zach-lovettZach Lovett’s not supposed to be here. “Seriously, he’s a miracle baby,” Byron Knight says from behind the counter at Sneaky Beans. Sure, there’s truth behind that – Lovett, having endured fifteen surgeries since childhood – but, figuratively speaking, maybe it’s true, too. Or is it?

Isn’t this right where Zach Lovett needs to be?

It seems Zach Lovett appeared out of nowhere a year ago, playing Millsaps Day in front of Fondren Guitars on a blistering hot August afternoon. He would argue that he’s been around a lot longer than that. Playing Fenian’s open mic since the age of 15, Lovett, now 21, says nobody realized or cared. He was probably too young for their stage.

Off to Delta State at 18 and clearly, he says, “not his thing,” Lovett had come home to Hinds after a year and was on his way home when he received the phone call that would change his direction. “A mentor of mine said, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’” he remembers. Lavonne Bruckner, director of the Actor’s Playhouse in Pearl had called out of the blue and asked the reluctant student if he was happy with being in school. “She said to me ‘I believe in you enough and I don’t want you to wake up thirty years, ten years, 10 days from now and ask yourself ‘Why am I doing this?’” Lovett says he had gotten pretty low trying to figure out what he was going to do. “That phone call settled it.”

His family has a deep musical connection. In fact, twin brother Dylan was named for Bob and he was almost Neil (Young). An older sister “always did theater” and his twin is currently a music theater major in Texas. Mom Lovett likes to sing, but it’s Zach’s dad who comes out with his son to shows. Lovett explains, “It’s like people know him now — and he needed that. He always wanted to play an instrument.”

Family support is important to this old soul and, Lovett says, they’ve understood him for a long time. He says, “They want to be the adults, like, ‘Hey, you won’t make money with that forever. You gotta have something else,’ but they’re behind me 100 percent.”

Lovett’s found another supporter for his rootsy, Americana music: Sneaky Beans’ owner Byron Knight. “I can’t even go into detail about the heart of that man,” Lovett says of his friend and confidant. “He’s a solid fellow and this (the Bean) is a solid place. I know he’ll lead me in the right direction.”

Confidence, he says, has always been an issue. Lovett had gotten Knight’s number from a professor at Delta State and it took a year before he finally called. “I battled it for that long because I’m not good at selling myself,” he says, “but I just came in one day and asked if he wanted music.”

When he sits down behind a mic, guitar in hand, Lovett says what he hopes comes through is honesty. “It all boils down to that. I play honestly because that’s what I like to hear.”

His latest project is a band on hiatus, Young Valley, comprised of brother Dylan and friends Spencer Thomas and Carson Braymer [also of ‘Dandy and The Lions,’ a side project in the Delta Lovett is involved]. He says, “We’re just making American music. I haven’t been this proud of others coming together and doing something like this in a long time, but I’m proud of my friends.”

Is Zach Lovett supposed to be here? He says yes. “I tried and tried to think, two years ago, at 19, ‘Where am I supposed to go from here? What else could I try to be good at?’ Nothing came to mind to pick from. I can write. I can say something about what I’ve taken in. It’s all I can do. It’s all I feel like I’m right at doing. I want to say something, to speak to people through music like I’ve been spoken to.”

Originally published September 2013