Hard Rock is a sub-genre that defined the global rock star images over the course of Rock music's evolution from Rockabilly and crooners to the multiple sub-genre world it is today; but the age of standout rock star personas seems to be waning, in favour of band name popularity. However, even in the height of rock stars, one nation was missing from the hallowed halls of Hard Rock's pantheon of big name deities and that, of course, was Canada.
One Saskatchewan man seems set to take a stab at the strides necessary to change that; and that is Regina's Zayd. Zayd with his name sake, solo band project, self-titled as Zayd, is impressive as a whole package; the photography that strikes you with the image of a bona fide, self-assured rock star, the professional songwriting and performance that resonates with the power and tonality of acts like Tremonti, Alter Bridge and even Canada's own Saint Asonia, and the polished music videos for singles such as 2020's "Father" and "Nevertheless".
Zayd. Photo by Sean Xiao He
Interestingly, those music videos are produced by Jared Robinson of Saskatchewan's very own Nebulus Entertainment, whom was previously the focus of my article on the music scene of Moose Jaw back in 2020; you can read that article here.
Photo from the set of the "Father". Photo by Sean Xiao He.
To find out what set Zayd down this path of a self-made rock star, I caught up with the man himself:
MARK: Zayd, thanks for joining us. First thing's first, well done on your sound, you have this killer Hard Rock sound that resonates the rock star feeling of the biggest names in that field such as Tremonti, Alter Bridge, etc. What was the driving force that made you decide that you really wanted to produce Hard Rock as the mainstay of your music career?
ZAYD: Rock music has been the foundation of my music career. I was introduced to rock music at a very early age. Heavy guitar riffs and vocal screams are something that always attracted me. It was Linkin Park's "Hybrid Theory" album that sealed the deal for me. When I heard Chester's voice for the first time, I knew when I grew up I wanted to be a singer like him. Later on, I was introduced to all of Chris Cornell's projects which really blew my mind and inspired my singing style as well. So at a young age, I figured out what kind of singing style I wanted to go for but I still didn't know overall what kind of sound I wanted for my songs. That's where Alter Bridge comes into play, especially Mark Tremonti. His killer guitar riffs and sound influenced my style instrumentally.
M: Most of the names I've dropped in this article as comparisons are known as bands. It's so unique for a solo presence to be a namesake in Hard Rock, what made you choose the solo route in a genre defined by bands?
Z: I agree. This genre is defined by bands and it is very difficult to be a solo artist. When someone hears that I'm a rock musician, people think that I have a group of people always working with me, helping me to come up with ideas and writing songs with me but the reality is the opposite. I'm a one man show. The only time you will see someone playing with me is when I'm on stage. Times are changing and this is the best time to go solo and let the world hear your music regardless of what genre you are from. It's so easy to reach people in this time because of all the streaming platforms.
I started my journey as a guitarist and for years I've seen bands coming together and breaking up for silly reasons. What really bothers me is the songs that go to waste because of bands breaking up all the time. That is what pushed me to pick up the mic and finally do what I always dreamed of: singing. It's so easy nowadays that just for a fraction of the cost, you can build a home studio and start creating music. You can reach out to a professional music producer and start working with them to take your song to the next level. That's how I started my journey.
For years, I was creating demos in my basement and looking for a producer that I can work with. I'm so happy that I had the opportunity to work with Jared Robinson from Nebulus Entertainment. Everytime I took a demo to him, it ended up sounding different and much better then what I initially created. When you have an amazing producer like Jared and you are open to new ideas at the studio, your song can sound a thousand times better. For anyone that is thinking of starting a solo project, my best advice will be to work with your producer, be vulnerable and open to different ideas. They are there to help you create something amazing.
In the studio with producer Jared Robinson. Photo by Jared Robinson.
M: You dropped the single and music video, "Father", in spring of 2020. It's an amazing track and a stunning video, but that leads me to ask when can we expect a full-length Zayd album and a physical release?
Z: At this moment, I'm not thinking of a full length album, yet! My plan is to release singles throughout the upcoming year. Over the lockdown, I've written multiple songs and I've narrowed it down to 14 songs that I really want to release. Now you can say that's a full length album there. I totally agree but I want to give a different experience to my audience. Each song has a story to tell and I want to make sure each release does justice to each story.
However, never say never. I might decide to drop a few songs as part of an EP.
M: You've really nailed down the rock star look between your music videos, headshots and merchandise, what advice would you give to upcoming musicians reading this looking for advice on how to market and package themselves?
Z: Very first thing you have to understand is that it's a business. It’s a lifestyle. Take your time to understand what you and your music stand for. Most importantly be yourself. I can't stress that enough. You will connect with the audience much better if they can see you through those camera lenses.
Another important thing, do not rush to release. Remember this very simple quote "First impression is the best impression". Trust me, this is very important. When you are making music, there is a rush of excitement to release it. I know because I was there too. But remember, the world doesn't know your music exists so you need to make sure that you launch your career properly. Take Apple for an example. For years, they worked on their technology and new ideas but they did not just reveal it. They had a launch plan in place to create excitement in the industry. I'm not telling you to follow what Apple is doing but treat yourself like a business. You are a brand and your songs are the product. Proactively create a marketing plan around each song and use social media to extend your reach. Even when it comes down to your look, that ties back to my first advice to, "Be Yourself!"
Reaching out to industry experts is another key step. SaskMusic has unlimited resources that you can access and should make use of. As well, if you want to chat with me and want to learn more about what I did and how, reach out to me. DM me on my Facebook page or Instagram (@thisizzayd) and I'd be happy to chat.
M: What's next for Zayd?
Z: Just like other musicians, I was impacted by the pandemic. In 2020, there was a plan of releasing more music but the recording and video production came to a pause. As things are moving towards a positive direction in 2021, I'm getting ready to be back in the studio and resuming video production. I do not have any tentative dates yet but when I start releasing, it will be one right after another.
Also, I'm very excited to share that I will be doing my first ever live performance since my debut this September. I will be on the stage with my band. I'm not allowed to share the details yet but it will be in Saskatoon. I will be making an announcement on my social media sometime next month. So stay tuned for that!!
Additionally, I will be getting back to my weekly live stream sometime in October/November. I was live streaming every week on Twitch, Facebook and YouTube but a couple months ago I decided to take a break. Since then, my fans have been asking me when I will be back but I haven't made any official announcement yet. So this is exclusive!
Zayd's music can be streamed on Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play.
The best resource to find all active links to Zayd's music, music videos and merchandise is his website, which you can find here.
To support Zayd directly, you can purchase his official merchandise right here.