Zachary Smith: Singing To The Risen Son

Wednesday, April 02, 2014 - by Phil Wade

Musician Zachary Smith hopes to cut through the noise to help listeners notice a beautiful, glorious world.

“Aurally and visually, we have a lot of white noise,” he said. “We need to make space for seeing the beauty. The author Ann Voscamp talks about recording things you are thankful for, and when you get in that habit, you start noticing things. There are a myriad of beautiful things around us.” 

Mr. Smith was provoked to put those observations to music when Calvary Chapel’s Youth Pastor Kenny Engels suggested he organize the church’s young people into a singing group for their meetings. The 18-year-old singer, who had begun playing guitar two years prior, took up that suggestion, sparking the kindling that has now become the Chattanooga-based band, As Issac.

“Their lyrics are very honest, very life-giving,” Mr. Engels said. “For sure, Zach was made to do what he is doing.” 

At the start, Mr. Smith, who is 25 now, said, “I began in earnest to assemble a group of kids that could play something resembling music for our youth group gatherings.” He developed chord charts, lyric sheets, and everything else needed to coordinate a group of volunteers into a singing ensemble. “I learned so much. I was forced to,” he said.

At the time, he saw music as his niche, his way to serve his community, but it wasn’t until after he graduated college with a business administration degree that he began to think of it as a calling. 

“Anyone who has ever written a song or played an instrument has gotten some kind of joy out of it,” he said. “And something in the back of people’s heads says, ‘I want to do this for a living.’ Just because you’ve written some songs and even recorded some of them doesn’t mean you should do it for a career. That’s where a lot of people get disenchanted and frustrated and end up resorting to methods that I never wanted to use.

“Growing up, I had the opportunity to be around a lot of musicians and artists, and I saw that it wasn’t glamorous, so I guess I never had a romanticized view of it. To finally come around to admitting that I really would love to do this was a long process.” 

Now, Mr. Smith writes songs with Rachel Kelly and performs them with Kristian Croxall and others in the band named As Isaac. They pulled the name from Galatians 4:28, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.”

“With all the digital platforms and affordable ways of recording, the music industry has become decentralized,” he said. “If you have a good head on your shoulders, you can do a fairly good recording at home and get it out on iTunes, Soundcloud, or NoiseTrade, totally circumventing all of the traditional channels. It’s a free for all right now.” 

Getting their music to listeners, not impressing a particular record label, is the band’s goal at this stage. Several of their songs are available for free (tipping optional) on Their titles show the explicitly biblical nature of their music: “Song of the Risen Son,” “Living and Active,” “Speak Lord,” and “My Hope and Anchor Stay [I Love You Too].”

“How could I ever bring
Sufficient offerings
To show Your majesty
For Your magnificence
Has overtaken me
So unexpectedly” (from “My Hope and Anchor Stay [I Love You Too]”).

“When you're in ministry full time, there are a few people that are always a pleasure to work with,” said Ritchie Johnson, who leads Singles and College Ministry at Calvary Chapel. “Zach is one of those guys. He's all heart, he loves Jesus and people, and that communicates in his life and his worship. The spirit he brings with him is contagious.” 

Mr. Johnson was one of the people who opened a door for As Isaac. He invited them to lead the music for a youth conference at Precept Ministries. They had already recorded their EP, “Hastening the Day,” in the summer of 2011. “I didn’t take it for granted that it was supposed to be anything more than that,” Mr. Smith said, but fans began asking if they had a CD.

“Of course not. Who do you think we are?” he replied, but after a while, Mr. Engels suggested they look into it. “That’s all my sister [Meleah Smith] needed,” Mr. Smith said. “She’s pretty well connected, and before we knew it, she had a great producer who was willing to make an album with us.” 

That album, Headed for my Home, is a great collection of songs by and for the church, available through their website,

Though Mr. Smith draws inspiration from the work of artists Charlie Hall, Jon Foreman, Matthew Perryman Jones, and Josh Garrels, his songs aren’t like theirs. “I love artists like that,” he said, “but the ironic part is I’m not one of them. Our music is unashamedly ecclesiastical.” 

The songs aren’t typical of Christian hit radio. “Do I have a problem with people doing less-than-excellent work and then stamping the proverbial fish symbol on it drum up business? Absolutely. I don’t feel like taking whatever is on Top 40 radio right now and changing the lyrics a little bit is making a positive contribution.”

We don’t need clones of other successful musicians, he said. We don’t need the next Chris Tomlin. 

“Hopefully, we can have people who are honestly blazing a trail. I hope to be more like that, to fit the unique calling God has given me, not fit other people’s mold.

“There’s a line from one of our songs that says, ‘Set your sails on the sea of surrender.’ You can go through life rowing, pushing your own direction, pushing your barrel up the hill, or you can set your sails and say, ‘All right, God. Where are you going? How can I come along?’ That up to this point has been the story of our band and I hope it is the story going forward.” 


Phil Wade is a freelance writer and editor. Find him on Twitter: @Brandywinebooks or LinkedIn. He blogs regularly at

Antioch Missionary Baptist Hosts 29th Pastoral Anniversary Banquet

Antioch Missionary Baptist Church will host a 29th Pastoral Anniversary Banquet Celebration in honor of Reverend Gerry W. Davis and First Lady Chandra Davis. The Theme will be "A Pastor with a Heart to Serve" based on 2 Chronicles 31:21. Gospel Artist Benita Washington will be featured as well. The celebration will take place on Saturday, August 23, at 7 p.m. in the ... (click for more)

Hixson UMC Offers Spanish Immersion Preschool

Hixson United Methodist Child Development Center will be offering Spanish Immersion Preschool, child care for 3-5 year olds, beginning on September 3rd. The program will run Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. (The option of extended hours in a full time CDC classroom is available.) Except for the start date, this preschool will follow the Hamilton County ... (click for more)

Harr Outlines $40 Million Plan For Chattanooga Light Rail System

Outgoing Chamber of Commerce President Ron Harr on Monday outlined a $40 million plan for a Chattanooga light rail system that would serve not only downtown, but also the Airport and the Enterprise South Industrial Park. In a speech to the Chattanooga Engineers Club, Mr. Harr said most cities looking at such an ambitious plan "would be facing costs of over a billion dollars." ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Choo Choo Adding Clubs, Restaurants In $8 Million Renovation

The historic Chattanooga Choo Choo is adding clubs and restaurants in a $7 million renovation, it was announced in front of the South Market Street landmark on Monday morning. The Comedy Catch will be moving from its longtime home in Brainerd and there will be a new 500-person music venue that will be in addition to Track 29. The new venue, managed by Track 29, will feature a ... (click for more)

Senator Bob Corker: An Open Letter To Tennesseans

We are incredibly fortunate to live in a state in which companies worldwide are clamoring to establish a presence. Many attribute it to our pro-business culture, well-prepared workforce, low tax environment, right-to-work policies, and engaged citizenry.  That is why the announcement by Volkswagen to build its midsize sports utility vehicle and establish the South’s ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Wamp Refuses To Stoop

With less than two weeks before the Aug. 7 th election and the last week of early voting now underway in Hamilton County, Congressional challenger Weston Wamp sounded upbeat and relaxed early yesterday afternoon. “I’m pleased to say that I believe we are right where we need to be … maybe even more than we had hoped.” Wamp, who is challenging two-term incumbent Chuck Fleishmann ... (click for more)