As an artist making music in the state of Texas, there are names that are synonymous with talent, longevity and doing things right. One of those names is Walt Wilkins. Not only has Wilkins established himself as one of kind type of talent on the stage, but he has also proven to be a masterful producer and creator of albums for other artists. With names like Brandon Rhyder and Jason Eady amongst many other great talents, anyone setting out to make their debut album would be one lucky SOB to get Wilkins attached to that project… Enter Amarillo’s own Zac Wilkerson.
The road that lead Zac to Walt was unlike most of the typical “start a band and make an album” stories. After nearly a decade of writing songs he never intended on you hearing, a friends somewhat dishonest request for Zac to join him at an open mic night at Lubbock TX’s iconic Blue Light Live turned into Zac winning their fall singer/songwriter contest and a spot on the acoustic stage at Larry Joe Taylor’s Musicfest. Little did Zac know then, that not long after standing backstage and watching Walt Wilkins play his set at LJT that year, that he would be working with Walt on his first album.
Fast forward 2 years and add countless shows and road hours and that rookie that stood on that LJT stage is much wiser, road tested and certain that the path he is on is the right one. When the time comes to start working on that make or break new artist first album, Zac made a list of people that he wanted to work with. At the top of that list was Walt. At the bottom and middle of that list was Walt Wilkins… in fact, Walt’s might have been the only name on that list.
I sat down recently and talked to Zac about his experiences recording this album and what is was like working with Wilkins. As expected, he had nothing but great things to say. As a relatively new artist working with not only Walt but his band the Mystiqueros in the studio could be somewhat unsettling. Zac told me though that Walt not only made him feel at home but made him truly feel like he belonged. The long hours, the days away from family and all of the sacrifices he has made to this point were going to pay off. That vote of confidence fueled a creative energy between Zac and Walt that led to such synergy between the men, that the studio work was completed 2 days early. Trusting the rest of the project in the capable hands of Ron Flynt (engineer) and Jerry Tubb (mixing) promised to potentially create a work of auditory splendor that few can rival.
The words to accurately describe the album honestly escape me. There are no “Zac sounds like (insert artists here).” There are equal parts soul, rock, and Texas country that are more or less evident depending on which track you happen to be listening to at the moment. When asked about the song choices on the album, Zac only laughed and told me that half of the songs were written years ago when he had no plans yet to ever record them.
In a way that may be what makes this album special. These songs are more than personal. Aside from a couple of co-writes (including one with Courtney Patton) Wilkerson wrote these songs for himself. Not to fill an album, not to get radio play and sell tickets and t-shirts. These songs are his stories and his experiences. It’s almost like being a fly on the wall in his confession. And it’s fitting in a way. Because it would truly be a sin to let a talent like his stay hidden away. It remains to be seen but it is my belief that performing his songs and bringing his music to the people will be his cross to bear for years to come.