Posted On 15 Jan 2016
Tag: Alex Da Kid, All Access, All Access Music, All Access Music Group, Amalgam, Ariana Grande, Artie Shaw, Artist Interview, Artist Profile, Baroque, Benny Goodman, big band, Bono, Broadway, CARNEY, Confluence, David Foster, David Letterman, Don Was, Edge, EDM, Ellen, Ellen DeGeneres, Gustav Holtz, Hair, Hair The Musical, Hotel Cafe, Inside Wants Out, Instagram, Interscope, Interview, Jack Dishel, Jack White, Jazz, Jeff Buckley, John Mayer, johnmayer.com, Justin Timberlake, Keith Urban, Late Night With David Letterman, Liszt, Live Music, Los Angeles, Lump, Made In America, MADE in America Festival, Made In America Music Festival, Michael Jackson, Mills Brothers, Mozart, Music, music interview, Natasha Bedingfield, New York, New York City, Oprah, Paradise Valley, Peaches, Rachmaninoff, Regina Specktor, Renee Olstead, Roy Hargrove, Russian composers, Scream, Sia, Spider Man - Turn Off The Dark, Spiderman, Spiderman The Musical, Stevie Wonder, Superstition, Taylor Hanson, The Age of Aquarius, The David Letterman Show, The Edge, The Ellen DeGeneres, The Hotel Cafe, The Presidents of The United States of America, The Troubadour, Thornton School of Music, Tommy Dorsey, Tori Kelly, Troubadour, Twitter, U2, USC, USC Thornton School of Music, Wes Montgomery, Zach Levi, Zachary Levi, Zane Carney, zanecarney.com
Zane Carney is a guitarist, singer, and songwriter, most known for his work with John Mayer, CARNEY and Broadway’s “Spider Man – Turn Off The Dark.” Zane has shared the stage with Stevie Wonder, Keith Urban, and Roy Hargrove, appeared on Oprah, Ellen and David Letterman, opened for U2, Fergie, and The Black Crowes with his band CARNEY, and worked collaboratively with Bono & The Edge, Don Was and Alex Da Kid.
Live performance is where Zane’s most inherent gift shines; his undeniably infectious charisma – one that captivates the audience the instant he takes the stage.
“His songwriting style is grounded in visual storytelling, honesty, surrender and hope and his melodies, while imaginative and adventurous, are irresistibly catchy and instantly familiar.” – Bob Lefsetz
As a freshman at USC’s Thornton School of Music, he was approached by David Foster to tour the world with up and coming jazz sensation Renee Olstead – a moment that solidified Zane’s career as a hired-gun guitarist; one that has included playing with house bands for network TV shows, signing to a major label (Interscope) via CARNEY, recording as a go-to guitarist for producers including the likes of Justin Timberlake, and touring the world many times over with artists in a plethora of genres.
Most recently, John Mayer handpicked Zane to play guitar in his touring band and on his album Paradise Valley, sans audition, after Mayer discovered Zane’s guitar playing online. Watch a clip of Zane performing with Mayer in London HERE to get a taste of his extraordinary talent.
Fast forward to present day and Zane has stepped out as a solo artist writing, performing and singing his own material to sold out audiences on the east and west coast. A weekly stint at LA’s Hotel Cafe last year was extended three times, turning what was supposed to be just four shows into a 5 month residency of standing room only performances – evidence that the transition from gunslinger to front man has not been in vain.
While Bono of U2 referred to Zane as “the best guitarist in NY” during his stint at Spider-Man on Broadway, it’s clear that Zane’s passion for singing and songwriting has found listening ears and a buzz that’s continuing to grow. As the awakening unfolds, comparisons to the industry chatter surrounding John Mayer‘s debut EP Inside Wants Out have been somewhat serendipitously drawn…
Zane’s songwriting style is grounded in storytelling and a compelling honesty but while his voice has been compared to that of Jeff Buckley, Zane’s songs tend to unwittingly showcase the passion he has for his first love: guitar.
All Access Music writer, Nicole DeRosa had the pleasure of chatting with Zane between bathroom remodels and touring. Read more in their interview below as Zane talks about all his exciting projects ahead!
Hi Zane! Where does this interview find you today? What’s on your agenda today besides our interview?
I’m actually running around today and about to remodel a bathroom myself! You know, adult kind of stuff! (laughs) I own a home in the Valley and I’m feeling very much like a grown up now! (laughs)
I first found out about you Zane through your band, CARNEY that you were in with your brother, Reeve. For those not as familiar with you and your musical career, how did you get involved in music?
I started playing music when I was about seven years old with some standard piano lessons. When I was about ten, my brother got a guitar for his birthday and I thought it was so awesome and I asked my parents to get me a guitar for my birthday. So after, my brother started playing, I started playing too. I just got really into practicing, playing jazz and all kinds of chord progressions pretty quickly.
