It might be easy to look at his life in the last year and assume it’s been an easy road for Christian rocker Zach Williams. He released his debut single, “Chain Breaker,” in the fall and the song went to No. 1 on the Christian charts and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song. Not a bad way to launch a solo career.
But behind the charts, the honors and the legion of fans, is a man with an inspiring backstory, one filled with hard work, heartache and a steadfast belief that one day he would “make it.”
Williams will bring that story, and his music, to the stage July 29 at Kingdom Bound, the annual Christian music festival that runs July 26-29 at Darien Lake.
“It’s been a whirlwind man,” Williams said of his life since the release of “Chain Breaker.” "Talk about life changing — I went from working a construction job a few years back, to having a record deal and a number one song, it’s been pretty crazy.”
As he tells the story, Williams was working in construction “to pay for my music career” as the lead singer of Zach Williams and the Reformation, a Southern Rock band that toured all over the United States.
Though he was having a degree of musical success, Williams said it came with a steep price.
“I spent some time in Europe in 2012 and I was in a really dark place in my life,” he said. “Me and my wife were considering a divorce and she was pregnant with our fourth child at the time.” Fittingly, Williams said it was a song that opened his eyes and made him realize he had to make significant changes in his life.
“You hear these stories of people hearing the right song at the right time on a Christian radio station and I’m one of those people,” Williams said.
The song was “Redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave, and for Williams, traveling across Spain with his band at the time, it was the turning point.
“For the first time in my life, I realized that God sees me in a way that I didn’t see myself,” he said. “I called my wife from the hotel and I told her I was quitting the band, I was going to come home and we were going to start going to church.”
Williams said the transition wasn’t easy, but he knew it was the right thing to do. “I thought about my life, and all the things I had turned to that I knew I shouldn’t be turning to for years and years of my life, and I had to change,” he said.
With his debut song striking commercial success, does Williams feel added pressure to try and match it with his next project?
“It does put pressure on you, but at the same time, I don’t write these songs for awards or recognition,” he said. “I can only be me, and write and sing the way I do, and thank God, people have accepted what I am doing in Christian music because I couldn’t be anybody else.”
Williams said the contrast in his transition from hard living Southern rocker to Christian chart-topper is the base for his testimony.
“I did this for years in a different genre on my own and not a single thing ever happened,” he said. “But when you give it over to God, and give him the pen and the paper to write your story, this is what he does.”
For festival attendees who have never seen Williams perform live, he says what you see is what you’ll get in his show.
“For me, I’m just pouring my heart out up there, singing the songs God has given me,” he said. “I bring a little rock, a little country, a little Southern edge to it and a testimony of what God has done in my life.”
5 p.m. July 29 as part of Kingdom Bound at Darien Lake. Tickets are $69-$159. For information, call 633-1117 or visit kingdombound.org.