Zaac Pick
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Zaac Pick

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | SELF

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | SELF
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There was a full house at SC this past Saturday, and an out-of-town visitor asked me about the pre-show music.

“Who are we listening to?” asked the guest. “This is good!”

The music on tap was by Zaac Pick, and the visitor’s reaction to it was common to first-time hearers of Zaac’s music.

Here at SC we first heard Zaac live when he visited Streaming Café in February of 2010. The gear got hauled in and set up, we were doing our normal soundcheck routine, and it seemed like a typical show setup. Until Zaac started playing.

The camera and lighting guy paused in his setup routine. The sound guy actually looked up from the board. The web sound guy came in from the van. The baristas stopped barista-ing and came out from behind the counter to watch and listen.

“Wow,” we said to each other. “This guy is really good.”

Since Streaming Café opened in 2009 we’ve had literally hundreds of artists come through our doors. The fact that we can remember Zaac’s first appearance testifies to the quality of his music and the tastiness of his appearance. And he’s been back twice since that first gig.

And on Saturday, September 22, we have the privilege of hosting him again.

This time out, Zaac is fresh on the heels of a nomination in the Best Solo Roots Recording category for this year’s Western Canadian Music Awards. His new four-song EP, Whitewater, was released last November as a follow-up to 2009’s Fierce Wind.

And lest you think our enthusiasm for Pick is just an in-house Streaming Café thing, you should know that others have been quick to pick up on the quality and freshness of his songs, too: My Century, from the 2009 EP, won top prize in Vancouver’s Shore 104FM Song Search contest. And three TV dramas, One Tree Hill, Degrassi, and Ghost Whisperer, all featured other tracks from the Fierce Wind EP.

That Song Search win helped Zaac with his latest EP, as part of the prize got him off and running into Nimbus Recording School to work with Canadian producer GGGarth Richardson. Richardson – engineer for Motley Crue, Nickelback, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and others – runs the school as a way to pass on his expertise, and worked on Pick’s project with Shawn Cole, producer of other SC alumni including Yukon Blonde. - Streaming Cafe


Zaac Pick released his Whitewater EP close to a year ago, but for those who haven't yet heard the rootsy four-song collection, the Vancouver songwriter is continuing to promote it this fall with a tour and remix.

Dubbed the "Modern Times Tour," the six-date outing launches in Pick's home province later this month. After a pair of British Columbia shows, the songwriter and his band will head to the Prairies for a few more dates. See the schedule below.

As for that remix, it comes courtesy of Josh Cole, who reworked the Whitewater tune "Modern Times." It preserves the plaintive mood of the original while giving it a woozy dose of computerized backmasking. Scroll past the tour dates to listen and/or download it for free.

To hear a more stripped-down take on the same song, head down to the bottom of this page to watch a living room rendition of "Modern Times" featuring Pick alongside a string section.

Whitewater is up for a Western Canadian Music Award for Roots Solo Recording of the Year.

Tour dates:

9/22 Kelowna, BC - Streaming Cafe
9/23 Cranbrook, BC - The Dwelling Place
9/25 Medicine Hat, AB - Inspire Cafe
9/26 Saskatoon, SK - The Woods Ale House
9/27 Edmonton, AB - The Artery
9/29 Calgary, AB - The Ironwood Stage - Exclaim! Canada


With the art of acoustic melodies and graceful lyrics mastered, singer-songwriter Zaac Pick travels across Canada and through time with his adventurous, nostalgic tunes. Focusing on the emotional experiences that surround him, Pick transforms his songs into convincing and inspiring stories about his past and future.

His latest album, Whitewater, focuses on the passage of time. Drawing from both his own personal history and from the experiences of others, Pick manages to bring these stories to life through meaningful songs that he hopes will resonate with listeners.

“A lot of the stuff that came out of Whitewater is obviously very much about moving on,” he says. “The theme of time comes up a lot in the songs hence the hourglass shape involved in the (album cover) design. You don’t feel that old — but then your friends have kids, you know? And you see them getting older and you realize that time is in fact moving along. It was a realization about life.”

These realizations have come to Pick over several years, the beginning of which can be heard on his 2009 EP Fierce Wind. Comparing his state of mind then to what it is now on Whitewater, it’s clear that with time comes maturity. This allowed Pick to understand that no matter how you spend your time, it should at least be spent doing something of value.

