Zayde Wolf Emerges From Small Town Upbringing and Pop Affinity

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

A young Dustin Burnett, on the verge of becoming Zayde Wolf, was searching for a 9-to-5 job after growing bored with the band lifestyle while living in Kentucky.  A family friend, Richard, had the stable, full benefits, 401k job to offer Burnett, but already knowing of Burnett’s talent, Richard offered more than a meaningless job and the best advice Burnett ever took—”I can get you this job anytime, but I really think that you should go and try to make it in Nashville.” Sadly, Richard would not live to see the full scope of what Burnett accomplished after taking his advice, but it was more than either of them ever imagined.

It’s been 13 years since Burnett moved to Nashville and 13 years for Zayde Wolf to emerge through Burnett as the accomplished producer and songwriter he is now.   Zayde Wolf was meant to be a band project, but when Burnett couldn’t find a steady singer, he decided to do everything himself. Wolf now has over 300 million streams of from his last two records, Golden Age and Modern Alchemy, which charted internationally on iTunes. Following up such success is “Back At It,” the latest from his forthcoming 2021 summer record Neon Blood Type. 

“I think I started writing that song kind of right at the beginning of the quarantine in March and April of last year,” Burnett told American Songwriter. “I started on the song, and I didn’t really do anything with it, I wasn’t really sure what I felt about it and then came back to it maybe a month later when I was really missing hanging out with a couple of my friends and frustrated my wife and I couldn’t go out. I just really couldn’t wait to just get back out there and start living life again. That was really the catalyst to the song.  The song just kind of embodies that energy of millions of people, because that was what so many of us were thinking.”

“Back at it” with full-on pop centric essence, guided by catchy vocal hooks and celebratory lyrics, represents the many, but Neon Blood Type focuses on the individual.  The idea for the album title was inspired by Burnett’s childhood and growing up in a small town, where everyone is the same. Everyone worked the same jobs when they grew up, hung out with the same people, it was a monotonous lifestyle, but Burnett as the oddball. He had dreams to chase. He knew people were meant to do more than to be a cog in the machine.  Neon Blood Type signifies everything that is unique within people and within Burnett.  

“I want people to always kind of take away from it what feels right to them,” Burnett said about his music on Neon Blood Type. “But in a lot of ways, it’s just about having something really special inside. A lot of my songs have sort of an encouragement kind of nature to them. And I think Neon Blood Type is like that, it’s about kind of showing something really special inside everybody, even if they don’t know it yet.”

Neon Blood Type’s theme of self-discovery also provides an uncanny link to Burnett’s identity in realizing and creating the Zayde Wolfe persona.  The moniker allowed Burnett to explore personalities and create a character to perform under. Zayde Wolf expands where Burnett stops. 

“I don’t think that I’m famous and I don’t really even want to do that, but Zayde Wolf can kind of exist into that space and character as needed,” Burnett said about his moniker. “I never really expected this level of life changing success. But I do hold it with a very careful responsibility now. Seeing the types of people that have reached out to me, who have been affected by music has been awesome. And I think a lot of respect that goes to that. One woman sent me an email last year about how the songs really helped her autistic daughter with focus, because of the lyric content and the beat. There’s a lot there’s stories like that and I am just amazed that my music can do that kind of stuff.”

As a songwriter personality is needed and maybe even a little bit of ego too, but the Zayde Wolf persona is really necessary when it comes to the immense amount of success Burnett has come into due to TV and video game placements.  Burnett’s music has been featured in the video game Fortnite as well as included on shows like Shameless and movies like Jack Reacher 2, and Maze Runner 3 as well as numerous other spots on WWE, XBOX, and others.  Last year Burnett partnered with NHL and NBA for the Stanley Cup Finals where they featured his song, “Home” with a performance video. 

The link to music placements in the sports realm and video game scene go hand in hand with Burnett’s perspective and connection to sports and games. Now he has managed to incorporate both into his music career. The merger was an idea he remembered imagining as the ultimate dream when he was young watching basketball on TV. 

“I’ve always loved how music has been attached to sports, movies, and video games,” Burnett said. “When I was younger, I used to have this VHS tape. It was a Michael Jordan highlight film, basically Come Fly With Me. And I remember watching it and being interested in music and also playing basketball at the time and thinking, ‘man, if I could play basketball or write the music that goes along with basketball that would be the dream.’”

Recently Burnett fulfilled that exact dream when the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team used one Zayde Wolf’s songs in a package. With almost all of his milestones met, and dreams achieved, Burnett is on the path to conquer uncharted territory and is shifting his efforts to securing radio play for his next single, “Holy Water,” expected late spring.  And like everything else that he has maneuvered throughout his career it all comes down to one very humble approach that is equally as honest as proven.   

“For the most part music is just me sitting here in a state of chaos, trying to figure it out,” he laughed.

Check out “Back at It” here today and follow Zayde Wolf here for more upcoming details on Neon Blood Type.

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