Music Talk: A Glimpse Into the Funky, Upbeat World of Zach Sorgen

interview with zach sorgen

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Highlights

Zach Sorgen is well-known for his contagious songwriting skills and universally-accessible lyrics
With his rich, textured vocals and optimistic attitude, he’s now one of Hollywood’s go-to songwriters and one of Artlist Originals’ most popular artists
He appeared and won NBC’s Songland and has worked with dozens of artists to help them write irresistible tunes. Next stop: world domination

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Zach Sorgen writes music the same way people drink coffee – out of necessity and habit. It’s how he processes his life experiences, unloads stress and communicates his feelings. For Zach, music is like a therapist and a best friend bundled into one.

Zach has been performing since he was in the womb. Born and raised in Berkeley, California, his mother is an opera singer and continued to perform in the San Francisco Opera while she was pregnant with Zach. His stepdad is a classical and jazz guitar player from Italy, and his brother is a saxophonist and hip hop head. So as soon as Zach was old enough to learn, his mum paid for piano lessons. “I wasn’t a great student,” Zach remembers, “But as I got older, I really enjoyed writing songs about the girls I was into.”

He met his current band, Wake the Wild, in 6th grade, and the 3 friends learned how to master the magic of songwriting as well as a plethora of instruments together. While they navigated teenhood, Zach learned how to play piano, guitar, trumpet, baritone and mini tuba, as well as mastering the full range and potential of his singing voice. Zach was able to test his songwriting skills in band rehearsals, and it wasn’t long before pop-leaning, soulful music became their permanent sound. Ever the entrepreneur, Zach spearheaded a Kickstarter to raise money to record an album and recruited his sister to make the music video. Then someone sent it to a well-connected friend, and boom – their track was played on the Disney Channel. The band members were just 17.

Picked by Charlie Puth

Despite his undeniable passion for music, Zach went to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, to study sociology because he “wanted to save the world.” But after a year abroad submerged in the music of Italy, he realized he couldn’t deny his true path any longer. So he switched majors to study classical composition and moved to L.A. after graduation to write film scores. “I did a couple of short films, and it was very cool, but it was also very isolating,” Zach says. “But then I met someone the night Obama won the re-election who was working on a song for Akon, and we drank beers and sang all night, and I realized that’s definitely way more fun.”

Zach’s big break came in 2019 when he took his songwriting talent to national TV. He was on the first series of NBC’s Songland, a TV show that matches up-and-coming songwriters with established artists. Zach wrote a song called “Bad Habit,” and American singer-songwriter Charlie Puth picked it as the winner. The prize: Charlie would release Zach’s song as his own single and subsequently catapult Zach’s songwriting career into the stratosphere. But it didn’t quite work out the way it was supposed to. The series was delayed because of the pandemic, and by the time it aired, Charlie had decided not to release the song.

“But it’s okay,” Zach says diplomatically. “I got to release it, and the series still gave me a ton of connections.” That much is true – Zach has a packed schedule of songwriting projects, some of which are for Artlist Original.

Bringing the funk to Artlist

Since Zach teamed up with Artlist in 2020, he’s found a home for his huge catalog of unreleased music. And Artlist subscribers got access to Zach’s versatile, irresistible tracks. Zach writes universally-accessible songs and lyrics, making him an instant favorite amongst our community of creators. And he seems to have just as much fun writing the songs as the community listening to them.

“I want to do my art to the highest level, continue to improve my craft and tap into my soul to look for stories and lyrics… And I’d like to win a Grammy too.”

“‘Sugarsweet‘ was a lot of fun to write. It started with a melody, and I loved the ‘sweet’ note going up at the end, so I just built on that.”

Zach’s voice is true pop star material. It’s rich and textured and easily hits high notes and baritones. He has a knack for writing catchy pop tunes that refuse to exit your head. His lyrics are popular amongst the creator community as they’re emotive yet universal enough to fit many moods. “Sugarsweet” is a good example of his pop-writing abilities. The track’s so upbeat and original it wouldn’t sound out of place in a top 40 chart.

 

Lucky Strike” is another one of Zach’s favorites. It’s a Maroon 5/Ed Sheeran crooner with a funky bassline and a chorus so contagious it could be a new variant. “

“Lucky Strike was inspired by the band Jungle,” Zach says. “I was just free-styling melodies, and the lyrics are inspired by my girlfriend. She’s way out my league, very put together and on her shit, so I called it Lucky Strike.”

Zach took the title from a bowling alley he walked past, and he often notes down ideas for titles or lyrics to use at a later date. He writes music every single day, but that doesn’t mean his creativity is always flowing. That’s when he’ll turn to his notebook for inspiration. “Mixed signals, fun-house mirrors, no shade, Casanova,” Zach laughs as he reads. “That’s why writing with other people is so fun – you can have real conversations and use it to write lyrics.”

The artist’s dilemma – and solution

Like most artists, Zach finds it easier to write when he’s emotionally charged and needs to get something off his chest. He calls it the artist’s dilemma – he produces the best music when he’s going through emotional turmoil, yet no one can live sustainably in a constant state of stress. That’s why he’s leaning more and more towards collaboration – more people means more experiences and emotions to draw from.

Zach’s idea of success has morphed as his career has progressed. “I came to L.A. to do film scoring, but I feel like I have a clearer vision now. I want to do my art to the highest level, continue to improve my craft and tap into my soul to look for stories and lyrics… And I’d like to win a Grammy too.”

Wake the Wild is a creative outlet that scratches Zach’s performance itch. They’ve been active for 15 years, so their dynamic and live act is water-tight. Their music is a fusion of funk, nu-disco and electronica, and they’ve always got gigs scheduled, both locally and elsewhere in the U.S. Live performance gives Zach life. “It’s very cool to get a million streams, right, but it’s less direct than sharing a song in a room with 100 people. You’re sharing that experience together, and that energy is pretty magical.”

No stopping

Zach has no plans to slow down any time soon. He has 2 new tracks coming out with Artlist, and Wake the Wild has a new E.P. on the horizon. Zach will continue to write music as long as he has thoughts in his head, and L.A. will continue to be both his inspiration and his canvas. “I want to continue honing my craft,” he says. “And I want to get to the point in my career where all I have to think about is what I’m going to create next.”

For more music, check out Zach Sorgen’s catalog on Artlist.

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About Alice Austin

Alice Austin is a freelance writer from London. She writes for Mixmag, Beatportal, Huck, Dummy, Electronic Beats, Red Bulletin and more. She likes to explore youth and sub-culture through the lens of music, a vocation that has led her around the world. You can contact and/or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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