Lately, the majority of Pick’s time is spent on the road touring, a lifestyle he finds significant at this point in his life. An adventurous soul at heart, Pick is accustomed to touring through Canada and driving through the country’s expansive landscapes. Because of the immensity of the country, he and his band are forced to find ways to fill up their travelling time, often resorting to more thought-provoking forms of entertainment.

“There was a lot of 14 to 15-hour drives and it was pretty exhausting, but we survived by listening to a lot of CBC podcasts. So at least we can kind of get educated and learn about things,” Pick explains. “We don’t really eat at McDonald’s, but we would pull into their parking lot all the time to use their free wi-fi to download more podcasts.”

When they finally manage to get off the road and onto the stage, Pick makes an effort to showcase a variety of songs that focus on different times in his life. With his soft voice carrying the weight of his gentle yet heartfelt melodies, Pick doesn’t shy away from exposing his own personal thoughts and experiences to his audience.

“Some of the songs are a little more personal, a little more autobiographical, and a few of them are definitely about looking outward at others and other people’s relationships,” Pick says. “To live in their shoes, I guess.”

With all the time Pick spends travelling through Canada, he tries to create a personal and emotional connection with as many people as possible. His hope is to leave them feeling or remembering something they weren’t expecting, sparking the return of an old memory or the fostering of a new one.

“For me, the biggest thing is that you’re getting the opportunity to make music that hopefully makes people feel something that they didn’t feel three or four minutes before they heard your song,” Pick explains.

“That’s one of the things that captivates me about music — when it moves you to a different emotional state then you were before you heard it.” - The Gateway


Zaac Pick operates within familiar territory, that of the folk-pop singer-songwriter. The four songs on his Whitewater EP are mellow and earnest, with Pick using his sweet tenor voice to inform us that time is a river and to meditate on holding on while the sky comes crashing down. In other words, the lyrics are nothing you’ve never heard before, but Pick delivers them with a level of skill and conviction that sets him above the acoustic-guitar-toting coffeehouse set.

These songs sound fantastic, too. That’s no surprise given the track records of Pick’s coproducers, Shawn Cole (Yukon Blonde, Bend Sinister) and Garth Richardson (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gallows). The title track is the most immediate, starting spare and rootsy before building toe-tapping momentum. The one that most rewards repeated listens, though, is “Modern Times”, which glistens with tasteful electric guitar and supporting strings, all wrapped around a yearning vocal melody. “Modern Times” closes the EP, and you know you’ve discovered something good when the last note fades and you want to hear more. - The Georgia Straight


There are echoes of Paul Simon and Neil Young on Zaac Pick’s four song EP, Whitewater, but these are only echoes. Puts him in good company, though. He gently and warmly has fashioned his own style of soft-rocking folk and country. Pick’s voice pulls off the trick of being authoritive and humble at the same time, sort of like Ray Lamontagne. Another trick: Writing a song called “Modern Times.” As soon as it’s written, it isn’t modern anymore, but you want to believe him, and that kind of credibility is a gift. - The Province


Canadian singer-songwriter Zaac Pick, who captured my attention early in 2011 with the luscious ‘Fierce Wind’ EP and a stunning appearance at the SXSW festival in Austin, returns here with four new songs of rootsy, heartfelt beauty that belie his young age. The opening track, ‘Whitewater’, exposes the old soul dwelling within this young man through lyrical reflections upon the past and projections of the future that are echoed perfectly by a heart-rending musical ebb and flow. Lines such as ‘but you’re fading like a memory of a dream I never had’ lift the track ‘Modern Times’ to even greater heights lyrically, while the gorgeous layering of acoustic and electric guitars dance atop a snappy, rolling-train drumbeat. While Pick’s voice – a young but already seasoned tenor – is uniquely his own, it is hard not to think about artists like Alison Krauss and Bruce Springsteen, with whom he shares traits in songwriting, style, and talent. ‘Whitewater’ is an honest and wondrous collection of songs that very well may hold the power to change people’s lives. - Mass Movement Magazine


Teaming up with the bearded wisdom of Shawn Cole and Garth Richardson, Zaac Pick has created an undeniable little gem of an album. 4 songs, bedded in slide guitar, strings, and light percussion, Whitewater is Pick expansive, honest in his melodic chronicling.

