I met Zion Rodman in 2017 and was immediately taken with his songs. His debut album, You’re Invited, was received favorably in the local Boston scene. I fondly remember a set of his at Club Passim that was as good as it gets and his appearance at the White Rose Open Mic Contest blew everyone away and he went away with first place. I was looking forward to seeing Zion again and then he broke the news that he was moving to Chicago. Boston’s loss is Chicago’s gain. As Zion explains below, this move enabled him to stretch his music muscles. And, boy, oh boy….. did he ever! Zion is making some damn fine indie pop/folk/rock! I’m definitely looking forward to hearing what’s down the road for this very talented musician.
Find out more about Zion Rodman on his website.
Here’s a chance to see Zion and his power trio playing live.
I asked Zion what his favorite folky song of his was: “The Floor” recorded at the Uncommon Ground in Chicago.
You did you first get into music? Were you a precocious music kid in school? 🙂
I was about 12 years old when I first became interested in playing music. I actually wanted to be a drummer first because of Green Day. Their songs just have this simple, fun, timeless quality to them and everyone always looked like they were having so much fun especially their drummer so I really wanted to know what it felt like to be behind a real kit. I also started playing guitar shortly after because my dad and I found this cheap beginners guitar in a TJ Maxx bargain bin while doing back to school clothes shopping. So I had a guitar at home to pick around on and started taking drum lessons at my local conservatory and I was off. Bass and keys came later as a tool to write with and has really helped with recording since I’m playing all the parts.
I wasn’t a precocious kid in school. I didn’t join a school group until my senior year of high school when I played percussion for symphony, and then in my music major for college I was pretty good in class. Before that I mostly played house shows with my high school bands and we had fun practices.
According to your bio, you’re a multi-instrumentalist. If you had to choose only one instrument to play for the rest of your life, what would it be?
If I had to choose only one, it would be the guitar because it’s the instrument I can express myself most honestly on.
My memories of you from your Boston days were guitar-based gigs but I can’t help but notice that your latest album, Whatever Happens, is much more piano-driven. Do your live shows sometimes exchange the piano parts for the guitar?
A lot of the songs on this record are more piano driven on purpose as I wanted to explore that and flesh out the ideas I had written on the piano. When I play live however, I usually stick with guitar arrangements. I’m much more comfortable on the guitar and can really let the songs speak for themselves whereas if I were playing them on keys I would be much more thinking about getting the notes right under my hands.
I’m curious if Ben Folds is an influence on you. I have nothing but favorable comparisons to make in that regard. Would you count Ben as a significant musical influence in your life ….or maybe I’m hearing something that only knocking around in my own little musical world.
I smiled real big at this question. Ben Folds is without a doubt one of my biggest influences and musical heroes. His songs are the whole reason I ever tried to start playing piano in the first place. In terms of structure, lyricism, and overall composition, I try to model a lot of my songs after his. “Crowded Room” I think is my best impersonation of him.
Another musician I hear you putting out there is a guy named Gregg Alexander who fronted a band from the last 1990s called The New Radicals. Have you ever heard him? Check out “Someday We’ll Know.” Chicago is mentioned in the first line.
I like him too. Not as big of an influence as Ben Folds is for me but still a great songwriter. I’ve always meant to get more into New Radicals but I’m more familiar with his work through that movie Begin Again. I like to play “Lost Stars” from time to time.
Speaking of Chicago, I want to know what the music scene is like there? How is the same or different from the Boston scene?
Chicago is a much bigger city than Boston so everything is just more spread out. In Boston there were tons of great musicians, but we were all in the same area so I liked that because I got pretty close to the people in the scene, but it can also just be a tad limiting as I found it hard to break away from my little bubble. It was a great bubble don’t get me wrong but being in Chicago, I feel like I’m forced to discover new scenes just because of how much bigger it is. I’ve also noticed that most open mics in Chicago are inclusive to hiphop artists, whereas open mics in Boston were mostly centered around acoustic acts, though that might have changed since I left.
Tell me about your band. Who plays with you? All I could think as I listened to the songs on Whatever Happens is how much fun it would be to hear them live!!
Right now I’m playing with a bassist named Christopher Dixon and a drummer named Rob Durkee, so a real simple power trio set up. They’re talented musicians who seem to genuinely like my music, and we can adapt to a more laidback set at SoFar shows or a full rock band sound for a bigger stage. I would love to get another guitar or keyboard in there possibly but a trio is always the easiest setup. It’s just nice to have a little muscle behind my songs so it’s always exciting to play with others. We’re excited to work up some arrangements for the new songs live too.
How are you holding up during COVID? Have you discovered anything new about yourself since being cooped up?
Covid, Covid, Covid! The only new thing I’ve discovered about myself since Covid was how awful it feels to have it. It’s been tough on all of us. In my little section of the world, I had to cancel like 5 shows for this record, had to cancel all rehearsals, and basically do nothing which is annoying but it’s been alright. I was still able to release this record and pay my rent off of record sales alone so that was nice. The time off has been appreciated, too. I just really want to get back to playing shows and rehearsing again but I don’t when that will be. I know safety is the priority but yeah it’s been tough for all of us. I’ve been able to at least remain productive through this and write some more songs and I’m ready to record my next album.