Zachary Cale hails from Louisiana and speaks softly with a faint twang. A self described “a pale elfin dude with dark hair, likely wearing cowboy boots,” his fourth release, Blue Rider, dropped last year, stunning folks with his twist on Americana and masterful finger-picking guitar style. As we sat at Ontario Bar, he absentmindedly tapped three acrylic nails on his pint, shyly talking about perseverance, sofas and why living outside of New York just isn’t appealing.
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What’s your end-goal in five, 10 years?
I’d like to do what I’m doing but I guess have more of a schedule to it. So I’m not worrying all the time. …make more sense of my years. Right now, it’s all definitely much more up in the air. I wouldn’t fight the idea of being on a label. Maybe it’ll happen with the next one. I’ve had so many times when a label seems interested in putting something out, but backs off at the last minute. At this point, I’m kinda like, Well, people let you down.
How do you not internalize that?
Well, you do. You just try to be strong and keep doing what you’re doing. I mean, music’s tough. With any art, it’s easy to get bummed out. You mentioned earlier, Would you stop? Or think about stopping? I think about stopping probably every day. It’s kind of crazy.
You think about leaving music?
I know I can’t. But I should?
You think you should?
No! I don’t think I should. It’s just more of that self-doubt thing. I think everyone that makes things is a harsh critic. It fucks with my mind a lot. Not that I’m going to follow through on that. It’s just a small insecurity of mine. Because I know for a fact I can’t–it’s impossible for me to stop. At this point, it’s a compulsion. An obsession so deep.
How do you maintain perspective? How do you stay positive and continue to create work?
Cale: Surround yourself with people who are inspiring to you. A lot of my friends are artists, visual artists. They’re really inspired me since I lived in New York. They’re always the first to say, It doesn’t matter. Blow everything off. Go to the studio, make your work. You have to do that. It’s what you wanna do, it’s what you’re made for. Just that work ethic is inspiring to me. [My girlfriend] gets that. But leaving for a month on tour might be different. Because if things keep progressing… I know if I could be on tour for half the year, I would. Maybe it’s from traveling when I was young. Some people I know in bands don’t make it successful in some way, get burned out…
How do you not get burned out?
It’s so hard on your body. The thing is ingrained in me. I think I just like being places. And playing music every night, if that’s the thing, that’s my job–entertaining people–that’s good with me.
Do you ever entertain the thought of just going totally mainstream? Returning to the suburbs? Getting an office job, a nice couch?
No. That lifestyle doesn’t really appeal to me that much. I like living in the city. New York is the greatest place. I do love it. Sometimes I see friends who live upstate–go visit them in a nice little house and it’s like, oh shit. It’s comfortable. It’s slow, I could make a lot of stuff up there. With New York at times, it can be like, Do I even have time to make work? You always have to think about other shit. But New York kicks your ass. If you get your ass kicked, it makes you make stuff. If you don’t, then you’re just running around all the time working like a rat. You gotta make time to make stuff.
You’re not allowed to tread water.
That’s why I don’t like Portland or these places… not to talk shit on it or anything, but the lifestyle there is like… the easy thing. That’s fine, but I don’t think anything gets done that way, the easy way.
Later when Cale sends a photo for the piece, he signs off with the most resounding philosophy, “A pact with oneself to keep going or something like that.”
Zachary Cale performs Sunday, March 2 at Mercury Lounge. $12 – $14.