Exclusive: Zach Top Discusses ‘Cold Beer and Country Music,’ His Timeless Sound, Songwriting, and More

Zach Top grew up on a ranch in rural Washington surrounded by sprawling fields, endless skies, and hard work. Classic country music and bluegrass made up the soundtrack to his youth. Now, the 26-year-old singer/songwriter is ready to add to the tapestry of country music. He pulled from a deep well of classic influences to create his timeless debut album Cold Beer and Country Music which landed on streaming services and record store shelves today.

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Ahead of the release of Cold Beer and Country Music, Top sat down with American Songwriter to talk about his influences, songwriting, his favorite songs from the album, and more.

[RELATED: Zach Top’s Neotraditional Country Banger “Sounds Like the Radio” Is the Most-Added Single on Country Radio]

Zach Top on Developing His Timeless Sound

The album opener “Sounds Like the Radio” contains the line It sounds like the radio / Back in ’94 you know. That line does a great job of encapsulating what Cold Beer and Country Music has to offer. Any one of the dozen songs in this collection could have been a hit in the mid-90s. However, Top didn’t sit down to write these songs with that sound in mind.

“I wouldn’t say I decided to go with a ‘90s sound. That’s the stuff that made me fall in love with country music,” Top said. “Beyond that, all those guys I loved in the ‘90s, I tried to go back and find their influences. Those guys were listening to Haggard and Jones and Lefty Frizzell, Ernest Tubb, Ray Price, and stuff like that when they were coming up. So, I tried to go back to that stuff and get what I could out of there,” he added.

“I think through all my studying and delving back into all that stuff, I found my own little version of it,” he continued. “That’s all I know how to do. When I write or sing or play, that’s just what comes out. I guess I don’t know how to do nothing else. That’s just who I am.”

Becoming a Songwriter

“Growing up, I wasn’t very focused on songwriting,” Top revealed.  “I put all my energy into working on my singing and playing. It wasn’t until I started coming to Nashville and started working with Carson Chamberlain that I started really writing songs,” he added.

Top went on to say that Chamberlain asked him if he wanted to be a songwriter and he decided he’d give it a shot. After that, Chamberlain started setting up co-writing sessions for them. As a result, they share writing credits on all 12 songs on the album. The dynamic duo also worked with songwriters like Mark Nesler, Paul Overstreet, and Roger Springer, among others.

“Once I got into it, I really fell in love with the whole process,” Top said. “There’s something really cool about being able to see the whole process of the creation of a song from a seedling of an idea. I think it’s cool to see that process. I think it makes it mean a little more to me as opposed to cutting an outside song where you didn’t have any part in writing it,” he added.

Zach Top Took His Time to Make a Good First Impression

Rome wasn’t built in a day and Cold Beer and Country Music didn’t come together that quickly either. Top said he and Chamberlain started writing the songs for this album five years ago. “We kind of cherry-picked all of our favorite things that we thought came together to make a cohesive project,” he revealed. “It’s just fun to get these songs to finally see the light of day and let people hear what I’ve been working on for a while. You only get one chance to make that first impression and we wanted to get it right.”

Zach Top’s Favorite Songs from Cold Beer and Country Music

When asked about his favorite songs on the album, Top said it was like asking him to pick his favorite child. However, even the most loving parents can pick a favorite (or two) if they think hard enough.

“Cold Beer and Country Music”

“I think I would point to a couple different ones for different reasons,” he said after some thought.  “Something like ‘Cold Beer and Country Music’ has been one of my favorite songs that I’ve written since the second we wrote it. Carson Chamberlain had that idea. We wrote that out in Colorado, just the two of us,” Top recalled.  About the song, he said, “I think that’s just a quintessential honky tonk country-to-the-bone song. I think that’s a great encapsulation of what my music is lyrically and musically. It’s really old school and sounds kind of like a half-time Haggard song. Something like ‘Stay Here and Drink.’ I love that stuff. It’s so fun. We end our show every night with that song and I think it’s perfect for that.”

“Use Me”

Top went on to say that another of his favorites on the album is one that he wasn’t sure would go over well with fans. “One of my other favorites on there is ‘Use Me’ for sure. I think that’s such a raw and real song. And I think it’s unexpected,” he said. “That’s not a fashionable thing right now—a cheatin’ waltz. But, since we put it out a couple of weeks ago, it has been the fastest-growing song that we’ve put out as far as streaming numbers. I knew it would be a love it or hate it thing because of the nature of the song.”

“Cowboys Like Me Do”

Then, Top pointed to his third favorite on Cold Beer and Country Music and the only one of the group that didn’t come out ahead of the album. “I love ‘Cowboys Like Me Do’ I wrote that song with Carson and Roger Springer. That thing feels like a Hallmark movie. The lyrics just paint a picture and it’s a cowboy-feeling groove. It’s got a little lope to it. I think that’s another one that I think people are going to resonate with.”

Zach Top on Cold Beer and Country Music

“I think people want to hear songs about real life and real problems and real struggles. And I think sometimes we get a little too caught up in the party aspect of putting out music and wanting to have a fun live show,” he said. “I hope that’s how this record comes across, that there’s a little something for everybody. There’s plenty of those songs that you can slam a bunch of beers to and stomp your foot and have a grand time. Then, if you’re feeling heartbroken, there’s stuff on there for you, too,” he added.

However, it’s not just his album that has that mass appeal. It’s also what draws Zach Top—and countless other fans—to country music as a whole.  “That’s one of my favorite things about country music, there’s something there for everybody. Everybody can have a moment where they feel understood and seen. I think that’s really important. That’s what good music does, it puts into words and melodies what people maybe can’t say on their own. But, when they hear the right song, they feel understood. “

Featured Image: Kate Lamonondala

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