By the time I was fifteen, I was playing different clubs and weddings and parties…bar mitzvahs, just doing gigs as a little fifteen year old on the jazz side of things. So, I guess I was playing professionally at fifteen. I went to college for a year and a half and then dropped out because I had a few tour opportunities.
It’s a risky business! I mean, I’m so thankful that somehow or another, I’ve been fortunate enough to make a living as a musician for I dunno, like fourteen or fifteen years! It’s freaking insane! (laughs) So yeah, that’s kind of how my life unfolded.
Most recently, I had the pleasure of seeing you perform at the Made in America Festival with John Mayer. I understand, that John handpicked you to play guitar in his touring band and on his album, “Paradise Valley,” sans audition. How did John find you and how has the experience been playing alongside one another?
“Yeah, John Mayer reached out to me in March of 2013 and it was just a simple email. I’m not quite sure how I got on his radar, but from what I understand, the internet is responsible in some way. (laughs) He went on YouTube and I think maybe a friend of his had recommended me.”
So yeah, then I got a phone call from him and he was very knowledge about my playing and the perspective that I had about playing any style. He was very aware of that and he felt very confident that I would be a good fit. So I was like, “Well, I’m going to trust you. If you think my approach to music will work with you, then I’m super in!” So, I came to the first rehearsal and we went from there.
It seems like a really great meeting of the minds with you and John because you have that openness with one another and you both seem like “old souls”.
I’m just happy to be along for the ride! (laughs) Honestly…I think probably for a lot of musicians or people, there must be some semblance of having that mentality of believing in yourself and your craft.
I enjoy making music and I feel excited when I make a musical choice and I don’t second guess myself and yet, to be linked with musicians who have really shown a very consistent career of making amazing music that really affects people, I still feel in awe of that but at the same time, I don’t feel like the people I play with, I don’t people those people on a pedestal. It’s an odd balance. So far, it’s comfortable for me. Hopefully, it’s comfortable for the people I play with.
You’re a guitarist and songwriter, most known for your work with John Mayer, your band CARNEY, and Broadway’s “Spiderman – Turn Off The Dark.” You have also been the “go-to” guitarist for producers including the likes of Justin Timberlake. What have those experiences been like for you?
Working with John Mayer is one thing…working with Bono and The Edge is almost in some ways another level of fear. (laughs) Your like, “Whoah….these guys are not only are they at the top of the game, but they have been here twice as long. At the time, I had worked with them, they had just sold out the biggest tour in like the history of music.
“There’s a lot of potential fear to put someone on a pedestal, so it’s weird, whenever I work with someone like John or Bono or The Edge, or David Foster or Justin Timberlake or Sia…whenever I’m doing those things, it’s this weird thing where I feel really equal as a musician. I also feel very unequal on a career tip, where I want to give them respect as my bosses and to be of service to them. I try to find that balance. I don’t do it perfectly but that’s kind of the goal. It’s been a crazy freaking fourteen years so far! It’s insane, actually.”
You have a really good head on your shoulders and have a great perspective about the whole thing because you in your own right, as a solo artist, doing what you do, that’s why they want you. You bring your own background and talent to the table.
I hope so! That’s the goal. I really feel like whatever the future holds…I mean, I hope it holds me doing a solo artist thing to the level of excellence of someone like Bono or The Edge or John Mayer or Justin Timberlake. I hope so! That’s definitely the goal and it definitely helps having people like that believe in me. So, I’m just going to keep pushing for that, but until I reach any sort of success where I feel like I can even compare, I just really want to be thankful for all the job opportunities that come my way.
But yeah, I’m definitely hoping to transition outside of being someone who plays guitar for other people and into a solo artist venture.
You have also stepped out as a solo artist writing, performing and singing your own material to sold -out audiences. Your recent stint at LA’s infamous The Hotel Café was extended three times, turning what was supposed to be four shows into a 5 month residency of standing room only performances. What’s the latest for you as a solo artist?
It’s been amazing! It’s just been crazy! On so many levels, it has been supporting me on this vision I had in my head that has the potential to work and the vision I had is to have…it’s almost like a response to the current music culture, which is so processed, like EDM and certain similar tempos that everyone uses and advertising a lifestyle about going out and having fun like you only live once. I kind of wanted to respond to that and offer a different perspective. For me, it has worked better than that lifestyle, which most of the music world is promoting. I tried that EDM current culture advertised music and lifestyle and it really didn’t work for me. I’m keenly aware of the fact I really want to respond to what I feel is an onslaught of promoting a lifestyle.
