Rockin’ all 50 states

T he well traveled, Toledo-born and Nashville-based musician Zak Shaffer is set to perform at the Dublin Pub on June 29 as part of his ongoing “Fifty States Tour.” Shaffer is armed with an acoustic guitar and a malleable voice that can effortlessly slide between a rocking yet soulful growl to a smooth country croon […]

Rock, country, and blues with Zak Shaffer at Dublin Pub


Singer/guitarist Zak Shaffer.

By Justin Kreitzer

The well traveled, Toledo-born and Nashville-based musician Zak Shaffer is set to perform at the Dublin Pub on June 29 as part of his ongoing “Fifty States Tour.” Shaffer is armed with an acoustic guitar and a malleable voice that can effortlessly slide between a rocking yet soulful growl to a smooth country croon and back again. This versatility has led him to share the stage with rock, metal and country bands, including country music star Hal Ketchum. An energetic and well-seasoned performer, Shaffer specializes in putting his unique spin on well-loved rock, country, bluegrass and pop favorites, and peppers his diverse set list with his own blues-rock originals that stand up to the covers.

In anticipation, the Dayton City Paper spoke with Zak Shaffer about his life on the road, Ohio roots, acting and more.

DAYTON CITY PAPER: In 2013, you chose to live on the road and you began your ambitious “Fifty States Tour.” What made you decide to go all-out like that, and have you ever regretted that decision?

Zak Shaffer: I was the lead singer in a heavy metal band, but quit in 2012. We had a couple shows in Hollywood at the Whisky A Go-Go and at the Key Club, but I wanted to do some traveling and the rest of the band wanted to stay in L.A. My girlfriend got laid off from her day job around the same time, so she started booking my shows, built me a website, and became my manager, basically. After performing professionally in about 9 or 10 states, we decided to just sell everything and travel. We have definitely never regretted the decision; we’ve had the time of our lives. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been worth the stress.

DCP: How many states have you crossed off the list so far and what states remain?

ZS: I have been to 48 states but still have Alaska & Hawaii to go. There are many states we have been to multiple times.

DCP: I see you have played many shows in Ohio previously. Do you have any ties, familial or otherwise, to the Buckeye state?

ZS: I was born in Toledo, and my parents moved us to Nashville when I was 3 years old. My father was a country songwriter. A couple years after high school, my parents moved back to Toledo after my father was diagnosed with MS. I came to visit for my 21st birthday, and ended up staying. So, I have pretty equal amount of roots in Nashville and Northwest Ohio. I was in a couple bands in Nashville, but most of my musical career was developed in the Toledo area, and I have a pretty large fan base here. We decided to take a break from the road, and moved back to Toledo in October 2017. We miss traveling, but are also enjoying some downtime.

DCP: Your list of cover songs is diverse with songs from Johnny Cash to Jason Mraz, and reveals some of your obvious influences, but who are some of your least obvious musical influences?

ZS: My not so obvious influences would include bands like Tool and Three Days Grace, also Joe Bonamassa and I’ve been covering Chris Stapleton songs for over a decade, from when he was in The SteelDrivers bluegrass band.

DCP: After performing for years, playing other people’s songs as well as your own, you have yet to release an album of originals. Do you have plans to do that soon? If so, where are you in that creative process?

ZS: I’ve recorded my originals in many studios in different parts of the country, but with the chaos and financial ups and downs of being on the road, I just never really had a chance to put anything together officially. You can purchase downloads of some of my originals on my website. I am in the process of going through all the tracks and hoping to put together a compilation album soon, titled “Zak Shaffer Across America,” or something like that.

DCP: In addition to your music career, you have also dabbled in acting, having been cast as an extra on ABC’s Nashville and A&E’s Crazy Hearts Nashville, and have performed as radio personality “Bubba Hank” on the Old Hippy Bluegrass Hour. Is acting something you would like to pursue more seriously?

ZS: I still do some skits on the radio occasionally, and I enjoy acting. It’s not something I would pursue necessarily, and mainly because I don’t like being on set! I have too much energy, and most of the time on set you are just standing around waiting.

DCP: What can new listeners expect from a Zak Shaffer show?

ZS: Listeners can expect an energetic acoustic show, with some classic rock covers, modern rock covers, some country covers, and my bluesy-rock style originals mixed in.

Dublin Pub presents Zak Shaffer on Friday, June 29 from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. For more information visit zakshaffer.com, dubpub.com, or call 937.224.7822. Tickets are also available via Eventbrite.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Justin Kreitzer at JustinKreitzer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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