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Level Live 003
Dreamer Boy
07 22 2019
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Level Live is a new series made in partnership with artists on the rise, centered around a live-recorded performance brought to life by multimedia storytelling and an official release via Level.

It’s 10 A.M. and despite arriving on the heels of a thirteen-hour drive from Nashville to Austin, Zack Taylor, better known as Dreamer Boy, is energetic and bright-eyed. Sporting a comfortable beige top, blue worker denim, and leopard Doc Martens, he gives off a natural confidence. A confidence that was first introduced by someone who understood the merit of going after what one wants. 

 

“Sometimes you gotta just tell a kid that he can do something, you know?” says Dreamer Boy, crediting his grandmother for instilling an early fire in him to “just do music if you want to.”

Owing even more to his family by choice, Dreamer Boy found his musical muses within arms reach in Nashville. One after another, producer Bobby Knepper, singer-songwriter Savanna Dohler, creative lead Adam Alonzo, and manager Cody Clark all moved in together with Dreamer Boy. They aptly coined their home and inventive compound as “The Dream House.” This Wes Anderson-hued tea-green house with a symmetrical white porch sets the scene for the crew’s pursuit of summer soundtracks and shared fixation for creativity.

 

 

When I come home in the summer

 

Ooh, we were kids

 

It seems to me we were in over our heads

Zack Taylor aka Dreamer Boy

Photographs by Joshua Bilhan

“My friends are the cornerstone of Dreamer Boy,” claims the artist, who credits the crew as they take on the challenges of production and mixing, photography and film, and even management and tour planning all under the same roof. Even during the four-hour shoot, creative partner Adam and manager Clark are heads down at work. Though the crew is presumably in their early 20s, they’re anything but juvenile — their work ethic fueled by a shared passion. 

 

For Dreamer Boy, this passion informs his every artistic decision as he weighs the purpose of this creative process.

"I think that the responsibility as an artist is to put a voice or structure to what people feel. I'm sure I'm not the first one to feel what I felt, but it's up to me to personalize it, package it, so people who've listened can find some peace in similar things they're going through."

Written in 18 months as a love letter to summer, Dreamer Boy’s debut album Love, Nostalgia, is an ethereal blend of the intangible but familiar trials of romance and growing up. There’s a nostalgia in the prose paired with a forward-looking, woozy pop production that’s perhaps not traditionally associated with Nashville. After spurring much fanfare and acclaim from publications like Milk and Elevator, the young artist still humbly admits to a bit of naïveté. 

 

“It wasn’t until recently that I started to trust my “singing voice.” It’s an unexpected statement from an artist who’s recently sold out a hometown crowd and has opened for peers and new vanguards like Omar Apollo and The Marías. But it is precisely this aura of sincere, pink-haired boyish charm and an intense relatability in sound and speak that makes Dreamer Boy’s music work across all timestamps and genres.

“The Dream House”
Courtesy of Dreamer Boy

My fist turn into open hands now

 

I had to let you go

 

Now I’m tripping that you got a man now

 

Good for you

 

Guess that all that’s left to say now

 

Time for something new

 

Something to prove, something to lose

 

Chase mine, chase yours

 

Dreams we both had

The song performed is the final and eponymous track in the album, titled “Dreamer.”  A visceral confession of a past love, it’s structured on a gently-edited beat of a metronome, à la time irreversibly gone. At times the song is quiet, but is always explorative and picturesque. Dreamer Boy makes his stories clear. From sage advice that a dad might give to spending “five hunnid on rags,” the song flickers in the images and feelings from the aftermath of heartbreak. 

 

As if holding onto a gaze reflected in the rearview, he elaborates further. “It’s about a dream you had of a summer years ago. I’ve always had a strong nostalgic bone, so the Dreamer Boy moniker is representative of this romanticizing of reality and the past.”

 

 

Summer comes and goes

 

Summer comes and goes

 

Summer comes and goes

 

I’ll miss you

 

 

Read on for a Q&A and listen to the live-recorded single of “Dreamer” — out now via Level.

How do you think music connects people?

 

Dreamer Boy: People need guidance and need to break down their walls to be open to connection. So I think music is just one of those things in this world that can do that.

 

 

How do you define success?

 

DB: For artists, I think defining success can be tricky because a lot of the times you’re just battling your own goals that you have in your head or your own standards that you’re trying to achieve. Success to me is like just, um, when I can be proud of something. I also think that success means when whatever purpose you have is achieved. If that means getting many people in the room to experience this one thing, then that’s success. But it doesn’t necessarily equate to numbers or like ticket sales.

 

 

What advice would you give your younger self?

 

DB: Have more fun with it. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Just trust yourself more if you want to venture out into different kinds of music. You kind of discover yourself more when you let yourself go.

 

 

What excites or scares you in sharing your art with others?

 

DB: What’s scary is when you packaged up your life and share it out there. I think it could get exhausting for some to have this portrayal of yourself in public. But if you’re doing it for the right reasons, it’s a lot less so that way. It makes sense why negative criticism for art can get to you because what you’re doing is a regurgitation of what’s so precious to you. But it’s also not that serious. Your awareness for yourself is just heightened. You’re just constantly thinking about how this experience can go into something musically.

 

 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

 

Want to participate in the next season of Level Live? Apply here.