Award-winning songwriter, musician Zach Williams says at every step ‘there was Jesus’

By Tracy Riggs
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist

In a quiet moment on a tour bus, a Big Daddy Weave song changed everything for Zach Williams.

The Grammy and Dove Award- winning Christian rocker grew up in church with his father leading worship and his mother singing on praise teams. Every night they would pray Scripture over him, verses like Jeremiah 29:11.

When an injury forced him to sit out his first college basketball season, a bored Williams picked up his roommate’s guitar, which led to writing songs. Williams decided music was more important than basketball, so after college he pursued secular music full-time.

Change of heart

Williams jumped into the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle — drinking and doing drugs. At the age of 33, he found himself in a second marriage with stepchildren and a baby on the way. He wondered what kind of dad he would be.

A band member invited him to church, and Williams planned to make the Christian lifestyle a priority. But the rock ‘n’ roll social life pulled him back in. Though not an addict, he still knew this lifestyle was wrong.

“If I was addicted to anything it was more of the lifestyle and the energy I got from the kind of people that I knew I was getting attention from,” he said.

When he heard Big Daddy Weave sing “Redeemed,” everything changed, he said. The song went straight to his spirit. That night he quit the band and went home.

Williams made renewed commitments to the Lord and to his family, giving up music completely. He got a job in construction and concentrated on rebuilding relationships.

Eventually, God gave music back to Williams through an invitation to be a worship leader at his church.

This opportunity and working with addicts through Celebrate Recovery and Jumpstart Ministries led him to write “Chain Breaker” with music producer/songwriter Jonathan Smith and musician/songwriter Mia Fieldes. The song led to a record contract.

Williams’ song, “There Was Jesus,” a single recorded with Dolly Parton, looks back at those twists and turns in his life.

“I had this idea for a song, taking me back to where I was in my life, looking at all these moments where I didn’t realize that God was in them at the time. I can see now that He was there, and I missed it,” Williams said.

The lyrics tell that story: “In the waiting, in the searching/ In the healing, in the hurting/ Like a blessing buried in the broken pieces/ … Even when I didn’t know it/ Or couldn’t see it/ There was Jesus.”

After listening to the demo of “There Was Jesus,” Williams thought the backup singer’s voice had “the Dolly Parton sound.” Williams jokingly asked his producer if they could get Parton to sing on the single. They all laughed at the idea, but then Parton heard the song.

She later told Williams she didn’t get through the first chorus before knowing she wanted to be involved.

“She was an absolute joy to work with,” Williams said of Parton.

Williams also has toured with Big Daddy Weave and wrote “Alive,” the first single off the band’s album “When the Light Comes.”

“After I wrote it, I turned to my producer and said it sounded like a Big Daddy Weave song,” Williams said. “It was a pretty cool God moment to see God take a song that you’ve heard from them and then allow you to write a song for them. Then that becomes something in a season in their lives that ministers to them. God truly does have a plan for each and every one of our lives.”

For more information, visit zachwilliamsmusic.com.