Grief as a catalyst for art often brings out the best in creative types. In the case New Zealand’s Woodlock, the emotional carnage of guitarist/vocalist Zech Walters’ divorce provided the fuel for their new EP Collateral which comes out in the Fall. American Songwriter premieres the track “Start Again.”
“It’s a struggle with the second verse,” Zech admits about having to lay the vocal tracks for “Start Again.” Harmonizing with his brother Eze who shoulders some of the heartache, he sings, “There’s a fire that burning away / Everything I know will one day fall.” The pain and melancholy is palpable in his voice and it’s a hard to listen without empathically absorbing some of that despair. “I wholeheartedly believed that I would come back together with my ex-wife and ‘start again’ with her,” he explains about the swirling narrative. With his sister adding a third harmony into the chorus, the support that they provide transcends the music, adding an unexpected emotional wallop.
“When people are going through a break-up, you put the right conditions down for a fire and it damages everything around it,” he says. “It’s the idea of, we’re sitting there trying to hurt each other, but we ended up burning and hurting everyone else around us.”
Happening while on their trajectory up the music industry chain, Zech’s divorce nearly sidelined the band. Having released three well-received EPs (2013’s Lemons, 2014’s Labour of Love and 2015’s Sirens), the band had wrapped up transcontinental headlining tours when his marriage took a nosedive.
With an overwhelming and suffocating anguish, it’s heartbreaking to listen to him pine for his lost marriage in the track. “If everything changed, I’d be home / No matter what comes, I’ll be here waiting,” he sings, clutching for some semblance of hope for a reconciliation that never arrives. Instead of pushing forward and leaving him to fend for himself emotionally, the band put their careers on hold to buoy him above the surface.
With his band as a support system, Zech powered through his acrimonious divorce, and the band signed a new record deal with Nettwerk, delivering a batch of songs, six of which comprise the Collateral EP. With each song essentially documenting his emotional and mental state, it provided the release and catharsis he needed to learn to cope and deal with the grief.
In all of its misery, “Start Again,” as its title suggests, is a song about rebirth and hope, offering a glimmer of optimism that flickers through that darkness. “This song is an interesting one for me,” he explains. “I wrote this in the lowest of lows and, in retrospect; I was trying to tell myself that I’m destined to be more than what I was at that time.”
Ultimately, with the help of his band, he initiated a reconstruction of his self and is ready to put his band back on the same track they were on before this ordeal. He concludes, “As time has gone on, I’ve come to realize that the words in the song came true, just not in the way I believed it would happen. We have both had to start again… but not together.”