As we celebrate our fifth anniversary, we look back at some of the neighborhood’s favorite daughters and sons. Writer Andi Agnew profiles Zach Loevtt, first interviewed by Find It In Fondrenâ„¢ in September 2013.
It’s his day off work at Sneaky Beans, but Zach Lovett kindly makes me the same coffee drink he is having – an iced caramel latte. “I like to keep it simple,” he says.
For the last few years, Lovett has been working here and pursuing music. He and his twin brother, Dylan, formed the band, Young Valley, along with friends Spencer Thomas and Carson Braymer in 2013. For a time, though, Zach flew solo, making a name for himself as early as 2007, playing open mic nights at Fenians at the age of 15. Spencer, Carson and Dylan all played out, too, under their own names, and, with Zach in a band called Dandy and The Lions at Delta State.
In the summer of 2013, as Zach’s musical star began to rise, his brother and band mates took notice. But after a group writing session or two, planning to make a record for Zach, they quickly realized, “we needed to make it more of a band sound,” Dylan noted.
Having released their debut album in 2014, Young Valley didn’t just stay local – they embarked on an extensive tour of the U. S. and Canada. “We went from Jackson to Hattiesburg, up to Memphis, and then steadily in a strange diagonal line all the way up to Vancouver. Some of my favorites would have to be Boise, Idaho, which is gorgeous! Seattle was great… Portland was very Portland. There were a couple of very weird things that happened, I’m not going to go into them, but one was a very Portland experience,” Lovett says with a chuckle.
“It’s been a great thing for us to have the album under our wing… we’re still so stoked because the whole thing was Jackson-made, except printing.” In addition to the album and tour, Young Valley made a music video for their song “The Fly” with producer/director Drew McKercher. The video went on to win “Best Music Video” at the Crossroads Film Festival in April of 2015. “Drew’s awesome; I think we’re going to do another one,” Lovett says. “It was so fun… we just did it in Drew’s carport, with Carson’s old Mustang in front of a green screen… Sarah (McKercher, Drew’s wife) would come out and jump on the hood to make it look like we were moving, and they would throw things into the window of the car… it was nuts.”
Being part of the Sneaky Beans “family” has contributed greatly to Lovett’s personal growth and also the success of the band. “If it wasn’t for Byron (Knight, owner of Sneaky Beans), I wouldn’t have anything to do musically in this town at all, and I attribute that to working here. Fondren’s the hub, and Sneaky Beans is the hub within that hub; there’s no getting around that. Everybody comes in here – anybody I needed to meet for anything that I needed or wanted to do, I met them from working here. That made what I wanted to do so easy… it’s opened every single door that I needed to walk through. What’s crazy is I worry I’ve walked through every door that I can now; we’re wondering what we do next. But we can’t stop here. You can’t just get up and leave.
We’ve asked ourselves, “Do we have to move to a bigger city?’ But I think you can do it from a centralized location if you work hard enough at it.” Lovett hopes Young Valley has had an impact on the local music scene, especially with younger people. Lovett started out at age 15 performing at open mic nights. “I looked up to Taylor Hildebrand so much, and now he’s my buddy, we’re friends. That’s nuts to me. I would hope we could have the same impact on some younger people. The band is about to start doing some stuff with a show choir that Dylan and I used to be part of – teaching the kids how to play instruments and stuff like that… I’m really excited about having that kind of hands-on opportunity to make an impact.”
Young Valley might hit the road again soon, but they are mostly focused on putting out new music these days. “We’ve had a whole full-length album’s worth of songs since the first record came out,” Lovett says. The band recently opened for Lucero in Hattiesburg “Some really cool stuff may come of that… we may do a record with the help of some of those guys. Until then, we’re talking about doing an EP up at Dial Back Studios in Water Valley.”
Lovett’s “local first” attitude is contagious. “I hope people listen to our record and dig it, and say, ‘Holy hell, all this was done in Jackson?!’ I’m very vocal about that – every single thing we did for the record, it was done here. We know so many talented people that do everything – if we ever need an artist, if we need someone to do a website, to do a write-up… we’ve built the relationships in this building and on this block. If you ever think it can’t be done from Jackson, Mississippi, you’re wrong.”