Hollister-born musician Zack Freitas came into his career as a singer-songwriter almost accidentally.
“When I was growing up, I wanted to watch cartoons but my brother wanted to watch MTV,” Freitas said. “I started playing bass guitar at 13 due to Guitar Hero; I really loved that game. The punk rock dude? I wanted to be just like him, wearing a mohawk and playing bass.”
Though he intended on going to college to become a journalist, his father Alvin had other plans. According to Freitas, his father said, “I am not going to put you through college because you barely graduated. I’m going to buy you a guitar for your birthday. You should start writing songs and you’ll get all the girls.”
It was an unexpected career move at the time, but after 10 years of albums, EPs, videos, and performances all over the country, 27-year-old Freitas is poised on the edge of mainstream success. He’s set to host a Jan. 11 release party for his newest single, “8 Track,” as well as debut its music video directed by Los Angeles filmmaker Jonathan Rome.
Freitas recently previewed the single for BenitoLink at the St. Francis Retreat in San Juan Bautista. Following the single’s release party, Freitas will then perform live across California, ending with a show at the legendary Viper Room in West Hollywood.
Freitas found opportunities to perform locally while growing up in Hollister. Mars Hill Coffeeshop was a frequent venue, as was Ridgemark Golf Club and Resort.
“I was born out of Ridgemark. My parents met there, and I would not be around without that place,” he said. “When I got started they let me play there with my band and gave me a chance.”
Things are snowballing for him now. He met producer Dean Dichoso, appropriately enough, while playing Xbox with him online. They got together and released “Tastes Like Peaches.”
“I heard this metronome in the background as we were chatting. He told me he was a producer and we just kind of hit it off,” Freitas said. “Ever since I met Dean, it’s changed my outlook on what I am doing. I don’t think I was taking my career as seriously as I should have been. This last year has been working at understanding where I am and where I want to be.”
As part of his renewed focus, Freitas has a new album ready for release titled “Controlled Burn.” Starting in March, he will hit the road to play several shows, including a stop at the South by Southwest music-movie-tech festival in Austin, Texas, and an extensive tour of the Pacific Northwest.
For the Jan. 11 release party, Freitas will perform at the Carmel American Legion with guests Leche Malo and Sej Miles. In tune with the theme of the “8 Track” music video, the show will be space-themed, with flying saucer decor by Justine Englehart. The music video will go live the day of the show on Freitas’ YouTube channel.
In the music video for “8 Track,” Freitas plays an alien slightly befuddled by the sights and sounds of Santa Monica and Venice Beach. When making the video, he suggested to director Rome that they “just make a day of it, go out and have some fun. Our ideas came together instantly. It’s so funny because he thought he had a stupid idea of me being an alien but I was pretty much on the same page.”
Going from playing music in Mars Hill and Ridgemark to the Viper Room, Freitas shared some advice to anyone hoping to follow in his footsteps.
“Write constantly,” he said. “Constantly write, understanding that you’re going to write a lot of bad songs. But you will write better ones when those are out of you. You don’t know what your potential is. You don’t know where this could go.”
The first two years are the toughest, Freitas said, “but you might as well get it out of the way when you are young. It gets better and better. Write as much as you can and develop your craft.”
It was a difficult idea for Freitas himself to grasp. He came to a revelation two years ago following a personal crisis.
“I realized I’d be happy if I didn’t have to work a bad job and I could just make music,” he said. “I could live out of my car, I don’t care.” He quoted author Christopher Ryan: “If your money can’t buy your freedom, then what is it worth?”
“As an artist, you’re not going to make a lot of money, unless you hit the big time and become the next Beatles. And fame like that is dangerous,” Freitas said. “It is certainly not what I am begging for with my career.”
The release party for “8 Track” is Saturday, Jan. 11 at the Carmel American Legion, Dolores Street and 8th Avenue in Carmel-by-the-Sea. The show features performances by Sej Miles at 7 p.m., Leche Malo at 8 p.m., and Freitas at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door, with no advanced sales. All proceeds go to the Carmel American Legion.