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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014

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In Music

The former frontman of The Color Truth, Zach Steinbach, is launching is first solo record.

Former Color Truth frontman Steinbach finds the road back


It's been a long time since we've heard from Zach Steinbach. Nearly five years ago Steinbach fronted The Color Truth, a Milwaukee band that seemed poised to take the next step with its big, melodic, poppy rock and roll.

After the band fizzled out a couple years back, Steinbach more or less stopped performing, playing only the occasional acoustic gig.

But now, he's back. He's got a band, and he's got a new solo record. More, than anything, he says, he's got a new lease on a musical life.

"I thought I was done chasing the dream," Steinbach says." Last year, however, it was given back to me, and – long story short – I ended up making a full length solo album in Nashville this past Winter with a great producer and now friend of mine. I'm more excited than ever about this stuff and I'm making bigger plans now than I ever have."

Steinbach's self-titled record will launch at a Sunday, June 2 record release party at 6 p.m. at AJ's Live, N88W16495 Main St., in Menomonee Falls.

Looking back, Steinbach says he's gotten a boost from some other folks.

First, there were the folks at a downtown bar, and a pair of musicians...

"I had a few solo acoustic performances in the spring and summer, but I admit that my heart really wasn't in them and it made for some of the worst gigs I've ever played," recalls Steinbach. "The trio helped me rediscover the joy in playing out again.

"The one place that kept me coming back, however, was Blu located on top of The Pfister Downtown. Of all the club managers in Milwaukee, Adam Jones (Blu manager at the time) was the one who made me feel that it was okay to play my own music. January of last year, I brought along two other guys to play with me at Blu as sort of a way of saying thanks to Adam for booking me throughout 2011. The place was packed that night and the three of us had a blast."

In addition to Steinbach, the trio includes former The Color Truth drummer Frank Babeck, and bassist Jeremy Zima.

Then, there was the angel investor, the rock and roll benefactor, or as Steinbach calls him "the mega fan" ...

"The mega fan quickly became a good friend who just plain loved music and happened to love The Color Truth's music," he says. "He also happened to have a good amount of money, apparently. The first time he saw The Color Truth he bought the entire stack of CDs we had at our merch table to give out to his friends. He also funded our lodging in Nashville when we made our second EP and never asked for anything in return. It was a very generous gift. Fast forward now to 2012 and he was right back in the audience – and supportive more than ever, repeatedly saying things to me like, 'We gotta get you back to Nashville!' and 'Anything you need, just ask...'"

Steinbach didn't think much more about it until he stumbled upon some records made by Nashville-based producer Neilson Hubbard. Suddenly, Steinbach was eager to get back into the studio, but he had to figure out a way to make this new dream a reality.

"I love working with people who have worked with other artists I love and respect," he says. "I had a dozen or so songs new songs I had written, and Neilson seemed to be the perfect fit for a new project. Imagining he was a bit higher profile than I could afford, however, I wondered how I could make it happen. And then it hit me."

The mega fan.

Calls were made and Steinbach found himself in Nashville recording his solo debut, a moody and melodic and dramatic, acoustic-fueled collection of folk-infused rock and roll.

But, then, without warning Mega Fan disappeared. Bailed.

"I'm not sure if the budget I proposed was higher than he expected of he simply changed his mind, but nevertheless he was out of the picture. Virtually disappeared. I had no choice but to slam on the brakes with my plans," says Steinbach, who needed to dramatically and suddenly scale back the recording budget.

But Hubbard didn't flinch and, to Steinbach's near-amazement, the project continued.

"An interesting thing we did was actually use some of the very tracks from my demos. Not only did it help with time and budget, but it actually added more character to the record. In the second week I finished vocals, and session players added drums, more electric guitar and strings.

"I was humbled and so grateful, and the whole experience has been a joy. Making the record with Neilson was everything I hoped it'd be and more."

The resulting record, thanks to its judicious use of a stripped-down approach, is powerful with dramatic dynamics.

"Funny how I was initially disappointed that we'd have to do the record more 'stripped-down,' which technically it is," says Steinbach. "But it ended up being everything I hoped it'd be in the first place. And it sounds incredible."

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