Alternatively charmed and depressed by the video for the debut single, “Whitewater.” Tugs at your heartstrings, then breaks them entirely. Or perhaps that says more about me than the video.

Might we indulge ourselves here by making mention that the beautiful artwork for the EP was created by previous TGS contributor, Rachel Pick? We just did. - This Great Society


Zaac Pick is an emerging talent in the Canadian indie-folk scene. Former guitarist of the indie rock group Doubting Paris, Pick first earned critical acclaim as a solo artist for his 2009 debut EP, Fierce Wind, including the top selection in Vancouver's Shore 104FM Song Search, as well as spots in various television shows. Now, after two years of touring (including a double header at SXSW this year), he has released a new four-track EP, Whitewater.

Whitewater shows off Pick's knack for melody, pairing his warm, expressive voice with layers of guitar, piano, strings, and percussion. Each of these four songs seem to revolve around central theme of time, either in adapting to its impermanence or in appreciating the things that endure in spite of it. The title track, a cautionary tale about the unpredictability of life, opens with just vocals and finger-picked guitar before slowly adding layers of percussion, mandolin, and violin. The video for "Whitewater" is absolutely brilliant, too. With cardboard sailboats for characters, it's charming and heartbreaking in a way few music videos even attempt anymore.

Adding slide guitar to the mix, Pick ventures into alt. country on "Out of Fashion" and "Heavy." And on "Modern Times," layers of guitars, violin, and cello cradle Pick's vocals while he sings a stirring lamentation of self-doubt: "Older now, but I’ve got no plan / please forgive me for I know not who I am / just an empty faded vision of a shadow of a man I knew."

Fans of Josh Ritter, Ray LaMontagne, and Joe Purdy should love Zaac Pick.

My only disappointment with Whitewater is that it ends far too soon, but thankfully Pick will be working on a full-length record in 2012. And my wife, whose standards are so high she doesn't seem to like anything, says "Whitewater" is her favorite song of 2011. It's near the top of my list, too. - Given and Taken in Ink


At one point in the song ‘My Century’, Canadian singer-songwriter Zaac Pick delivers one of the most powerful lines I’ve ever heard: ‘and when my funeral comes, can you bring your guitar and play my favorite songs?’-and that alone is enough for me to know that ‘Fierce Wind’ will be an often-visited album for the rest of my days, but this six-song EP has so much more to offer that I would be remiss to let my review end there. Pick, former guitarist for Doubting Paris, ushers in a new age of acoustic balladeers with this release, with lyrics vivid enough to serve as mini-screenplays for fantastically lovelorn vignettes, a honeyed voice that is equal parts Jeff Buckley and Glen Hansard, and sparse-yet-lush arrangements that feature gorgeously picked acoustic guitars and Pick’s strong singing atop brushed drums, luscious harmonies, and occasional washes of strings and percussion. Fantastic. - Mass Movement Magazine


Zaac’s soft voice over an acoustic guitar is a bright spot in the folk music scene in my books. Like other folk artists before him, Zaac tells stories with his songs. From love, to redemption, to self reflection, his voice acts as the lead and the guitar carries you along with the songs. - Scene In The Dark


Zaac Pick and his band played at Pecha Kucha last month. It was one of those situations where you just knew that someone very cool knew someone else very cool and somehow they got together to get Zaac up on the stage to perform prior to the main event and you were lucky enough to have landed a seat in the audience. I whipped out my phone after his first song to bookmark his Myspace page. Check him out…

Zaac is playing at Frederico’s on Commercial Drive next week (November 3, 8pm, $10), so we thought this would be the perfect time to pose him a few questions…
Scout Q&A

Town you were born in: Medicine Hat, Alberta.

Three things about your neighbourhood that make you want to live there: At present, Cloverdale, in the Valley. I’m often in the city, but the Alberta in me appreciates going home to the wide-open spaces, having a garden, and that you can still walk or bike to pretty much anything. Oh, did I mention rent is cheaper?

The thing that you eat that is bad for you that you will never stop eating: Doritos, yes.

Default drink: Coffee.

Three things about Vancouver that make you feel like a kid: Aquarium, False Creek water taxi and the SkyTrain chime (strange, but true).

