Christian music artist Zach Williams had no idea what was happening when he experienced his first COVID-related concert cancellation in 2020. His team didn’t even take the equipment off the bus because they assumed it would be only a week before they were on tour again. Then after about eight weeks of the stay-at-home order, Williams went to the grocery store and saw everyone in masks.
“It started to sink in … what if this is year one of quarantine and it doesn’t get any better. [I experienced] all these emotions that you can’t really put into words,” Williams remembered. “I think that through that whole season, it really allowed me to rely on my faith and trust that God will provide and make a way.”
God did make a way. Williams was fortunate to play about 25 shows at drive-in movie theaters in the fall. Not only did it help him and his team stay afloat financially, it was a morale booster.
“With the drive-ins, we just felt like, ‘Here’s an opportunity to go out and play. We can’t wait! Let’s do this!’ It felt so good,” Williams said.
Overall, he played about 60 shows throughout the fall and spring of 2020-21.
“I think we were one of the very few artists across the country who got to play that many shows,” he noted. “I just feel so blessed that it’s all working out.”
It’s easy to think of performers such as Williams as “just” artists. But they also are business owners and carry the responsibility of making sure their team members have an income during rough times like COVID.
“That was the worst part of it as a business owner – trying to put aside the artist and think about it in terms of how we do this, not lose our business, and keep things afloat.”
Williams said he felt he continually had to work on ways to provide for the team. A friend had been through a similar situation and told him, “I remember God very clearly saying, ‘So, now you’re the one providing for everybody? Isn’t that My job?’”
Knowing he didn’t have to provide – God would – took the pressure off Williams.
That said, he has friends and family who did lose their businesses, showing him what you work for can be lost in an instant. This put his work in perspective, and Williams now is trying to focus more on being a father whenever he’s home.
Having always loved old Christmas standards, Williams decided to create a Christmas album with that same feel during his forced break from touring. He and his team went to the historic FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals where many of the songs were originally recorded. The album was released in October and a Christmas tour will run Dec. 2–18.
As difficult as COVID has been, Williams believes everything happens for a reason. When he was a child his parents prayed Jeremiah 29:11 over him before he went to sleep. Only in the past four or five years has Williams started to really understand what that verse says: Jesus had an even bigger plan for his life than his parents dreamed.
“I believe that God wants for us is better than we could ever imagine,” Williams said.
Another aspect of Williams’ life outside of being a husband, father, singer, songwriter, musician and business owner is that he loves to cook.
Williams’ mom sent him to college with a cookbook and the hunger to learn. Between those books and watching many cooking shows, he and his roommates gained skills while Williams fell in love with cooking.
“I quickly realized that, for me, when I write a song, [I love] the first time I play it for somebody and get a reaction … I love to cook a meal and get a reaction,” Williams said. “[Both food and music] bring people together in a way a lot of things can’t. There’s an emotion, a memory related to both food and music.”
Williams does a VIP “meet-and-greet” before his regular shows that includes a dinner by Paul Fields, chef/owner of Twenty Below in Napa Valley, California. This partnership led Williams and Fields to develop a cookbook that will be released in 2022.
Though the last year has been difficult for Williams, like the rest of his past he wouldn’t change it. His past helped make him who he is as a person and artist, he said.
“It’s given me the story that I have. I’m grateful to be here and grateful God can take somebody who’s messed up and broken and still use them.
“Even through last season, as bad as it was, there’s so much good that’s going to come out of it.”
Learn more about Williams and his new Christmas album at zachwilliamsmusic.com.