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Zachary Knowles

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AboutZachary Knowles has spent his entire life leading up to this moment. The singer-songwriter's Magnolia EP is a dreamy, emotive trip through his environment and experiences, taking inspiration from where he was raised and drawing pure melodic gold from self-exploration. Magnolia is proof that pop can be personal, and Knowles is one of its most intriguing and capable emerging songcrafters to date.

Hailing from Magnolia, Texas, Knowles was bitten by the musical bug at an early age, when his parents gifted him a light-up keyboard in first grade. "I started teaching myself songs on there, but I always kept it to myself," he explains, which is a bit of an understatement; for a while, his musical performance skills were limited to singing in the car with his mom—that is, until seventh grade, when he decided to perform Christina Perri's "Jar of Hearts" at a school talent show. "I always had a fear of being in front of people, so I was terrified," he recalls. "But after that, people took notice of the fact that I sang."

And it didn't take long for Knowles to run with his newfound talents: In high school, he dove deeper into music, continuing to learn how to play piano and eventually delving into songwriting. "I showed my songs to my friends and girlfriend, and they thought they were really good. I realized it was my calling to do music." Putting all extracurriculars to the side, Knowles doubled down on music, linking up with a friend, Tyler Ray, who was fluent in Garageband and recording covers to post on Soundcloud. "People responded really well, so I just kept doing it," he recalls at what drove him to keep going.

Eventually, Knowles transitioned into writing his own material, and he was pleasantly surprised at the online reaction to his own work as it racked up tens of thousands of streams on SoundCloud almost immediately: "I fell in love with making music. I'd come home from school and write as much stuff as I could." In freshman year of college, he set a goal to release something properly and ended up with a series of well-received singles that led to a full EP of music touching on influences ranging from John Mayer and XXXTentacion to Post Malone and, most predominantly, Justin Bieber. "I'm really inspired by how Justin can do vocal runs," he exclaims. "I was never able to, so I started listening to him every day so I could figure out how he could control his vocals in such a unique way."

Ultimately, Knowles looks to draw inspiration from the sonic corners that people haven't quite discovered yet. "I'm always searching for new music, so I have a lot of inspiration from artists who are still emerging," he explains. "I don't sit down and think about what kind of song I write—if I hear a cool beat, I'm gonna write a song around it." And his forthcoming EP Magnolia came together in similarly auspicious circumstances, as he headed out to Los Angeles to work with producer Peter Fenn after releasing the single "Cold Winter" last year. "We made a song in three hours—we clicked a lot," he recalls. "I didn't have any direction for that project until that point. I loved the vibe of that song and wanted to build off of it."

Named after his hometown, Magnolia takes direct inspiration from, in Knowles' words, "moments in my life and lessons that I have learned." And that includes "Cherry Wine," an airy tune that goes down smooth but carries deep personal undertones, "It's about my fiancé," he explains. "It's very mature, but it also comes from a place of innocence. I met her in sixth grade, and there was this weird time period where we didn't think we liked each other. I just wanted to be in the future, where I could take her on dates and do mature life things with her."

Ultimately, Magnolia is a summation of Knowles' artistic M.O.: To forge deeper connections with those around him by reaching deep inside to expose the commonalities that bond everyone in this universe. "I just wanna reach people," he explains." "My whole dream at the start of this was to build relationships, whether it's with one person or a hundred people. Personal connections to others are so important. Music is a really cool way to express yourself in a real way and talk about real life things, rather than what others want to hear." It's an admirable aim, and you'll definitely want to hear what Knowles has coming next.

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