Zach Heckendorf Bio
Offstage, up-and-coming singer, songwriter, and guitarist Zach Heckendorf appears to be an ordinary young man: hip-hop-loving, T-shirt and jeans-wearing, shaggy-haired with a shy smile and modest demeanor. But when Heckendorf grabs a guitar and jumps on a stage, the 20-year-old Denver native is transformed. During shows in New York and Los Angeles in December, Heckendorf mesmerized crowds with original songs like “All The Right Places,” the first single from his debut album The Cool Down, and silenced the hold-outs chattering in the back with an astonishing cover of Dr. Dre’s “Forgot About Dre,” spitting every line with impressive intensity and speed.
The duality in Heckendorf’s personality is reflected on The Cool Down, which Heckendorf released independently in November 2011. On songs like “One of Them,” “17 Circles,” “Traffic,” “Tie Dye March,” as well as the title track, Heckendorf wraps his considered themes — the pursuit of freedom, the interconnectedness of human beings and nature, and a dismay for the environmental destruction that previous generations have wrought — in a rich, acoustic-driven sound, one that takes its cues more from hip-hop than from the traditional troubadours Heckendorf has already been compared to. Nothing is delivered with overt anger, but rather with a deliberate ambiguity that leaves the words open to interpretation. Heckendorf isn’t being cagey, he just appreciates the power of mystery.
The transformative quality of music has always been a strong lure for Heckendorf, who knew he wanted to be a performer at age nine after picking up his dad’s acoustic guitar for the first time. He began taking lessons and writing songs immediately. As a kid, Heckendorf was enamored with pop-punk bands like blink-182 and Green Day, but his taste began to shift after he was introduced to Aesop Rock and other indie acts like Broken Social Scene, Dilated Peoples, Modest Mouse, and Postal Service. Heckendorf recalls,“It was the first time I heard music that wasn’t easily accessible, and the hunt for it became just as exciting as the tunes themselves. I felt like we were in some kind of club where only we understood the power of real, thoughtful music.”
Heckendorf began writing the songs on The Cool Down as a freshman in high school and making a name for himself locally around Denver as a live performer. He played to thousands at Colorado’s legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre and has shared stages with John Butler Trio, Brandi Carlile, Rodrigo y Gabriela, One Republic, Guster, Mat Kearney, Barenaked Ladies, Big Head Todd And The Monsters, Michael Franti & Spearhead, and Jakob Dylan. In February 2011, Heckendorf entered a studio in Los Angeles to record The Cool Down with fellow singer-songwriter Brett Dennen.
Though still evolving as a songwriter and recording artist, Heckendorf has come out of the gate with a charming debut that flaunts his distinctive voice, jaw-dropping guitar talent, and knack for crafting sophisticated melodies and rhythms. As he travels the U.S. on tour in 2013 to support The Cool Down, Heckendorf is motivated by purpose at two ends of the spectrum: “Sometimes I am out to change opinions or reveal flaws that I observe,” he says, “and other times I just want to write a song that makes you feel a deep yet simple happiness that doesn’t need to be analyzed, just enjoyed.”