Editor’s note: In this crazy year devoid of local shows, discovering new favorites hasn’t been easy. We asked a few friends, colleagues and scene contributors for some of the bands who cut through the noise and truly won them over in 2020. Today, Max Williams, head of photography for Sofar Sounds and a Chicago-area photographer and videographer, shares one of his discoveries from this year.
At the top of 2020 I stumbled across a pop artist named Zach Heckendorf when two friends of mine simultaneously told me about him. Within a week I found myself filming his full acoustic performance at SPACE in Evanston. Whether he is on the stage with a full band or playing by himself, his stage presence is incredible, and you can catch fans singing his lyrics back to him. Some may have heard one of his popular hits, “The Harvest,” at a wedding reception. Recently, he put out an album during quarantine called “Hawk Talk,” which I cannot stop listening to. It’s a must-have in my books.
Even though I have only seen Zach play an acoustic performance in person, it was one of the heaviest acoustic performances I have ever seen and heard. It was my first time hearing him, and his lyrics are something special. I think as a listener you can really begin to appreciate the relatable lyrics throughout all of his songs, especially on “Hawk Talk.” He has songs like “Stronger Than I Once Was,” which you listen to and feel like you can be a stronger overall person, yourself, like you can get through a hard time. If I haven’t said it already, the lyrics speak directly to you. He also has songs like “Up” that can just turn your mood around for the better in seconds. It’s about keeping your head up, and there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. There’s also a song on the album called “Waves,” which is all about embracing change and riding the waves of life. This song makes you feel some sort of comfort in change which, to some like myself, can be a hard adjustment.
There’s a ton more I can say about his music and how I feel about each song, but I think it’s clear I am emotionally invested in his music, specifically “Hawk Talk.” You can stream his music on all streaming services!