Zach Williams Brings His Redemption Songs to the Taft Theatre

The Grammy-winning Christian musician is a bit more than the “normal guy” he modestly claims to be.
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Photograph by Shawn Hagwell

Zach Williams knows he owes Cincinnati big time. “I think it was about 10 shows that we had to reschedule,” he says about the vocal strain that forced him to take some time off the road last year. “You never want to do it. Sometimes you’re just forced to make those decisions. But, yeah, it always surprises me whenever I show up and the place is packed out and people have held onto their tickets. It feels good.”

Indeed, the Grammy Award-winning Christian music artist heads to the Taft Theatre on October 26 on his A Hundred Highways tour feeling good and healthy and eager to get back in front of fans who’ve followed him since he broke out as a rock artist back more than 15 years ago. His career swerved into the Christian music lane in recent years with hit songs such as “Chain Breaker,” “Rescue Story,” and the collaboration with Dolly Parton, “There Was Jesus.”

Granted, as the world continues to spin in a somewhat off-kilter fashion, Williams says he knows that what his fans want from him at live shows is constantly evolving. “My hope is that people who are hurting and who want to hear a message are going to come and leave filled with that and, ultimately, they will be changed,” says the Arkansas native from a recent tour stop in Columbia, South Carolina. “So yeah, there’s a little pressure.”

But it’s the kind of pressure that Williams can handle, with a little help. “I think at the end of the day my strength comes from Jesus, and that’s where my message comes from,” he says. “I’m not changing people’s lives when they come to these concerts. They’re changing. Jesus is doing it, and it’s only because somehow I’ve been able to write music and be a vessel and share that with the world.”

Photograph by Shawn Hagwell

The husband and father lets out a hearty chuckle. “I’m just a normal guy who’s working every day just like everybody else is to get better at being that vessel.”

Certainly, Williams does find himself in a growing group of music artists whose redemption stories are now essentially driving their careers. “There’s been several artists in the last year who have come out with similar stories to mine,” says Williams, who is currently working on a new album and plans to release a new single from it by March. “I just try to be real and raw and honest with my lyrics and with people. It’s been really cool though to see other artists coming out and doing a lot of the same things.”

As any fan knows, though, Williams is just different from the rest in the way he delivers his story through music to each and everyone standing in those adoring crowds. “You can spot people throughout the night who need a certain song, and you can then see them change or their emotions change when you play it,” Williams says quietly. “It’s a neat thing, and I think that’s why it never gets old for me. I can play the same songs every night on a tour of 30 shows, and every one of ’em is different every night.”

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