This was posted on Thursday, January 26, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Just 16 months ago, Zach Seabaugh was a high school senior at Kennesaw Mountain High School. Then he landed on TV on a little show called "The Voice" and his life changed.
The blue-eyed, square-jawed country singer with the smooth baritone and Elvis hip moves came across much older than his 16 years and enchanted the judges. Sure, crooner Jordan Smith was practically ordained to win from day one but Seabaugh made it to the episode right before the finals, eliminated the week they cut five people.
Now he's the lead in a new Alliance Theatre musical "Troubadour," which began previews last week and runs through February 12. (Buy tickets here). I spoke to the now 18-year-old Seabaugh at the Alliance last week, followed up by a follow up after opening night last week.
Playwright Janece Shaffer and Sugarland's Kristian Bush canvassed New York and Nashville for an actor to play the 1950s era 23-year-old up-and-coming country singer trying to get out of his famous father's shadow. But they found their man right here in Marietta.
"I did musical theater in high school so I was able to transition back," said Seabaugh. No doubt his time on "The Voice" helped his stage presence. And for him, getting to sing the words of Kristian Bush, a great songwriter, inspired him.
He also loved how country music until the mid-1950s featured singers in church clothes: whites, browns, blacks. Then the colors and rhinestones took over. The musical, in fictional form, traces that transition.
After his first performance before a live Alliance audience, Seabaugh said he felt it went well. "My nerves weren't too bad, he said. "It ran really smoothly. We're really happy with how the crowd reacted."
His character deals with his father, who is retiring for murky reasons. "It's very dramatic but there is a little comedy as well," he said.
Bush came in from Nashville to see the first night's performances and hugged Seabaugh afterwards. "He said he was proud of me," he said.
Since leaving "The Voice," Seabaugh's focus is learning how to write original music. "The night I was eliminated, I wrote my first song," he said. "I wrote about home." He recorded a five-song EP independently and it actually charted. He kept himself active on social media (110K followers on Instagram, 61K on Twitter, 35K on Facebook) and did concerts, including a sold-out show at the Strand on Marietta Square and the Cobb County Cobb Energy Centre with fellow "Voice" singer Emily Ann Roberts last year.
"I'm trying to create a sound I want to be known for," he said. "I'm just transitioning away from 'The Voice.' It got me to the starting line." He signed with a management company Wortman Works, which does his publicity and helped set him up with professional Nashville songwriters.
He'd travel regularly to Nashville and have sessions learning from folks who have written hit songs for the likes of Tim McGraw and Chris Young. Being only 18, song topics are a bit more limited than they'd be if he was 28 but he said he enjoys gleaning thoughts and experiences from 50 year olds. "It's like a songwriting boot camp," he said.
And he's pragmatic, knowing that he may not be able to come up with the greatest hits all by himself. "I want the best songs possible," he said. "If I could be the writer behind that, that would be cool. That's what fuels me in the industry. It's one thing to be on stage, it's another to write the songs."
Once the play is over, Seabaugh plans to move to Nashville where he'll attend Middle Tennessee State University and study music business.
Through Feb. 12. $20-$72. Alliance Theatre, 1280 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 404.733.5000, www.alliancetheatre.org .