Zack Gross is an experimental artist that began taking piano lessons from the young age of 5, and began composing music shortly thereafter. He completed the piano preparatory program at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, studied classical piano at the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and graduated from the University of Rochester with a minor in music. His music is a blend of various genres, utilizing elements of classical piano, pop, jazz, blues and electronic music.
“Ignite” is a brand new single by Zack Gross. True to his own assessment of his music, Gross uses many experimental elements throughout. Though one might define this single as “electronic”, that alone would be an inaccurate statement. The organ is reminiscent of some jazz and blues, the beat could be under a pop song, and some of the chord changes and melodies have brief elements of classical that just peek through the curtains. The result is an interesting mixture of sounds that come together to make a cohesive single that will leave you with a stimulated feeling, and we highly recommend you check out “Ignite” today!
Listen to Zack Gross' new single "Ignite" here, and get to know Zack below!
Hey Zack, thanks for chatting with us! Your background is in classical, so would you mind describing how you made your way over to pop, electronic, or other non-classical genres?
Definitely, and thank you! I took classical piano lessons for nearly twenty years, but was always more focused on composing my own instrumental songs. I was the kid sitting at the piano, blissfully riffing off of a classical piece, while my teacher pointed frustratedly (and probably rhythmically) at the actual notes in front of us. Bach’s inventions really captured me early on. I loved how satisfying a carefully-planned series of notes could be, and how the interplay between melodies could become melodies themselves. Classical music was a jumping-off point for me, and it definitely inspired me to compose at a young age.
But I was also always drawn to modern pop production, and how it could push instrumentation beyond the identifiable and into the dreamlike or otherworldly. My favorite Beatle was never John, Paul, George Harrison, or Ringo; it was always George Martin. I loved how inventive he was as a producer, and how he mixed orchestral elements with, at the time, cutting-edge technology, to create sounds no one had heard before. When I got my first Korg synthesizer at 13, I think those early songs I created were definitely my way of giving my classical-inspired compositions a new pop/electronic-inspired place to live, beyond just the piano.
Would you mind describing your songwriting process? How does your music end up coming together?
I’m an instrumental composer, so it never starts with a lyric. But other than that, it’s different every time. It could be a beat, a melody, or even just a sound that sparks that initial idea. Then I kind of serve as both producer and sound engineer, and build it out from there. I love experimenting with different sounds and composing layered accompaniments for the melodies I write. It’s fun to try out different electronic voicings and see what they bring out in each song.
Your background leads me to believe that you have a wide variety of influences, but who are you inspired by artistically?
Definitely a wide variety. Legend has it my parents played a lot of George Winston when I was in the womb, which I think you can actually hear in a lot of my songs. So I guess it starts with instrumental acoustic piano for me—that’s where I drew a lot of my early inspiration from. I also have been really inspired by Michael Giacchino’s film and TV scores through the years.
Production-wise, I’ve always been captivated by Max Martin and pretty much anything he touches. His instrumentals just kind of breathe. Like each of his songs is a nice, long exhale from a magical pop music robot. Timbaland was always huge for me, too, the way his beats drive rather than just support a song, with musical moments that are often as memorable as some of the vocal hooks. More recently I’ve gotten really into Jack Antonoff, and his wizard-like ability to use synth sounds to kind of bottle up visceral emotions, uncork them, and let them twist and turn on the tracks. The instrumental break on “Hard Feelings?” I mean, come on.
I also love musicians like Beck, Andrew Bird, Paul Simon, Animal Collective, Lorde, Radiohead, and Taylor Swift—people who experiment with genre, push the limits of their craft, and always paint with new and interesting sound palettes.
Your new single is called “Ignite.” Did you have a concept, meaning or message behind the music in this case?
I wrote “Ignite” after what was shaping up to be nearly a decade since my last new music. I sat down at my computer, and my piano, really committed to igniting that creativity again. Conceptually, I carried that theme of igniting something—whether it’s creativity, or a flame—into the cover art, and into some of the sounds I used. The opening 15-second intro is my representation of what striking a match and starting a fire might sound like melodically, using electronic synth sounds. And the main melody of the ‘chorus’ kind of crackles over the drums like a sparkler. It was a fun song to make, because I’ve never really experimented that much with creating new audio samples, or really gotten as nuanced with making beats. I really dug deep into those drum tracks, scoring it tediously, note by note, until it felt just right.
What can we hope to see from you in the future, Zack?
I honestly don’t know. It’s funny, when I sit down to write one type of song, that’s usually the opposite of what I end up making. The next original song I’ll release is in its final stages, so I’m excited to get that one out there. But what’s next after that, only time will tell.
Follow Zack on his social media here!