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Shuffle: Zach Freidhof and 'Shaila' Bring Wildness to Akron

photo of Shaila
Zach Freidhof has recorded his 20th album with help from friends like Grethcen Pleuss, using Kenmore's Studio 1008.

An Akron musician who bills himself as a “Troubadour of Peace” is celebrating the release of a new album. In this week’s “Shuffle,” Zach Freidhof talks about his work.

Zach Freidhof released his 20th album this month, a more polished work with a fuller sound compared with his previous albums.

The album is called "Shaila," which in Sanskrit means "mountain." 

"I wrote [the album] all in the mountains in Wyoming. I feel very connected to the Tetons, which is in the Yellowstone ecosystem," he said. "I have an aunt that lives out in that area. After my father passed, I went out and have been doing yearly tours out West and throughout the mountains. I just really never feel quite at home like I do in those mountains.”

photo of Zach Freidhof
Zach Freidhof is celebrating the release of 'Shaila' with shows at The Center in downtown Akron.

A sense of "wildness"
And being in those mountains gives Freidhof a sense of wildness, which he wants to convey to listeners with the new album.

“We’ve built up our environments so we don’t see our wildness so much. First of all, we have to know what wild means to us. And I think it’s a big idea," he said. "So what it means to me is maybe not the same thing it means to you or to someone else. It usually means some sort of freedom. Some sort of creativity. Dropping some of the fetters. Dropping some of the routines and habits that we find ourselves in. How can we allow more freedom of ‘us to be us’ in our day?”

Freidhof recorded at Studio 1008 in Kenmore to give the album a more polished sound and to keep things local. And he called on his friends in Akron’s music scene to give the songs a different sound from his previous albums.

“I instantly called up my friend Gretchen Pleuss who I think really can understand the wildness. We both have an affinity for that part of the world and the wide open spaces. So I knew that she would know where I was coming from," he said. "And so I thought she would be perfect to help to bring that message forward and create a sonic landscape around it that really spoke to the message and spoke to the songs and to the heart."

The first step in an evolution?
"I don’t know what the future holds. I know that this project has had a lot of passion from me. And I feel like I’ve really poured a lot of heart and vulnerability into it. And I feel like that speaks loudly and clearly through it," he said. "So I’m very honored and grateful. And if I can keep making music that way, I won’t have anything to complain about.”

When he’s not making music in the studio, Freidhof appears at many events around Northeast Ohio to support social causes. Last fall, he took part in a small rally for Akron’s Second Chance Village tent city for the homeless, at Hardesty Park.

“I was influenced a lot by John Lennon. And not only in his writing, but I was really inspired by the fact that he used his music for society, for something bigger and better than just himself," he said." At an early age, I really felt like that was something that I wanted to do. And I really view the music that I do as a gift that’s been given to me. So I try to honor that by giving it and sharing it as much as I can.”

But it almost didn’t happen.

Finding his path
“I wasn’t intending on being a musician. I have no music in my family. So all those genes were saved up for

photo of Zach Freidhof
Zach Freidhof says he's been inspired by many musicians, including John Lennon, but not just for his music. Freidhof frequently performs at events to support social causes in and around Akron.

me, I think," he said. "And I had a near-death appendicitis that just about killed me; it was misdiagnosed. In that process of recovering, I had some friends bring me some music in the hospital, and it literally – as I was laying there – I feel like I was picked up and put on my path.”

Freidhof plays and records a largely acoustic body of work and now regularly tours around the country. But he has an affinity for Akron, where he lives.

“One of the really special things about Akron – and one of the reasons I’m so passionate and I keep staying and loving Akron – is the community here is really a very tight community," he said. "Not only do musicians play in each other’s shows and stuff, but they actually support. We promote each other’s music and shows and experience.  And we’re happy when other people get recognition or something comes out.”

Freidhof is celebrating the release of “Shaila” with a pair of intimate, multimedia shows at The Center in downtown Akron. They’re part of what he describes as a journey through the four seasons. Spring and summer took place last week, and the shows Thursday and Friday will take the audience through fall and winter.

Details on Zach Freidhof’s new album and shows are available here.

Freidhof discusses his influences