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Track-by-Track: Zach Blew Details Inspirations Behind Latest Album ‘Away At Sea’

Emerging singer-songwriter Zach Blew joins us for an exclusive track-by-track rundown of his forthright new album ‘Away At Sea.’



Zach Blew, photo by Jon Jacobsen in 2023
Zach Blew, photo by Jon Jacobsen in 2023

Throughout his life, Zach Blew has learned many lessons. And he’s using the platform of his new record to share some of them with listeners.

Released in April, Away at Sea is a collection of ten tracks inspired by some pivotal life experiences Blew has experienced over the last dozen years. The album dives into the more difficult challenges and uncertainties that arise throughout one’s life. The lyrics are poignant, and the overall message is profound as Blew opens up with his most confessional release yet. He was inspired to write this record by the tumultuous but exhilarating nature of life. Both the highs and the lows are equally fascinating as Blew grapples with difficult moments. It’s an illustration of his experiences with grief, loss, and the shedding of old beliefs. It requires courage to confront the hard times while emerging all the better for it. At the heart of it all is a pursuit of authenticity throughout the album.

In writing and recording Away at Sea, Blew focused on the details. He wanted to ensure a cohesive and immersive listening experience that would resonate with listeners. Zach Blew joins us today for a special track-by-track rundown of the album, taking us through the background and details of each song.

1.  “Whirlpool”

“‘Whirlpool’ is the title track and like the open ocean. The song shifted and changed several times over the years until it became the version we hear today. I started writing ‘Whirlpool’ in the late 2000s and it wasn’t until the end of a long-term relationship and the death of my father in 2016 that ‘Whirlpool’ took its final form. I wanted the first song on this album to make a statement and really draw the listener: the strings arrangement by Jay Sakong performed by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, plus the commanding vocal performance elevated the recording and captured the open water/voyage-themed vibe woven throughout this record.”

2. “Beacon”

“I joke that ‘Beacon’ is about my two-year-old Golden Retriever/Lab mix, Leo (the best boy!). As spiritual beings, we hold out hope for a beacon of light to guide us during arduous moments. This song navigates loss, grief and heartache while believing that a beacon is out there to guide me. ‘Beacon’ captures the resilience of the human spirit and this song is an instant mood lifter every time I hear it.”

3. “Film”

“I wrote ‘Film’ with my friend Turrell Brown while living in Chicago in 2010. After growing up in the Carolinas and Bible Belt, I moved to Chicago at age 24 when iPhones and dating apps were just starting to gain momentum. ‘Film’ explores the roles that technology and digital cameras play in modern intimacy. This R&B track has been one of the most viewed/played songs on my YouTube. Directed by Jon Jacobsen, it has received over 286,000 plays since the single dropped in March 2024.”

4. “Out of Pocket”

“‘Out of Pocket’ pays homage to a long-term relationship that ended around the time my father died. The tension of watching my father’s decline, plus infidelity, naïveté, and amicable differences resulted in the relationship’s demise. I felt remorse for many years after I left my partner and this song captures the internal conflicting dialogue: did I make the right decision to leave?”

Zach Blew ‘Away At Sea’ album artwork, photo by Jon Jacobsen in 2023

Zach Blew ‘Away At Sea’ album artwork, photo by Jon Jacobsen in 2023

5. “Candle”

“The chorus for ‘Candle’ came to me while washing dishes. I think sometimes lyrics, messages and ideas come to us when we are zoned out and in a state of passive autopilot. I’m trying to spend more time in that space, where our creative ‘receptors’ are most primed to receive inspiration. ‘Candle’ is a sweet, tender love song.

“Side plug! Custom 16oz handmade, natural soy wax essential oil ‘Away at Sea’ luxury candles (that smell of ozone, cedar, and citrus) are available for purchase on my website at”

6. “Still In My System”

“‘Still In My System’ was inspired by a devilishly handsome Fed Ex driver that I dated while living in the Bay Area. He was intoxicating, but ultimately toxic. This song pays homage to wanting something deeply that I knew just wasn’t good for me.”

7. “Bicycle”

“‘Bicycle’ was also written in 2009 while living in Chicago. This song originally was composed entirely of a cappella without any instrumentation on guitar. I beatboxed the drums and hummed the bass, guitar, keys, and synth lines and this song’s composition lived in my head for years.

“Recording this song was a delight: I beatboxed and hummed each part, and my lovely producer Kevin Ann Dye tracked each instrument in a few hours. Recording this sensual overtly pop track was inspired by Vulfpeck’s funky bass fills and the horn sections from Tina Marie’s ‘Square Biz.’ This is a song about simply riding a bike with your love interest.”

8. “Mountain”

“‘Mountain’ is some of my strongest songwriting to date. A quintessential folk song, this version of ‘Mountain’ on Away at Sea leans country/gospel, with tight three-part harmonies. The song captures the longing for a love that I’ll never have. As a closeted gay male attending a private Christian college in the mid-2000s, I wrote this song about a boy who didn’t have feelings for me. I released ‘Mountain’ on my first album Tonight in This Motel and re-recorded it on Away at Sea with stronger production and a country gospel twist.”

9. “Second Son”

“‘Second Son’ is a devastating, haunting folk ballad written with my best friend Cyndy Fike (check Cyndy’s beautiful voice and her own up-tempo country version of ‘Second Son.’) This song pays tribute to Adam and Will Cox, identical twin brothers who I grew up with in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Both boys passed away tragically before they reached the age of 25. ‘Second Son’ is written from their mother’s point of view and features Avi Vinocur from the alt-rock band Goodnight, Texas.”

10. “Yes”

“‘Yes’ is a song of triumph, resolution and believing in one’s own worthiness. I experienced years of nuanced spiritual trauma in the church and believed I was distorted and wrong for being gay for many years. As a result, I became tense, cold and angry over time. ‘Yes’ helped this cold ice witch thaw out (I joke that I became the White Witch from the Chronicles of Narnia) and affirmed that I am absolutely worthy and capable of having a meaningful, abundant life.

“Life is a circle of finding and leaving behind. I am free to leave behind false, limiting beliefs and hope this song and album frees to others to do the same while embracing their own unique beauty and spark.”