Who: Zach Heckendorf with The Infamous Stringdusters
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder, 303-786-7030
Z ach Heckendorf made his first album with Brett Dennen, shared a stage with the Barenaked Ladies, Guster, Jakob Dylan and Mat Kearney, and this summer, he'll open a show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
He's 19 years old.
Heckendorf, a Denver native, doesn't want his hook to be his age, but it's hard to ignore. He'd accomplished so much by the time he was 18, and his 19th year is looking just a promising. This Sunday, he'll play a show at eTown, just a stop on a tour that takes him from Boston to Sacramento and everywhere in between. His summer Red Rocks opening for Michael Franti gig will technically be his second at the legendary venue, but he's counting this one as the first big-league show.
He can get these gigs because he doesn't sound like a kid. There are other 19-year-olds out there with successful music careers, but what's different about Heckendorf is how mature he sounds.
"I think when people hear my songs, they're not going to know my age," he said.
Just a quick glance at other artists around Heckendorf's age and it's clear most of them have a more wild, young sound. Sleeper Agent's Alex Kandel, is a good example on the rock side of things, and of course there are the teen-friendly Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. But Heckendorf has the voice and musical tastes of an older generation.
Well, mostly. Listen closely to his acoustic rock, through the arrangements of guitars, drums, bass, and harmonica, and you'll hear the influence of hip hop.
"I really like hip hop, and I like grooves and beats," Heckendorf said. "I always feel like I'm making the backing track to a hip-hop track -- or sometimes. So I was always really attracted to that, and strange rhythms and strange time signatures."
With that inspiration and production from folk pop singer/songwriter Brett Dennen, he made "The Cool Down." But recording a full-length album with an established artist doesn't just happen. Heckendorf has been working on his music for a long time.
"I was in fourth grade and my dad gave me his guitar, and I took lessons for about six years in Denver," he said. "Then I kind of stopped taking lessons and developed my own style and found the voice that I have now."
Heckendorf went to Cherry Creek High School, in the suburbs of Denver. While he was there, he wrote and recorded the five songs he would make his first EP, and that would be the real start.
From there I met my manager, Chris [Tetzeli], and he helped me get a producer for the album," he said. "We chose Brett Dennen and recorded an album with him. It just keeps snowballing and getting bigger."
Heckendorf is still living in Denver, and talking to him gives the impression that he's humble about the early successes. He's able to just enjoy making it as a musician and evaluate himself at the same time.
"I think it is weird, you know. It's definitely different than what a lot of my friends are doing and all that stuff," he said. "I don't know, I'm learning the same things that I would have if I started this when I'm 30. I think I'm able to put more energy into because I'm so young. I'm riskier because I'm young."
This June, Heckendorf will head back into the studio to record his second album. Right now, he said he has most of the songs written.
He still has a few weeks to go on his current tour, but his homecoming will be a big one -- the Red Rocks show on June 8. This weekend he joins The Infamous Stringdusters for a live eTown taping at the Boulder Theater, so check him out while he's still here.