began listening to Johnny Cash pretty heavy and other music from that era, which inspired me to pick my guitar up again and began learning songs and furthering my skills on the guitar. During this time, I began singing along with the songs while practicing the chords and rhythm parts.At that time, I discovered that I had a natural ability to sing. The next spring, once I got more comfortable singing and playing guitar, I began performing at local retirement and nursing homes. During that time, I was introduced to a young man around my ageby the name of Willie Vance, through my grandma who was friends with his aunt. He too was a Johnny Cash fan and musician who had learned and mastered most all the lead parts that Cash’s lead guitarist, Luther Perkins, played on Cash’s records. That spring and summer, Willie and I began getting together every week and pickin’ and singin’ for fun. Eventually, we talked my little brother, Caleb, into joining us with the bass. At the time, Caleb wasn’t a bassist and only knew how to play the violin. However, before we knew it, the three of us were creating music together and shortly after, we played our first gig in June of that year. I was 15, Caleb had just turned 14, and Willie was 18,” he says.

In addition to Cash, Zach’s influences include Ernest Tubb, Hawkshaw Hawkins and similar artists of that time; the young Elvis Presley, specifically the Sun Recordings; Carl Perkins, and more recently, The Kody Norris Show and The Malpass Brothers.

“My favorite genre is country, more specifically traditional/classic country music. I believe it’s probably because it’s music from the heart. I love the truth and honesty of the songs and there seems to always be asong for every occasion, whether it’s good times or hard times. I also love the instrumentation of country music such as the fiddles, steel guitars, electric guitars, and the roles played by all the other instruments in country music, as well as the voices within the genre.

“Music means a lot to me and is something I have a deep passion for. What I love about music is how it brings people together, creating lifelong relationships, supporters and much more. I also wouldn’t be the person I am today without having music in my life. It has given me a way to express myself and many neat opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have had before. It has also equipped me with confidence and taught me useful skills and lessons that I will use throughout my life.

“My goal as a performer is to give my audience an entertaining show that is fun and family-friendly that all can enjoy. I have a deep love and passion for traditional country music and enjoy sharing that with others while also preserving it and keeping it alive,” he says.

Zach will be teaching in the Birthplace of Country Music’s summer camp. He and his band are performing at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, the Blue Plum Festival and more. He also plans to begin working on a single and album soon. He is going to pursue music as his career.

He is the 19-year-old son of Chuck and Haley McNabb and is from Johnson City, Tennessee. He was homeschooled and is attending Northeast State Community College Blountville, Tennessee, majoring in entertainment technology.