Favourite Vancouver bridge: Lion’s Gate – passing through those stone lions always feels like you’re setting off on some epic adventure…

Best Vancouver patio: Havana on a midsummer’s night.

Favourite place to see a band: Orpheum. The place is like a time-machine.

Cheap place for dinner: The Foundation, or the Long Table series, hosted by The Irish Heather if you’re feeling fancy and/or friendly.

Book you’re reading: Dubliners, by James Joyce.

Last place traveled: Tofino.

If you could rename yourself: I did think about it seriously once, but I’m ok with it now. And yes, it’s my real name.

Best sneaker in the world: Do Toms count?

Your ancestry: Russian & Norwegian.

Your paternal grandfather’s personal story: He once met Johnny Cash while working as a mechanic at a gas station, and he kept the signed credit card receipt.

Best bar stool in the city: Hmm…Alibi Room?

Dumbest purchase ever: A bunch of old film reels, projectors and cameras. I had hopes of having vintage movie nights outside, but most all of them are broken, mis-matched, or missing parts. Any takers?

What are you proud of: Being Canadian.

The thing that makes you the angriest: Cruelty.

The view from your favourite window: Evergreens and the ocean.

Favourite ice cream flavor: Whatever kind has brownies in it.

Most beautiful body of water: The Pacific.

Food your mom makes better than anyone: Spaghetti with home-made sauce.

The trend you wish you never followed, but did: In grade six I had a pair of acid-washed jeans with elastic ankles. I’m told they’re coming back.

Musical instrument you long to master: Pedal steel.

Sport you gave up: League bowling. Enough said.

Best place to think: On the ferry to Vancouver Island.

Mac or PC: Macs make more sense to me.

The number of fist fights you’ve been in: 1. I lost. I was also in grade 6.

The scariest situation you’ve ever been in: Driving with friends through Baja South Mexico in a 60’s Volkswagen at night, when a huge black SUV pulls up and tries to run us off the road. We thought they were going to kill us, but they had seen the Canadian flag on our rear window, and one of the guys was a former Mexican boxing champ whose hobby was collecting signed flags from travelers. They just wanted to invite some nice Canadians back to their bar for drinks. Whew.

Local person you admire most: There are so many brilliant, incredible, and inspiring people from Vancouver – from activists like David Suzuki, authors like Douglas Coupland and artists like Jeff Wall to friends of mine working in the DTES who are helping put a human face on the myriad of issues there.

Best concert experience ever: Patty Griffin, at the Stanley.

Best people watching: Gene Coffee or English Bay, weather permitting.

Best record label: Not really a follower of labels, just music.

Describe your tattoos: I don’t have any yet.

The dish you’re proud of: After many failed attempts, I can finally make a proper omelette.

The thing that makes you the most nervous: Worrying about remembering lyrics, which leads to forgetting them.

Old television shows you can tolerate re-runs of: Seinfeld.

What are you listening to as you answer these questions: Mavis Staples, You Are Not Alone (produced by Jeff Tweedy!)

Album that first made you first love music: Well, the first record I remember buying with my own money was Michael Jackson’s ‘Dangerous’.

Default junk food: Ice cream.

The career path you considered but never followed: Architect.

Thing you miss most about home when you’re on the road: Quiet.

Three websites you visit every day: Twitter, Facebook, Globe & Mail.

The first three things you do every morning: Stretch, make coffee, read.

The thing you’re addicted to: My iPhone. It’s a love/hate relationship.

Biggest hope: That music can still change the world.

Favourite book as a child: Jelly Belly, by Dennis Lee.

Luckiest moment of your life: Agreeing to the blind date where I met my wife. - Scout Magazine


All [songs] stand out like jewels...a fabulous effort from a superb Canadian artist. - North by East West


Not obviously or overtly commercial, but is much more subtle, an effective balance of heartfelt performance and haunting mood. - The Province


Personal and uncluttered; it’s no surprise his work has already been featured on several American television shows. - Vancouver Sun


Listener(s) will be rewarded with melodious, intimate-sounding works – meditative, personal songs that lend themselves to repeat listenings and a secure piece of real estate on iPod playlists, whatever the season. - Cloverdale Reporter


