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Graduate launches own label to record album

Marisa Iati | Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Country crooner Zach DuBois hasn’t missed a beat since graduating from Notre Dame last May.  

The Elkhart, Ind., native visited South Bend earlier this week to perform at the Golden Gnome on Monday night. He has played in approximately 15 states in the Midwest and Southeast since beginning his spring tour in late January.

Performing professionally is more feasible than people think, DuBois said, but it requires business knowledge in addition to musical talent.

“You can be the best songwriter in the world, but if you don’t have the business savvy, no one’s ever going to find out about you,” he said. “You really need to walk that line between your art and your business.”

DuBois launched a record label last winter, and said he is learning the business skills necessary to run it as he goes along.

“It’s one of those things where you just decide to do it and you find a way to make it happen,” DuBois said. “My body of knowledge is evolving and expanding every day, which is a good thing … I’m very far from where I need to be, but I’m working every day to get there.”

DuBois said he was surprised how draining being on the road is, and has learned to approach his job professionally.

“People think that you’re a musician, you go out and party and get drunk at a bar every night … but that couldn’t be farther from the truth,” he said. “If I would go out and get drunk every night when I play, my product would suffer so, so terribly.”

Dubois said he picked up the guitar the summer before his senior year of high school when he suffered a stress fracture, preventing him from participating in football practice.

“I was watching GAC [Great American Country], which is country music television, and a Dierks Bentley song came on,” DuBois said. “I was like, ‘You know what, I should do that.’ My dad played guitar, had just taught himself off and on, so we had an old guitar … and so I took that guitar out, and I guess you could say the rest is history.”

The injury was a blessing in disguise, DuBois said, and he wrote a song titled “Happens for a Reason” to describe the benefits that can come from challenges.
DuBois said he played in front of a crowd for the first time during the Keenan Revue at Notre Dame.

“I wrote a song for it called ‘Hip-Hop Night at Legends,’ and it’s a pretty raunchy song,” he said. “So the first time I ever played in front of people was … in front of 2,000 people.”

DuBois majored in psychology and pre-professional studies with the goal of becoming a doctor, but decided to pursue a career in music while taking an entrepreneurship class during his senior year.

“It was one of those things that just kind of progressed and evolved naturally,” DuBois said. “I kind of wanted to drop out of school at one point and move down to Nashville, but I never vocalized it.”

DuBois said playing covers of country singer Corey Smith’s songs in Athens, Ga., was one of his favorite experiences as a musician so far, but he is excited to perform in Indiana this spring.

DuBois released a single titled “Back Home Again” in April and will record a full album in August.

“The way I see it is music is kind of a snowball effect,” he said. “It starts out slow and it’s really hard to get it started … [Recording my next album is] probably as far ahead as I’ve thought so far. Hopefully I keep moving in the right direction, but how fast I keep moving in that direction, I don’t know.”

Amateur musicians who want to pursue careers as performers should be prepared to work hard because the job is “a grind,” DuBois said.

“I would say the big thing is learn how to work the line between your art and your business because that’s the biggest balancing act that you’re going to do,” DuBois said. “If you focus on one thing, you’re not going to succeed too much, so you really need to walk that line and balance the art and the business aspect.”
In order to succeed, musicians must remember that no one will do their work for them, DuBois said.

“You have to do it all on your own, especially starting out, but who better to manage your career than yourself … so you’re going to want to work that hard anyway,” he said. “But I would say that’s a feasible thing to do. It’s definitely a feasible thing and it’s something that you can do if you’re willing to work hard at it.”