Few and far between get to experience the overnight success that country-meets-R&B artist Kane Brown has. After being denied spots on both American Idol and The X Factor, he decided to take a more independent approach. In 2014, he began uploading covers to his YouTube channel, where his take on songs like George Strait’s “Check Yes or No” skyrocketed, quickly racking up millions of views.
From intimate venues in their hometown of Chattanooga to selling out the Staples Center, bassist Zach Hall has been by Brown’s side since the beginning. We had the opportunity to talk to Hall before their Los Angeles show about adjusting to immediate success, life on tour, and how his Ernie Ball Music Man basses help him capture their sound.
You’re currently out on tour. How has it been so far?
ZH: It’s been incredible. We’re coming up on the end of some off-time, and after touring constantly for the last four years it’s been nice. It’s been great spending some much needed time with my family. I feel like I’m having to get back in the habit of traveling again, which is a nice change.
You’ve been with Kane brown since the beginning. How has the journey been going from playing intimate shows in Chattanooga to selling out the Staples Center?
ZH: In short, a whirlwind. I’m pretty sure none of us knew completely what we were getting into. The very first show with Kane was sold out and we’ve never really played to an “empty room,” which blows my mind. I remember playing shows with bands in high school and being pumped if we had three people there. The biggest change is the energy in the room. When we first started, Kane had six songs total, which is awesome if you’re opening for someone. The problem was we weren’t, and we’d play A LOT of covers. It’s a completely different show when the crowd sings along. It’s really cool though to share this ride with guys from my hometown. We definitely take pride in the fact we’ve been together this long and that we’ve been together through all of it. From 300 capacity rooms all the way to Staples. It’s a blessing for sure.
Take us back to the beginning. When did you first start playing bass?
ZH: Probably around middle school. It feels like it’s been a long time. I would jump from keys to guitar, to drums and bass growing up. I just wanted to play in a band with friends, so I’d try to figure out what someone would need and I’d just go for it. The first bass I owned was a First Act (not one of the cool First Act guitars either). I’m pretty sure the frets were falling out which is what led me to get my first real bass. I think I got serious about it in high school. Our marching band did a tribute to the ’80s and it included a Motley Crue song that had an electric bass part. I didn’t really like playing anything else as much as bass after that. It ruined me.
Run us through your current go-to Ernie Ball Music Man instruments.
ZH: My white StingRay Special, which I LOVE, is what I use through the majority of our set. I also have a Butterscotch StringRay Old Smoothie without flats on it. Choosing between the two is like trying to pick a favorite child.
What is it about these basses that make them a go-to in your rotation?
ZH: Between the two I can cover a whole lot of ground. Our set has a lot of ground to cover stylistically. The Old Smoothie sounds great on songs like “Good as You” and “Heaven.” The StingRay Special is more of the ‘I’m here to party, get over it’ kind of vibe. It’s a light bass so it’s super comfy on the longer sets. That bass just feels like “home,” it’s hard to put it down.
What artists/bands do you typically draw inspiration from?
ZH: A lot. I love rock, pop, and country. I’ll pretty much listen to anything. Currently, I’m jamming to My Chemical Romance more than normal. I’m pretty pumped they’re making a come back. As far as bass players, I love Pino, Mike Dirnt, JPJ, and Duff from Guns N’ Roses. Joe Dart is killing it, that dude blows me away.
What drives you to keep pushing the envelope as a bassist?
ZH: I just want to keep getting better. I feel blessed to play with some awesome musicians every night. We push each other a lot. I never want my best show to be behind me if that makes sense?
Any upcoming projects we should look out for?
ZH: Just hitting the road on the worldwide ‘Beautiful’ tour in 2020. First up is Europe and I’m pretty sure it’s close to sold out. It should be fun.
Find tickets to Kane Brown’s Beautiful tour here.