A folk musician with roots in Medicine Hat will perform in his hometown for the first time this Sunday at the Prickly Pear. “I’m really looking forward to coming home,” Zaac Pick said in a recent interview. “There’s a lot of Medicine Hat in my songs and my music”. Pick’s three-piece ensemble will be playing songs from his debut solo album “Fierce Wind”. Born and raised in Medicine hat, Pick relocated to the Vancouver area in 2002 to play guitar for the newly-formed band Doubting Paris. When the band broke up in 2008, Pick seized the opportunity to launch a successful solo career. Pick’s music has been played on the popular TV dramas “One Tree Hill” and “Ghost Whisperer”. Pick will be joined on stage by cellist and percussionist Brian Chan, and Adrian Metcalf, who plays slide guitar, mandolin, and accordion. “(The audience) can expect an intimate evening of folk-meets-pop music - myself on guitar and vocals, and two of the best musicians I’ve ever played with alternating between instruments,” Pick said. “I’d like people to leave the show with that feeling you get after a great movie - where you’ve been taken on a journey and you’ve gotten to know some of the characters from the songs”. The performance will be held at the Prickly Pear Cafe this Sunday, starting at 8PM. Tickets are available at the Cafe for $10 in advance, but are nearly sold-out. - Medicine Hat News


Discography

- Oh What Night (single) December 2012
- Whitewater EP (November 2011)
- Finding Christmas (single) December 2011
- Fierce Wind EP (2009)

Photos

Bio

When Zaac Pick sings about the inconstancy of time, you can’t help but believe he has the experience to back it up. The Vancouver singer-songwriter brings an older-than-his-years wisdom to every melody his recent four-song EP, Whitewater.

Zaac’s brand of rootsy folk-pop earned acclaim from critics and fans around the country after the release of his first solo EP Fierce Wind in 2009 — notably when his elegiac ballad, ‘My Century’, won him the top prize in Vancouver’s Shore 104FM Song Search. Three other tracks soon found spots in popular TV dramas, One Tree Hill, Degrassi and Ghost Whisperer.

His graceful sophomore EP, released in November 2011, brings a maturity and seasoned tenor that reflects the steady years of writing and touring around the country, performing at both CMW and SXSW, and opening for the likes of The Civil Wars, Bahamas, Leeroy Stagger and Aidan Knight. 

Tom Harrison of The Province states that [Zaac] has “echoes of Paul Simon and Neil Young...authoritative and humble at the same time’. Time is the thread that holds together each of the four tracks on Whitewater as they settle into nature-driven metaphors and gospel-inspired refrains, against a backdrop of strings, mandolin, and slide guitars. 

Recorded primarily at Nimbus School of the Recording Arts, Whitewater was produced by Canadian industry giants GGGarth Richardson and Shawn Cole (Yukon Blonde, Hannah Georgas) and was made possible in part by Zaac’s Song Search win. 

2012 has seen the Whitewater EP nominated for a West Coast Music Award for Best Solo Roots Recording, the title track added into regular rotation on CBC 3, and the accompanying video on MuchMusic. With a pair of cross-country tours behind him, Zaac is currently working on his first full-length album, to be released in summer, 2013.

ZAAC PICK CAREER HIGHLIGHTS:

• 'Whitewater' nominated for WCMA for 'Best Solo Roots Recording'
• 'Whitewater' single in heavy rotation on Vancouver's Shore FM
• 'Whitewater' added to CBC Radio 3 playlist rotation
• 'Whitewater' music video on Much Music's 'The Wedge'
• Opened for The Civil Wars, Bahamas, Leeroy Stagger, Yukon Blonde, Aidan Knight
• Performances during 2011 South By South-West - Head Above Water Showcases
• Performances at 2011 Canadian Music Week - Music BC Showcase
• 2010 Grand Prize Winner in Shore 104FM ‘Sounds of Summer’ songwriting competition for ‘My Century'
• 2010 International Songwriting Competition Semi-Finalist for 'Drifters'
• 2010 International Songwriting Competition Semi-Finalist for 'Summer Moon'
• Performance at 2010 Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival
• Songs ‘Drifters’ and ‘Bad Dream’ featured in episodes of the CW Network’s ‘One Tree Hill
• Song ‘Maybelline’ featured on CBS’ Ghost Whisperer & MuchMusic's Degrassi TNG
• 'My Century' featured on CBC Radio One's The Current