By Eugenia Jones
McCreary County native, Zach Day, is looking forward to his next appearance on NBC’s “The Voice.”
After wowing judges with his performance last week and securing a spot on Team Legend (John Legend) for the 18th season of NBC’s highly rated television show, “The Voice,” twenty-five year McCreary County native, Zach Day, is experiencing a range of emotions.
“I’m a little overwhelmed,” remarked Day, who just last weekend moved from Richmond, KY to Nashville, TN. “It is stressful handling changes like my move to Nashville, but I’m super happy and honored to have had my blind audition shown. I’m overwhelmed but happy!”
Day grew up in Stearns singing at church and always entering local 4H talent shows by performing the Elvis hit, “Hound Dog.”
“I got serious about music in high school (McCreary Central,)” Day recalled. “I’d skip school with my two best friends, Heidi Douglas and Brandon Clark, so we could play music. We sang three-part harmony together and taught each other to play guitar. We’d also make videos for YouTube.”
Day joined the McCreary Central Madrigals during high school and credits music teacher Chris Hubbs for changing his opinion of school.
“I didn’t love school,” Day recalled. “Mr. Hubbs took me under his wing. He let me warm up the choir and gave me a reason to want to go to school.”
“There were some good teachers,” Day reminisced. “It’s hard to name them because I don’t want to leave anyone out. I do remember Mr. Loudermilk and Bill Simpson. Mr. Simpson would let me and Heidi play our music to the class.”
After graduating from high school, Day attended Morehead State University. Once at Morehead, Day began to truly explore the world of music. He sang with black gospel ensembles, jazz vocal ensembles, and choirs.
“I took a little bit from jazz,” Day said of his experiences. “And I took a little bit from black gospel. I took technical things from choir. I took a little bit from everything I did. After I performed during Hollywood week on “American Idol,” it suddenly hit me, “I can do this!”
Motivated by his “American Idol” experience, Day began working even harder on his music and focused in on polishing his songwriting skills. He transferred from Morehead State University to Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) in Richmond, KY where he began writing a new song each week-often managing to write a new song each day.
“I grew up with Elvis, The Mamas and the Papas, the Eagles, and the Carpenters,” Day said. “As I got older, I discovered groups like SWV and Destiny’s Child. Then I started really paying attention to the lyrics of songs written by singers who were songwriters. I’m a performer at heart, but songwriting is an escape from that. Writing gives me an opportunity to reflect.”
In addition to honing his writing skills while attending EKU, Day also discovered another form of communication. As he became acquainted with EKU’s Deaf community, Day began picking up sign language. As a result, he graduated in December with a minor in American Sign Language.
“I had to drop the Interpreting program for “The Voice,” but I’m working on my music interpreting skills which is entirely another talent of its own,” Day declared. “Many deaf people enjoy music and if there is anything I can do to spread the joy of music, I will!”
Although Day gained some theatrical experience as a youngster by performing in a couple of local Clay Harris productions and with the Lake Cumberland Children’s Theater, it was his discovery of EKU’s musical theater that made him fall in love with yet another aspect of music. He soon became an artist for the Distilled Theatre Company in Lexington.
“I took every opportunity to make music,” Day reflected. “If someone asked me to sing “Happy Birthday” to their cousin for five dollars, I did it! I’ve always been a hustler when it comes to working hard. After having so many different experiences with music, it was up to me to figure out what I could use for my own.”
Day recalled establishing a small home studio in his Richmond apartment.
“I wrote songs for other people and did jingles for podcasts,” Day noted. “I also started singing backup vocals for various groups and have been singing backup for the Lexington rock band, Mojothunder.
Day shared the feelings he experienced when he stepped on the stage to perform during “The Voice” blind auditions.
“Right before you enter, you see the coaches’ backs, and the audience is quiet,” Day described. “I was terrified and had all this pent up nervous energy. I started jumping around in circles to get some of the nervous energy out of my system. I had to do that to be able to perform my best. I think there is a little more pressure on you when you can’t see the judges’ faces. You know you have to do something different with your performance to get the judges to turn around. I just wanted someone to turn! It was a huge relief when John Legend and then Kelly Clarkson turned around for me. When John Legend turned for me, I could finally relax and have fun with the song because I knew I was on a team. It was a huge relief.”
Day said performing on “The Voice” stage was not what he expected.
“It’s different,” Day observed. “It’s more intimate than you expect from watching the show on television. The audience is there, and the judges’ chairs aren’t that far away from the performers. I danced around the stage some to figure out the best spot to position myself during my performance.”
For his blind audition on “The Voice,” Day chose to perform the hit song “Weak” made popular by the 1990s R&B group, SWV.
“I’ve always leaned into songs with harmony,” Day explained. “I found the song “Weak” when I was in middle school, and I figured the judges wouldn’t expect that type of song from someone like me. It was great working with “The Voice” band on my version of the song. “Weak” had never been done on “The Voice,” but it worked for me!”
Having earned the opportunity to choose between John Legend and Kelly Clarkson as his coach on “The Voice,” Day explained why he went with Team Legend.
“I went in with an open mind,” Day commented. “I was grateful to have anyone turn around, but John Legend turned first. Legend knew where I was coming from. He got me! He has faith in me, and I’m so ready to work with him!”
Day is incredibly proud of his McCreary County family and friends. Day’s mother, Beverly Shook, and one of his best friends, Brandon Clark, were waiting in the wings while Day performed his blind audition.
“It was Brandon’s first time to fly on a plane,” Day noted. “For both Mom and Brandon, it was their first time in California. My mom and Brandon were both nervous wrecks and crying the whole time during my performance. I was proud of them though.”
While Mom was by his side in California during his performance, Day had additional friends and family back home in McCreary County watching their hometown favorite on television when his blind audition aired nationally. Among those family members were Larry Day (father), David Shook, and Day’s three sisters, Courtney, Callie, and Maddie.
When Day returns home to visit family and friends, he enjoys the simplicity and beauty offered by McCreary County. He spoke of the natural beauty of his native home where he enjoys hiking and running on local trails. Yahoo Falls is a favorite.
“Sometimes, my dad and I go to Milt’s Burger Hut or get a milkshake at the Dairy Bar,” Day shared. “I always enjoyed going to ZZ’s. They had great calzones!”
Day also likes his mom’s back porch where he can just “chill” as he basks in the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape.
Day hopes his performances on “The Voice” will inspire others-particularly those from Appalachia.
“Just be kind and help each other,” Day advised. “If you want to go for something, go for it. There are people who will support you and lift you up. Realizing that has gotten me to a very happy place.”