Generally, the room at The Hotel Café has been selling out for the better part of about five months. That is amazing! And people keep bringing their friends so there are new people each time. I have also been having special guests and friends show up…it’s basically a five month love fest! (laughs)
My friends who sit in are very musically gifted and they are successful musically as well, so I was like “Okay, great, this is working!” And so managers and labels come in weekly. It fits 200 people but feels like you’re in someone’s living room. There’s something about it that has such a welcoming vibe. It’s been nice to have people there. I had Natasha Bedingfield sat in last week and Taylor Hanson sat in about two months ago and my friend Zach Levi who was the star on that tv show, Chuck on NBC, he sat in…Tori Kelly sat in…for the last two show, I don’t know who is going to sit in, but I’m guessing some awesome, cool people.
What was the first song you learned to play?
“The Age of Aquarius” from Hair The Musical, no joke.
Who were your musical influences growing up?
I got into Michael Jackson when I was like ten or eleven when his song, “Scream” came out. I got really into that and then I was also into the band, Presidents of the United States of America and their song, “Peaches” and “Lump.”
When I turned twelve or thirteen, I got into Wes Montgomery and other jazz guitarists and that kind of changed the course for me.
How did you get into jazz? Was there someone in the family or a friend that turned you onto jazz music?
No, I was the black sheep of the family. My brother got into blues big time. Jazz is very different in a million different ways. I got into some avant garde, crazy uptempo stuff in school. I don’t know really where I got the bug from.
You have shared the stage with Stevie Wonder, Keith Urban, Roy Hargrove and many others. You have also opened for U2, Fergie and The Black Crowes with your band, CARNEY. You have also worked collaboratively with again, John Mayer, Bono and The Edge, Justin Timberlake, David Foster, Don Was and producer, Alex Da Kid and many others. Who would you love to collaborate with next?
Oh yeah, there are tons of people! I’m actually really great friends with a really great husband and wife, who I think are two of the greatest songwriters going right now, Jack Dishel and Regina Specktor. They just floor me. I’d love to collaborate with both of them, for sure one day.
I’d love Ariana Grande. She’s crazy! That girl is insane! It’s funny, because now she is massive, but I bought her first album right when it came out and I think that single she had with Mac Miller was great. I thought it was genius!
I will say, to be fair, I didn’t really collaborate with Stevie Wonder. That was a gig I did when I was nineteen. He sat in and he came on stage and I was like, “Whooooahhh!” He sat in and we played “Superstition” he left. But yeah, we shared a stage. But, I don’t think I was exactly on Stevie’s radar.
Do you have any advice to share with other musicians and artists about the craft and your experiences?
I was watching this interview of Jack White where he talks about how he got to where he is at today in his musical career and it seemed like working really hard and focusing a lot on expressing himself creatively just became his passion and instead of letting fear overcome or a Plan B he felt like it more important to thrive and live in his art and press forward. When he would wake up and he was having a lazy day, he would say, “Fine, but tomorrow I’m going to work harder or just get in there and get creative.”
I think that’s been true for a lot of my friends who have been lucky enough to make a career out of the arts. For me, these lucky chances came about, where I had the chance to fix a pedal board. (laughs) It’s a small detail to fix a pedal board, to have the right sound and or have the right organization, but those little details might have lead to me making three less mistakes on stage and maybe one of those three mistakes would never have eventually led me to play with Stevie Wonder.
I have been very detailed about being myself and these insane things happen, where people call so…yeah, I couldn’t have forced these things to happen.
Who is in your current playlist? Any artists or genres we might be surprised to find in there?
You know it’s funny, the main focus in my life has been creating and writing my own songs and trying to get there, so what I tend to do in times like that is the opposite of what a lot of my friends do which is to listen to new music that gives them ideas, I listen to music that comforts me.
A lot of my own songwriting process is that I already have a lot of the ideas in my head, I just need to get off my lazy butt and kind of do it. (laughs) Not lazy…but yeah, just do it. So music, these days, I listen to music to comfort me, to get away from the stress and mish mosh.
I tend to listen to the same music every day to put me in a zen state and it’s generally from one or two playlists I have. I created a playlist that has about 400 traditional jazz pieces somewhere between 1929-1945 in that range and sprinkled in that playlist are some Mills Brothers songs, some vocal music, but mostly instrumental but then it also has stuff like big band, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and stuff from that era.
Or I put on the other playlist that I made that also has about 400 songs that are different recorded orchestras like Gustav Holtz and Rachmaninoff, some Liszt. Generally, the classical music that I am inspired by is languid, melodic and like insane rich melody. It’s basically like Mozart and the classical Baroque eras, post 1880s and gut wrenching like all the Russian composers that are like,”eat your heart out” great! I listen to one of those two playlists about ninety percent of the time.
What’s on tap for you next, Zane?
I will be headlining a show with a full band at the Troubadour on Saturday, January 17th.
Head to zanecarney.com to learn more about Zane, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@zanecarney) to get wind of secret shows, live streaming broadcasts and gig updates. You can also go to johnmayer.com to see when Zane will be performing with John Mayer in a town near you.
Zane Carney’s Confluence (Singer-Songwriter EP) and Amalgam (Jazz Guitar Album) are both available Worldwide on the iTunes Music Store