Smile Politely

Clearing the shelves with Zach Vinson

Zach Vinson is a delightful young troubadour who writes and performs jangly effervescent pop songs. Roaming the Midwest on his “Empty Bookshelves” tour, he will be stopping through Champaign on Saturday to entertain the young lovers at Mike ‘n Molly’s. Zach agreed to answer some of our burning questions:

Smile Politely: First of all, where are you from?

Zach Vinson: Born and raised in Sheboygan, WI, but now I live in Grand Rapids, MI with my wife.

Smile Politely: When did you start playing music, and what sparked your initial interest?

Zach Vinson: I started playing the piano when I was 8, which I think was my parents’ choice, not my own. I wanted to quit through most of elementary school, but they didn’t give me the option until I was in middle school, and by that time I didn’t want to stop.

Smile Politely: I noticed that you enjoy casseroles. What are your top five other favorite foods?

Zach Vinson: Anything that comes in gummy form, smoothies, Lemonheads, apples, good pizza.

Smile Politely: So, this is your fourth stop on the “Empty Bookshelves” tour…. do you care to share what that name means?

Zach Vinson: Yeah, it’s called the Empty The Bookshelves Tour, the idea being that we’re bringing a whole bunch of used books along with us to give away at the shows. Anyone who buys a CD or a t-shirt will get their choice of a free book, and we’ve got everything from the classics (Dickens, Melville, etc.) to theology to children’s books to philosphy to a book on how best to raise a hamster. Basically, I just really enjoy reading. I’m hoping that this will both interest fellow readers and also cause a few people who aren’t in the habit of doing a lot of reading to sit down with a good book.

Smile Politely: Are you bringing anyone else with you on tour… as in band members?

Zach Vinson: I am indeed, which I am very excited about. My friends Mat Churchill (bass) and Chris Wilson (drums) will be coming along for the ride. I just got back from one last practice with them before we hit the road, and things are turning out quite well. They’ve played with me several times before, and I’m glad that it worked out for them to come along on this tour; it really helps the songs come alive as I hear them in my head.

Smile Politely: Do you have a day job… how do you spend most of your time?

Zach Vinson: Right now I work part-time in a sandwich shop. It isn’t great; it isn’t awful; it helps pay a few bills. But thankfully, I’ve been able to piece together enough musical odd jobs (playing at restaurants, churches, weddings, bars, etc.) that more of my income comes from music than from my “real” job (in a good month, anyhow). It also helps that my wife has a job with insurance and all that good stuff, and she’s super-supportive of me continuing to pour my time into music.

Smile Politely: What music is rocking your world right now? What is in your cd player?

Zach Vinson: I’m not particularly good at keeping up with the latest releases in the music world, so this might be a bit dated. I recently picked up Funnel Cloud by Hem, which contains some really beautiful music. I play that album almost every time I am making dinner by myself; it brings on a healthy lonesomeness. Over the Rhine and Iron and Wine are never far from my CD player. Ohio by Over the Rhine is probably the #1 album for me. And when I’m feeling rambunctious, I’ll toss in some early Kings of Leon.

Smile Politely: Read any good books lately?

Zach Vinson: Most definitely. A few weeks back I finished A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens. There are some classics that I read and I walk away thinking, “why do people think this is good?” A Tale is definitely not one of those. Just a really interesting history of some of the events surrounding the French Revolution (which was one truly messed up time), and an incredible interweaving of each of the characters’ individual stories. I’m currently in the middle of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison which is a novel that explores the strange place African Americans found themselves in in the decades following the abolition of slavery. Really eye-opening for me, as that’s obviously something pretty far-removed from my own experience.

Smile Politely: This is the part where you can add anything or say anything you want to the readers of Smile Politely. Any messages for them?

Zach Vinson: Well I suppose I should start with the obligatory plug for the show on Saturday, Oct 24 at Mike n Molly’s at 10 p.m. Despite all this stodgy, boring talk of books and mellow music, it should be a pretty lively show, and I’m really looking forward to it (this will be my first time in Champaign). I’m not very cool, so be kind and cut me some slack.

Lastly, I accept of all forms of gummy candy or jell-o, if anyone wishes to make such a donation.


Also featured at Mike n’ Molly’s on Saturday are local darlings Mordechai in the Mirror and The Palace Flophouse. Show starts at 10, $5 cover, 21+. Hope to see you there!

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