WPAC hosts The Everly Brothers Experience Oct. 29
The Wilson Performing Arts Center is wrapping up a busy month of October with a performance featuring the music of two Southwest Iowa songmakers who spent some of their formative years just south of Red Oak, in Shenandoah.
The Everly Brothers Experience will take the stage at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 29. The group is made up of real-life brothers Zach and Dylan Zmed, as well as business partner and drummer Burleigh Drummond, Jr., and rotating bassists.
While Zach’s Zmed’s father, Adrian Zmed, had a prolific career as a performer on stage, screen, and television, Zmed said he was initially looking to pursue athletics.
“I wanted to be an athlete when I was young. I was always backstage with my dad, so I always knew it was a possibility, but it was more peripheral. I was obsessed with sports. It started with baseball, and then it moved to ice hockey,” said Zmed.
Zmed maintained his enthusiasm for sports until around the age of 12, when he became more interested in performance arts.
“Music kind of captured me. It was right at the same time my dad was traveling with a play based in the 1950s. All of the music from the 50s was being played during the show. I’d sit with the guitar player in the pit band and get to watch him play, and that’s kind of where things started,” commented Zmed.
Those childhood experiences and listening to 1950s music ended up inspiring Zmed to take up guitar playing himself.
“I’d listen to records from Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly and hearing the guitar answering the vocals sparked the interest, and getting to sit in the pit and watch the guitar player, Jim O’Donnell, who toured with Bo Diddley in the 1980 play during dad’s show. He was a really great guitar player, and I took my first lessons from him. I was pretty self-motivated, that’s for sure. All I wanted to do was practice guitar, and my high school grades suffered a bit because of it,” Zmed explained.
While saying he loved the Everly Brothers music growing up, Zmed said he was drawn to the music of a lot of 1950s artists.
“When I was young, I didn’t differentiate that much from all the artists. I’d get 1950s compilation records and CDS, which would be a mixture of artists like Berry, Del Shannon, Fats Domino, Sam Cooke, and the Everly Brothers. I loved the Everly Brothers because they had that sound with the harmony that was unique to them among that first wave of rock and rollers, but I wasn’t scouring the liner notes of the albums, I just liked the sound,” advised Zmed.
The decision for the brothers to put The Everly Brothers Experience together started slowly, but it ended up happening all at once.
“I started a band around 2008, and Dylan joined my band in Los Angeles as an auxiliary member around 2010, and he was just part of a six-piece band. He was singing some harmony, but it wasn’t a closed harmony band. Things shifted around 2012 when the band split up and we were trying to decide what to do next. We started booking gigs around the greater Los Angeles area. It started with us learning and playing around three Everly Brothers tunes. When we would play for younger audiences, they would come up to us after we played an Everly Brothers song, and say they loved the song, and ask us who wrote it. They knew the songs, but didn’t know who made it. That planted a little seed in our head. We love the songs, they worked for our voices, so we decided to dig in a little deeper,” Zmed stated.
Zach and Dylan ended up learning 10 Everly Brothers songs and enjoyed the experience so much they wanted to do more.
“We found that we wanted to learn the whole catalogue if we could and make it into a show. Then we wondered if anyone else was doing the same thing. We looked online and didn’t see anyone doing it the way we wanted to do it. There are other Everly tribute acts in the U.S. and overseas, but you don’t see too many people who were actually brothers who were doing it. It was 2015 when we decided we should give it a go,” Zmed explained. “We put together a promo package, recorded five of their bigger hits towards the end of 2015, and within a month, we got a booking agent and had our first gig in January, 2016. We were going really strong from 2016-19. Things tapered off a bit during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we’ve kept going.”
While the show emulates the experience of seeing the Everly Brothers on stage, Zmed said it’s beyond the brothers just doing an impersonation of the Everly Brothers.
“We personally felt from day one that it was more important to be ourselves and tell our story in conjunction with the Everly Brothers story. We’re taking people through the timeline of the Everly Brothers, but my personal feeling is pretending to be them would be kind of hokey. We feel very adamant about being genuine. This is us. We genuinely love this music, and yes, we’re younger guys, and a lot of the audiences are interested in why we’re interested in 1950s music. We play a couple of original songs in the show, including one about Shenandoah, Iowa, where the Everly Brothers spent some of their formative years. Now that we’ve done the show for eight years, my brother and I kind of have a feel for what it might have been like for Don and Phil Everly to be traveling as much as they did as siblings. It’s really hard sometimes.”
Zmed also said it’s been a wonderful experience for him and his brother to travel around the USA with the show, as well as Canada and several places overseas. One particular stop meant a lot to him.
“We’ve been to all of the Canadian provinces, and went to 11 places in Ireland in 2018. In fact, I’m not sure if they’ve had any Everly groups, or even the Everly Brothers themselves since they had played there in the 1960s. Some of the people that came to the shows said they saw them in 1966 when they played there last. So many of those old songs really did come from Ireland or north Britain because of the Scot/Irish immigration into the U.S., the Appalachians, and Kentucky, where Ike and Margaret Everly, Don and Phil’s parents, were from initially,” Zmed advised. “Old songs that Don and Phil sang, like ‘Willow Garden,’ is an old Irish song. When we played it in Ireland, people knew and loved it. For me and Dylan, it felt kind of like going back to the source of where this music came from before it came to the U.S.”
Zmed was encouraged to bring the show to Red Oak based on the recommendations of two prior WPAC performers.
“A friend of mine here in Nashville, a fantastic singer/songwriter named Tom Wurth had recently performed there, and Tom told me about the venue and said it would be great for us. Also, our friend Rick Hillyard that we know from performing in Shenandoah worked with the WPAC and recommended it to us. It looks like a beautiful space, and we love playing in Iowa. The audiences are great, and they know the music well. Iowa is one of the best states for 1950s rock and roll in the country between the Surf Ballroom and Lake Okoboji.”
Being able to perform with his brother, Zmed said, makes doing the show a unique and special experience.
“It’s transformed our lives. The whole experience forced us, in the best way, to be accountable to each other. The only way we could have done this whole thing was serving something greater than ourselves. That’s what’s kept the ship afloat. It’s not about us. This is about the memories people have that are attached to this music, and doing the whole thing justice. The first show we ever played doing this, the way the audience reacted just humbled us,” stated Zmed. “We are providing a service, and we have to really be kind to one another and leave all the bad stuff off-stage. We’ve got to sing with all the love in our hearts, because you can’t fake this music. The way Don and Phil sang together, they loved each other. You can’t sing harmony like that without loving each other deeply. It’s been the greatest learning experience for us as siblings. It’s brought us closer.”
Zmed said he’s excited to share the Everly Brothers Experience with Red Oak audiences.
“I hope they have a great time and leave with their hearts full and having all of their great memories brought back, or if they’re younger people, that they fall in love with the music the same way Dylan and I did as kids. We feel this music is timeless, and hopefully we can transport them back to the decade, and capture new fans, and they also become Everly Brothers fans. We’re trying to keep this music alive.”
Cost for tickets is $30 for adults, and $20 for students. Reserve tickets at wilsonartscenter.org, or call 623-3183.
To learn more about Zach and Dylan Zmed and listen to some of their recordings, visit theeverlybrothersexperience.com You can also follow them on their Facebook page, facebook.com/theeverlybrothersexperience. The Zmed brothers also have an instragram page at instagram.com/theeverlybrothersexperience/.