zach hood
photo: Lauren Wade

Zach Hood

From the opening notes of, “i ain’t rich, girl,” the first track of Alabama-born singer-songwriter Zach Hood’s 2023 EP BLOSSOM, the listener is treated to the sound of artistic and personal growth happening in real-time. His tone, at that time, was tinny, with his soft palette lifted almost in an attempt to sound like Illuminate-era Shawn Mendes. Even so, his skill caught the eyes and ears of Daryl Hall of Hall & Oats, who approved Hood’s usage of the “Rich Girl” sample in “I ain’t rich, girl.” Additional songs from the project, including “when she was mine” and “never knew a heart could break itself,” garnered streams well upwards of 10 million.

In just a year, Hood has slowly but steadily grown into himself as a vocalist. On “dopamine,” his more alternative-leaning ballad released in January, he sounds intentional. Still in limbo between pop and R&B vocal stylings, but getting closer to discovering his full capacity. After “dopamine,” he quickly followed up with the deeply personal “how to change a tire” and, most recently, with the acoustic pop banger “Weatherman,” out now.

Unafraid

In interviews, Hood is unafraid to be 22 years old… unafraid to be himself. He displays several Gen-Zisms, throwing in an “Ight, bet” or a “… facts” to the tail end of phrases, or as a general response. He speaks of his musical influences, most coming from the early-mid 2010s, with reverence. He appears validated when applauded for decisions he felt could have been glossed over or rejected.

At work, he is all business. A convincing portal for his own emotions of portraying the sensitivity of his lyrics through his face and body language. This is best displayed in the music videos for “lonely isn’t the word for this” and “Weatherman,” both of which lean into his theatrical, conceptual side. “Before we do the videos, I always say, ‘Lemme put my acting pants on,’” he said. “I feel like it’s another extension of who I am as a person.”

“Weatherman” 

“Weatherman,” about the slow and painful realization that a relationship has soured, is a much-needed return to a more uptempo template. It contains the kind of smart and organic melodic line most baritenors can only dream of as Hood sits in his absolute purest sweet spot, comfortably able to octave-double himself as the song progresses. It sounds almost accidental, though it is a textbook rise and fall. “And I don’t know how and I… don’t know why/ But my eyes they rain, got a… cloudy mind.”

“This was one of those sessions I came into with no ideas,” he admitted. “I came in, and my producer, Jayden Seeley, was just sitting there playing the guitar. The first thing he played, like, immediately, I just sang, ‘The other day…,’ and the song literally wrote itself.” He was then tasked with creating his emotional window into the song almost on the spot. “When I’m singing a song in a session, it’s my first time singing it, so I forget to sing with emotion,” he continued. “I’m trying to remember the melodies… the things that we did, the inflections, the runs. My producer, Jayden, will be sitting there, and he’ll say, ‘Don’t forget what the song is about.’”

That reminder allows him to focus in on hitting tiny emotional marks throughout the song, such as the slight touch of vocal fry, with a hint of a squeak, on ‘noncommittal’: “You’re somewhere in the middle of the… black and the white/ You’re growin’ noncommittal I can see it in your eyes.” It is a blink-and-miss-it moment for those listening without headphones, but is a critical moment of texture. “I didn’t even mean to do that,” he said with a modest laugh and wide smile. “I was like, ‘Please keep that in man, I like that.'”

Embracing The South

For Hood, his last two releases signal a turning point not only creatively, but in his decision to add his natural southern flair to his music. “I’m from Alabama, and before this, I feel like we were kind of straying away from this country accent that I have,” he said. “But, with ‘how to change a tire’ and ‘Weatherman,’ I feel like there are some ‘countryish’ accents that people can hear. Now, I’m starting to embrace where I’m from and put more of that into my music.”

When asked to recall memories from his time in the South that led to his journey in music, he lifts up his sleeve to reveal a tattoo of a Pontiac Sunflower… his mom’s old car. “I remember singing in this car like there was no tomorrow,” he said. “We had a Bruno Mars Doo Wops & Hooligans CD… she would pop that in, and I would not shut up. Fast forward to junior year of high school, and I begged my mom to get me a piano. I started learning like, three chords. Then, I posted it to TikTok, and things started happening.” Even with limited performing experience prior to making a name for himself with songs like “Isabelle” and “Flashbacks,” his somewhat nontraditional path led him to where he needed to be. “The main things that came from Alabama are what happened behind closed doors,” he added. “Just kind of working on my craft.”

“how to change a tire”

While “Weatherman” depicts Hood’s mindset during an isolated moment in time, “how to change a tire,” his autobiographical word vomit of growing up without a father, is like the release of a time capsule: “I was eight years old… in a world. smaller than my hands/ The only pain I’ve ever known was a concrete scrape back then/ Till my. brother told… me it’s time to grow up and be a man/ Cause daddy built a home with someone else, somewhere else instead.”

This tune, along with “Flashbacks” and others, have been a vehicle for Hood and his family to examine the past together. They had not yet done so, but music… this tangible, artistic thing that is accessible to all yet understood by so few, has allowed them to have those conversations.

Both the song itself and the music video for “how to change a tire” are raw, unfiltered representations of pent-up rage, sadness, and a desire to understand why he was put in this position as a boy: “I see you in my face, but I got my mother’s heart/ I love the light I made, but there’s always a missin’ part.”

“It’s such a specific story, so I was intimidated about putting that out,” he said. “I’ll never not be nervous when I tease or release a song, but for this one, I was so scared. It’s arms wide open… like, ‘Look at me,” kind of thing. But then, I was like… ‘Bro, this is MY story. I gotta do this.’”

Through the pain and the unanswered questions, this song reinforced a silver lining that was likely etched into him the day he was forced to grow up. “I’ve learned that I’m so much closer with my family than I think I would ever be if he stayed in the picture,” he said, definitively. “I’m a big believer that in my life, everything happens for a reason. I try to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective. I feel like I get that from my mom. I’m such a momma’s boy. A family man.”

Just weeks after the release of “Weatherman,” Hood has already teased and announced a new song called “Fireflies & Southern Weather,” which is available to pre-save now.

Stream “Weatherman” and more by Zach Hood: