By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend
Zach Knight is a year away from graduation, but the Penn State Behrend student and aspiring musician is already putting his college education to good use.
Early last year, Knight, who previously majored in General Business and Project and Supply Chain Management, decided to make a change.
“I asked myself, ‘What applies to my life now? What relates to what I’m doing?’ Marketing just made sense,” says the Erie native, who began to seriously pursue a music career in 2011. “I feel as though the (marketing) program has helped me learn a lot about how to develop my career and further market myself.”
By all indications, Knight is doing a stellar job. His Twitter profile has over 7,100 followers while his Facebook profile has over 1,500 likes. He also was a nominee in the “Acoustics” genre at the 2014 Rock Erie Music Awards, and his first music video, “Christmas Without You,” was released last December.
Knight’s recent success is quite the juxtaposition from when he first began to record music. In early high school, he would use a microphone from the Rock Band video game to upload covers to YouTube. The method was unconventional but successful — YouTube users started requesting covers from Knight.
It continued to grow until Knight, whose style is combination of acoustic and R&B, decided to start writing his own music.
“I sat down and said, ‘I don’t want to be known for just doing covers,’” he says.
From there, Knight started working with producer Alan Dingfelder, lead vocalist of Erie-based band At That Moment, to record music. His first original song, “Out of This World,” was released in 2012 and had considerable success.
In fact, Abercrombie & Fitch signed a deal with him to have the song included in its November 2013 in-store playlist.
Though his parents, Barry and Kristen Knight, do not have musical backgrounds, they’ve been supportive and encouraging. His mother also helped spark Knight’s musical interest at seven years old when she purchased him a CD titled “The Promise” from the Christian boy band Plus One.
“I would just always sing that CD,” he recalls. “I would always try to make myself sound just like them.”
Knight says he hopes to be signed to a major label, so he will have the opportunity to spread his art and also make a living doing what he loves. If not, he says he would like to use his marketing degree to continue to work in the music industry.
“I’d really like to work for a record label in some capacity,” Knight says. “If I can’t be the music, I’d like to be the guy behind the music.”
Catching up with Zach Knight
Hometown: Erie, Pa.
Family: Barry and Kristen (parents); Xavier (19-year-old brother); Mallory (15-year-old sister); Maddy (13-year-old sister)
Biggest musical influences: “I would say Nate Cole, Justin Timberlake and Cody Simpson. Justin Bieber is also an influence, but for his musical ability, not his lifestyle.”
Musical background: “Believe it or not, I actually cannot read music. It has not been a problem though because I know all of my chords, and I can read chords. I’m a self-taught guitar player, which I learned in sixth grade. I’m a self-taught drummer, too.”
Immediate goals: “My goal, right now, is to produce as much music as possible and grow. When I do that, I know good things will come out of it.”
Audience for music at Behrend: “The Behrend student body has been great. I notice that more and more Behrend students are following me on Twitter. I’ve also performed some concerts here, which has helped get the word out.”
Hobbies outside of music: “I really like hanging out with my friends. I also like longboarding and steelhead fishing.”
What it would mean to be signed: “It would mean the world to me. It’s something that I have dreamed about for as long as I can remember.”
Zach Knight’s first EP, titled “Out of This World,” is available on his official website.
Here is the video for “Christmas Without You,” which was released in December 2013.