Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

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Q&A With Zack Joseph

By Christopher Treacy

Zack Joseph lights a fire with his new solitary anthem, “Better Off Alone,” which we chose as Song of the Week in our current Roundup. The track takes an honest, road-less-travelled approach in a culture that’s put increasing value on getting coupled-up over the last few years. Not being one to gratuitously slam anyone else’s path to joy, that’s all fine and well. But as a former art teacher of mine used to say in group critiques, “Is it worth pursuing?”

Straight, gay, something else—it doesn’t seem to matter: the urge to continue trudging along in relationships that aren’t working seems universal. Being alone has gotten a bad rep.

On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got folks that are so wrapped up in themselves and their own needs that they’re too quick to bail. Unwilling to make compromises and learn the tolerance necessary to sustain unions of any length, they jump ship without really trying, all in the name of getting those so-called needs met, whatever they may be.

In the spirit of finding things to enjoy about solitary living, Joseph staged a plant giveaway to coincide with the run-up to releasing this new single, culminating in his release show at his Nashville home venue, Spirit Haus, last night. The song doesn’t officially come out until tomorrow, (Friday, April 29th), but you can support Joseph by pre-saving it on your favorite streaming service and following his socials (Instagram, Facebook). Meanwhile, we got to chat him up about being, “Better off Alone.”


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

“Better Off Alone” takes a path less travelled. Is it about exasperation? Independence? Both?

I think this song is mainly about appreciating independence and poking fun at the pain and stress that come along with developing any relationship. Be it with a new partner, job, or friend, it’s so easy to obsess over perfection and finding ‘the one.’ I think it’s good to step back and realize being alone is often exactly what we need.

I think we all know folks that are romantically involved with people that are less-than-ideal for them, and yet there’s often a seeming desperation to stay coupled. It’s said that staying in stale relationships is easier than going it alone, but I’m not sure this is true. What do you think?

I’ve actually been in a serious relationship for several years so I don’t feel like I’m in any position to judge other relationships simply because I understand the ups and downs that come along with them. I will say, though, that a lot of us grew up in a culture where finding love and a relationship is the most important thing in the world, it should be our ultimate goal, and we’re doomed if we don’t find ‘the one’ by a certain age. I think this is complete garbage. I also think it’s very dangerous to stay in any sort of relationship because it’s comfortable, easy, or expected. I do see a positive change happening though and love watching so many people embrace their independence and break down our past societal norms.

Why do you think that being single has gained such a negative connotation in our culture? 

I just think it’s been built into our culture for many many many generations. As a queer man who grew up in the 90s though, I feel like we kind of caught the tail end of a lot of societal norms, expectations, and connotations. I know things still aren’t perfect, but I often look at younger generations and think about how cool it is that they’re not growing up in a world where they’re expected to just get married to the opposite sex in their early 20s, get a normal job, and make babies. It seems to me that we’re moving in the right direction, and the days of a single person being labeled a ‘slutty gay’ or an ‘old spinster’ for owning their independent lifestyle are coming to an end.

Tell us a few of your favorite songs about getting out of bad relationships or being single/independent/free…

I think the most beautiful song about independence and moving on from something that’s just not working out is “I Will Always Love You” by my queen, Dolly Parton. It’s a song about both people moving on because it’s best for everyone. It’s going to hurt, but it needs to happen and they need to be strong about it. There’s no animosity or anger, it’s just a song about the reality of a relationship coming to an end and I think it’s beautifully done.

The track is quite upbeat despite the storyline. Was this a deliberate choice? 

Yes! I think this is a song about embracing independence with a smile and perhaps a sassy eyeroll. I had just left a bad relationship and wrote this song when I started dating again. I hit this point where the whole process just seemed ridiculous and this song is kind of my own inside joke to the whole idea of finding the perfect person.  I really tried writing lyrics that express the transition from expectation to reality to ‘who needs ‘em?!’. I think we have enough songs about heartbreak in the world so why not make one that’s upbeat. We’ve all been in a bad relationship with a partner, friend, job, substance, etc, so I just hope people can smile along with this and maybe appreciate a time where they were “Better Off Alone.”

Christopher Treacy has been writing about music and the music industry for 20 years. He’s contributed to The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Herald, Nashville Scene, and Berklee College of Music’s quarterly journal, as well as myriad LGBTQ+ outlets including the Edge Media Network, Between the Lines/Pride Source, Bay Windows and In Newsweekly. He lives in Buffalo, NY.

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