Grammy-award winning rock/country musician Zach Williams released his second album last October, called Rescue Story. The year before Zach had performed at Harding Prison in Nashville and shared with the inmates that he strongly identified with them. He said he was well on his way to becoming one of their number before experiencing his own rescue story out of a life of drugs, alcohol, and brokenness.
Like many American kids growing up in the south – Zach is from Jonesboro, Arkansas – he has deep Christian roots and grew up learning about God and the Bible. However, at about 15 or 16 he began thinking he knew better than his parents and itching to find his own way.
"I started experimenting with drugs and alcohol," he told Chris Carpenter in an interview with CBN. "I started running around with the wrong crowd. By my senior year of high school, I was making some really bad decisions. I lost a basketball scholarship and I found myself leaving high school the last semester of my senior year. I got a GED and I went to work for my dad's construction company."
Zach's father was a musician but Zach only fell in love with music in his first year of college when he taught himself to play his roommate's guitar.
He then went on to try to fulfill his musical ambitions in a southern rock band. "So, in my late twenties and early thirties, here I am, I've been trying to be this rock star and live this new lifestyle that I had created for myself. All I've ever done is fail, stumble, fall and hit dead end road after dead end road. Here I was walking through some of my darkest times because I was trying to figure out what was I doing with my life. I was living hard and found myself at the end of my rope."
Zach thought he was doing what he had always wanted to do, but his unhealthy, and sometimes dangerous, lifestyle left him empty, lonely, and further away from God and his family than ever before. He spent countless late nights on the road talking with a newly converted band mate about God, faith and what their lives could actually be like beyond the band.
"Even though I said I was a Christian, there was absolutely nothing about the way I was living that reflected these things," Zach shares. "It took a trip to Europe in 2012 to stop me dead in my tracks and show me just how lost I really was."
During the tour, in Spain, the bus driver was skipping through radio stations when "Redeemed" by Big Daddy Weave came on. In that instant, Zach realized maybe he wasn't too far-gone to be saved.
"The only thing left was to just cry out to God. And that was it. I came home from the tour. My second wife had just had our second child. It was our fourth child as a family. And we were in the middle of deciding whether to make this work or to get a divorce. I came home and I fell on my hands and knees on my bedroom floor, asking God to come and save me from this life I had created. I didn't care whether I ever played music again, I just knew that I was sick and tired of this life.
"I remember feeling this immediate relief and for the first time, not feeling like I had somebody sitting on my chest. It was like I could breathe again. And I realized that I didn't have to go back to that life anymore. God started revealing Himself to me and showing me His plan for my life."
Zach disbanded his rock group, embraced sobriety and took a construction job to stay home and work on being a good husband and father.
Four years later he signed as a solo artist with Provident Label to release his first single "Chain Breaker", which reached number two on Christian charts. That was followed by an album of the same name, which won a Grammy Award in 2017.
"Here's a cool thing. God's allowed my story to be something that I can share with people to show them the goodness of who He is and what He can do with somebody's life."
"All these songs are stories, situations that I have lived through. I tried to write songs that are just as raw and honest as I am. I'm not a perfect person. I struggle just like the next person and it's only through God that I am where I'm at today," Zach declares.
An illustration of that is his key song on Rescue Story, called "There was Jesus", which he sings with Dolly Parton. The lyrics come right out of Zach's story:
When the life I built came crashing to the ground
When the friends I had were nowhere to be found
I couldn't see it then but I can see it now
There was Jesus
In the waiting, in the searching
In the healing and the hurting
Like a blessing buried in the broken pieces
Every minute, every moment
Where I've been and where I'm going
Even when I didn't know it or couldn't see it
There was Jesus