As he took to the stage with one of his heroes to play a blues gig in front of cheering fans, 16-year-old Zach Fielder realised life doesn’t get much sweeter.
Before he won The News’s Instant Star talent contest, playing guitar alongside blue legend Muddy Waters’ son, Mud Morganfield, was something he could only dream about as he battled to be heard over chatter during pub gigs.
Yet the youngster’s name soon became well-known in the blues world after impressing with his musicianship.
Zach, now 16, had gone to see Mud when he was playing at The Cellars in Eastney and started talking to him after the show.
The pair exchanged YouTube accounts and Zach sent Mud some of his work, including a cover of his father’s track Got My Mojo Working. Mud was so impressed he sent Zach a letter calling him the future of blues.
Soon after, Mud asked Zach to play alongside him at one of his gigs at the Rope and Tackle Club in Worthing.
Zach says: ‘I thought it was crazy that he was asking me to play with him and it wasn’t the other way around. I was really nervous because I wanted to do really well for him, but he reassured me before we went on and then we were just sitting around chatting for a while and that was amazing.
‘When we went on stage, he introduced me as a 15-year-old guitarist and the crowd were really surprised and they gave me a massive cheer. We got a great reaction from the crowd and it was such a buzz.’
Zach, who lives in Copnor, Portsmouth, was also recommended to play at a charity event in aid of Over the Wall, in the Playhouse Theatre, London, alongside blues singer Michael Messer.
Michael was so impressed with Zach’s performance that he gave him a guitar and signed it for him.
Zach says: ‘It was such a privilege to play alongside Michael, he is one of my heroes, I couldn’t believe I was actually on stage with him and doing a show with him.
‘The atmosphere in the theatre was amazing and everyone was cheering, I had tears in my eyes it was just so emotional. I never thought I would get an opportunity like that, it was incredible.’
Like many blues musicians, Zach’s music has been fuelled by tragedy, His mum, Judy, died suddenly from a blood clot in 2007 when he was only 12.
He recalls: ‘She told me she had a headache and went into the living room, then I heard a bang and went in and she was just lying there.
‘I panicked and phoned an ambulance to take her away and went to the hospital with my grandparents. I couldn’t stop crying, I didn’t know what to expect.’
Zach’s dad, Mick, rushed to hospital, but sadly Judy passed away that evening and Zach found her loss increasingly difficult to cope with.
‘It was really hard waking up every morning knowing I didn’t have a mum any more,’ he remembers.
‘I just didn’t know what to do with myself and it took me a long time to realise she wasn’t coming back.
‘My dad was my biggest help, he was always there to talk to and was a great comfort. But when I found blues I really connected with it because it was all about bad times and I was going through a really bad time too.’
It was Zach’s guitar tutor, Nick Evans, that introduced the Miltoncross School pupil to the blues.
Zach learned the 12-bar structure of blues and started to write his own songs, using music as an emotional outlet.
The first song he penned was called A Motherless Child. He says: ‘Writing music was a great way for me to cope with it. I got pretty emotional doing some of the songs I wrote, but it gave me something I couldn’t get anywhere else.
‘I didn’t write these songs to perform them, most of them I keep to myself. But about a year later I did start to perform some of them at school concerts and I knew after the first show that I wanted to do it for the rest of my life.
‘It’s such an adrenaline rush to play on stage and hear everyone clapping afterwards – it’s an amazing feeling, especially when it’s your own stuff.’
Inspired by the audience’s reaction, Zach started to play more and more gigs with fellow pupils and on his own, and before long he was playing in pubs.
But he was hungry for larger audiences and entered The News’ Instant Star competition last year, where he blew away the judges at the auditions when he covered a Robert Johnson track.
He says he was beside himself when he found out he won the competition and the chance to appear in the Song and Dance variety show at the Kings Theatre in Southsea.
He says: ‘I wasn’t sure if it was a hoax or not at first and then when I realised I started jumping up and down I was so excited.
‘And it was amazing to play to an audience that had paid to hear me and really wanted to watch the show, because I was so used to playing pub gigs where people just talk over you.’
Since taking the title, Zach has gone on to play in front of large audiences at two big events run by The News – The Guide Awards and the We Can Do It Awards. But the main highlights of his year have been meeting some of his musical heroes.
Having finished his GCSEs, Zach is awaiting his results and hopes to go to South Downs College to study music and music technology. He eventually wants to be a session musician playing on albums and also wants to continue performing.
Zach says: ‘Entering Instant Star has really helped me get my name out there and start my career. I’m so glad I did it.’
COULD YOU BE OUR NEXT INSTANT STAR?
Do you watch TV talent shows and reckon you could do better than some of the acts?
If you think you’ve got what it takes to make it, then Instant Star is for you.
Our annual talent contest is being held to ﬁnd an act to appear in a special gala variety show at the Kings Theatre in Southsea on Sunday September 4.
The fundraising event features professional and local talent and is being held in aid of the Kings Theatre Restoration Fund, the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and the Rosemary Foundation.
Those performing include West End stars Jack Edwards and Natalie Caswell, the Kings Youth Theatre – and, of course, our Instant Star.
We’re holding open auditions at the Salvation Army Community Rooms, 78 Albert Road, Southsea – just along the road from the Kings – on Monday, August 8, starting at 7pm.
It’s a variety show, so whatever you do – such as singing, dancing, acting, juggling, conjuring or comedy – we’ll consider you.
Our judges – The News features editor Simon Toft, plus Sandra Smith from the Kings Theatre and Helen Stoddart, who is one of the gala show’s producers – will assess the talents of each entrant. Then they’ll pick a winner to be crowned Instant Star.
Sandra says: ‘I’m always impressed by how much talent we have in this area. This year it could be you on stage appearing in the gala show.’
If you want to be seen by our judges on the big audition night, you’ll need to register in advance. Simply e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, address, age and telephone numbers plus a brief description of your act. We’ll then e-mail back with an entry number so we can call you up in front of the judges to perform on the audition night.
We’d also love people to be able to see you performing before then. If you have a video, simply upload it to YouTube and then include the URL link in your e-mailed Instant Star entry.
Don’t delay with your entry as the closing date is midnight on Thursday, August 4, 2011.
· To buy tickets for the Kings gala show, call the box ofﬁce on (023) 9282 8282.