United in song since an art lesson in kindergarten at Almond School, Zach Gospe and Riley Soward have a friendship cemented by music.
The two Los Altos High School seniors are collaborating to create Gospe’s first professional EP (extended play, a recording that’s more than a single but not a full album), with Soward acting as his manager.
After meeting with Mark Mazzetti – an executive with Entertainment, Music and Media – Soward and Gospe began raising money to record the EP in Los Angeles with Mazzetti as producer.
Gospe was raised in a musical family and began playing piano at age 5. At 8, he took up drums and joined his parents’ jazz ensemble at the Community School of Music and Arts. At 12, he picked up a guitar and began writing his own music.
“I really like the freedom the guitar has as a writing tool and as an instrument,” said Gospe, who mentioned John Mayer and Eric Clapton as musical inspirations.
Last summer Gospe attended the GRAMMY Camp in Los Angeles, which pairs pros in the music business with high school students with musical aspirations.
“It was kind of an overwhelming, immersive jump into the music industry,” said Gospe, adding that the camp taught him how to be a songwriter within the music business while still maintaining his creativity as an artist.
Gospe has recorded his music before. Through one of Soward’s social-media connections, the duo borrowed some high-tech equipment and recorded five songs in a cozy Los Altos Hills cabin. The first EP featured only Gospe and his guitar.
Gospe and Soward attended the West Coast Songwriters Conference at Foothill College two months ago. Gospe sat in on songwriting lectures while Soward learned about the business side of the music industry.
After studying the faces of prominent people in the music business attending the conference, Soward spotted Mazzetti and introduced himself. After chatting a bit about Gospe, Soward introduced the two and they handed Mazzetti a copy of their first EP.
“It was unusual, because most people of his status in the music industry won’t call you back,” Soward said. “But he listened to the EP and he liked it, so he called us.”
Mazzetti owns Record Company in a Box, which provides one-on-one, specialized artist development for artists, singers and songwriters seeking commercial success. Mazzetti has worked with top-selling artists such as Mayer, Janet Jackson and Sting.
The return call from Mazzetti inspired Soward and Gospe to find creative ways to raise money for recording the EP with Mazzetti and professional studio musicians.
“It’s such a big project and it’s my dream,” said Gospe, who connects with Mazzetti twice a week via Skype to work on his song development. “It’s one of those projects that you can keep pouring time into and it just keeps getting better and better.”
Soward has spent several hours on the pair’s Kickstarter campaign, an online platform for creative projects that fundraises via pledges. Their goal is to raise $10,000 for the EP.
The two have been spreading the word at performances during school functions and local house concerts.
“It’s been cool to see him grow as a performer,” Soward said of Gospe. “We’ve scaled up the performances slowly. Seeing him grow as an artist is pretty impressive.”
They see the EP as a way to showcase Gospe’s talent and range as a musician and songwriter. Gospe said he hopes the six radio-quality tracks are a “stepping stone” to greater things.
Mazzetti said he is impressed with Gospe and Soward, praising their “real passion and enthusiasm.” After they make the EP, Mazzetti plans to help Gospe secure a distribution contract from a record company in Los Angeles.
Gospe and Soward are excited about the possibility, but they won’t regret all the hard work if it doesn’t pan out.
“This has the potential to be big, but even if it doesn’t go anywhere, this process has been great for us,” Soward said.
To donate to the Kickstarter campaign and for more information, visit kickstarter.com/projects/2032161415/zach-gospe-17-year-old-singer-songwriter-original.
Musicians on the rise: Zach Gospe and Riley Soward - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier