The Deli Philly's Featured Artist Poll Winner: Zack Krall

By: Alexis V.

December 21, 2017

It seems that a genuine love for the guitar is the catalyst for bringing Zack Krall into the world of songwriting. With what sounds like an insatiable appetite for music, the young artist continues to take in his surroundings, weaving them into the tapestry of his latest recordings. Krall recently shared his new single, "That Girl," which finds him at the crossroads of Jack White-inspired rock 'n' roll, blues licks and Beatles psychedelia, and is looking forward to releasing his debut full-length album in the coming year. However, before Breathe drops in February, you can read more about our final Deli Philly Featured Artist(s) Poll Winner of 2017 below.

The Deli: How did you start making music?

Zack Krall: I started playing guitar the summer before sixth grade. I had already been playing piano and trumpet, but didn’t get hooked on those quite the same way that I did with the guitar. I almost immediately started trying to write music (which led to a pretty embarrassing talent show in sixth grade but that’s a story for a different time). By high school, though, I had figured the whole songwriting thing out a little bit more, but didn’t really perform anywhere except the school talent show, and I didn’t have a band. In ninth grade, a friend of mine named Chris Cerbone, who didn’t play drums at all, kind of just volunteered to take up drums and start a band, so we did it. We learned a few Ramones songs and White Stripes songs, and before long, got a couple other guys involved and started writing our own music and playing it around town when we could. We played at the local music store a few times, at street fairs, and that sort of thing. That band has since fallen apart, but Chris and I still work together. He played drums on a good portion of my album that’s on its way, including the first single, “Cannonball”.

TD: What are your biggest musical influences?

ZK: The reason that I got into music to begin with was an absolute obsession with The Beatles in fourth and fifth grade; they’re still a big influence on me musically. There’s also, of course, Jimi Hendrix. He’s easily my favorite guitarist of all time for pretty obvious reasons. I think that the biggest influence on my actual style of playing and songwriting, though, is Jack White, because of when I started listening to him. I discovered The White Stripes around the time that I was starting my first real band in high school, and I loved how raw their music was and how much sound they could make for a two-piece band. This definitely influenced the way I went about making music. But it also led me deeper into blues stuff that I knew but had never given my full attention to, and that was really important for me. I got to see Buddy Guy live during my junior year of high school, and that show really changed my playing. I was just starting to play with a new band around then, and we would get into long jams on blues numbers or Hendrix songs and to see a legend like Buddy Guy at that time made me a different guitarist. I took the instrument almost more seriously. I spent more time really learning to play and soloing over blues backing tracks and that sort of thing rather than just knowing my basic chords and a few licks. There are tons of other influences on me, and I listen to as many different styles as I can, but those are sort of the turning points.

TD: What artists (local, national and/or international) are you currently listening to?

ZK: On a national level, I got into Black Pistol Fire recently. I went to see them live at The Foundry with the other guitarist in my band, Aram Donabed, and it was the kind of show that when they finished, I turned to him, and we both just said “wow”. They had so much energy. Their albums are great too, but don’t even do the live show justice. I also saw The National a couple months ago now, and was really into them. The same case with The War on Drugs, who I saw in September. Before that, it was Gary Clark Jr. and Michael Kiwanuka, who I saw on the same bill over the summer and are both incredible – not to mention that Gary knows his way around a guitar. Over the summer, I also made it to one day of Panorama in New York, and started listening to a lot of Active Bird Community and Alt-J. Those have all been on my playlist for the past couple months since I tend to get pretty into bands that I see live. Locally, I’m a fan of Val Jester. They released their first album last spring, and it’s an awesome album from top to bottom. I also really like Maggie Barnett’s music. She actually just started playing bass with my band, but also has some really cool solo material. Z by Z is another band from where I am in University City that has some good, fun rock. So is The Cold Spring. They never disappoint. I could go on and on, but those are a few.

TD: What's the first concert that you ever attended and first album that you ever bought?

ZK: My parents started taking me to The Clearwater Festival in Croton, New York when I was like four or so, and I’ve been going just about every year since then. It’s a really cool music and arts festival that’s focused on protecting the Hudson River. I’ve seen some awesome acts there too – Arlo Guthrie, Joseph Arthur, Lake Street Dive, Drive-By Truckers, Son Volt, and Martin Martin Sexton just to name a few. The first concert that I remember other than Clearwater was a Paul McCartney show. It was a pretty incredible first stand-alone show to go to. I was about ten or eleven, and Paul McCartney was my absolute favorite so I was, of course, blown away. Paul McCartney was also the first album that I actually picked out myself. It was a two-CD live show called Tripping the Live Fantastic that I got at a record store in New York around the same time that I went to the show. I would listen to that album practically on loop, and it made me want to pick up a guitar. I remember trying to play my dad’s old classical guitar along with some of the songs on the album. I wasn’t very successful, but before long, I got my first guitar – and actually started learning how to use it – partly because of that album.

TD: What do you love about Philly?

ZK: There’s a lot to love about Philly. It’s just a really nice city to live in. But the thing that I think I’ve come to love about it the most is the music scene. There are a lot of artists in a relatively small area, but it never feels cut-throat or anything like that. Everyone is really supportive, and the bands and artists are willing to help each other out where they can. And on basically any given night, I can decide I want to see some live music, and there are options all around me in every size show and every genre imaginable.

TD: What do you hate about Philly?

ZK: There’s honestly nothing that I hate about Philly. I’m sure my mom will be reading this so, you know, it’s too far from my family – I think that’s what they’d want me to say.

TD: What are your plans for 2018?

ZK: Well, my biggest plan for 2018 is releasing my first full-length album, Breathe. “Cannonball” was the first single, and I have a new one, called “That Girl”. The full album will be out in February. With that, my band and I are also going to be playing some live shows, which I haven’t done too much of recently while getting this album ready. So we’re excited for that! Beyond that, we’ll see. Those are definitely the priorities right now.

TD: What was your most memorable live show?

ZK: I can think of a couple memorable ones – my first actual gig that wasn’t a school talent show and then my first show outside of my hometown, because that finally felt like a real gig – but I think that the most memorable one was actually one in my own basement. In my senior year of high school, myself and a few other musicians from my town decided to start a concert series for the local music scene that we called The Front Porch Series. Naturally, we tried a show on someone’s porch, but there was a noise complaint, and police arrived so we tried again in my basement – still calling it The Front Porch Series – and it was a success. We had twelve bands and solo performers all playing on the same night. We intended to end by about eleven o’clock, and it went until closer to two or something. But it was great. We had a mosh pit in my basement and a huge turnout, yet nothing was broken and nobody was hurt, with the exception of one crowd surfing related bloody nose. It was just pure fun and brought together a little music scene in our town. We did it a few more times but that first one was the most memorable.

TD: What's your favorite thing to get at the deli?

ZK: I’m a sucker for fresh mozzarella.