Written by Maya Geving, Photo by Maya Geving

There were no empty seats in sight Thursday night as iconic musician Martin Zellar took the stage at Pioneer Place. Zellar, who was the frontman of the former band Gear Daddies, is known for his honest Americana music style. His new solo album Head West marks the start of a new era, as it’s his first album to be released in 11 years. 

Zellar was accompanied by Texan duo Nick Brumley and Presley Haile who performed the warm-up act. The concert opened with the album’s namesake Head West, an upbeat tune about escaping the snow and heading somewhere warm. Other highlights of the concert included Better Off Apart, a sorrowful breakup song, and Boats Slowly Sinking, a raw and honest musical depiction of love and loss. 

Zellar, who is originally from Austin Minn., is no stranger to the St. Cloud music scene. He said St. Cloud was very welcoming to the Gear Daddies when they first started out. 

“ We played at Red Carpet, probably almost 50 times back in the 80s”, he said. 

However, Zellar’s biggest St. Cloud memory was at Halenbeck Hall in 1989. Gear Daddies opened for Cheap Trick, one of Zellar’s favorite bands while he was in high school. 

“It was one of my big ‘oh my god’ moments. I’ll always remember St. Cloud for that”, he said. 

Zellar also did a radio interview for KVSC 88.1 FM the day before his concert.

“It was crazy because Andy, the guy I did it with, was the first person to do a radio interview with us besides stations in the Twin Cities back in the 80s. It was surreal doing an interview with him at KVSC all these years later.”

Zellar said he reached a point before Covid where he wasn’t sure if he wanted to put out any more albums. But after having so much uninterrupted time during lockdown, the inspiration to create music just started popping up again. 

However, Covid doesn’t get full credit for the making of the album. Each member of Zellars’ family played a part in the album’s creation. His oldest son, Wilson, played guitar on the album and performed the studio engineering. His youngest son, Owen, also helped with the studio engineering. Zellars’ wife took the pictures for the album’s cover art. Even his 14-year-old daughter contributed by playing claves. 

“Everyone in the family pitched in and I knew early on that really I wanted to make an album. I honestly didn’t think that I’d ever want to do that again.”

Zellar says he draws inspiration from a variety of musicians and songwriters. Some of these include Jason Isbell, Bruce Springsteen, and Johnny Cash. 

“I’m also a huge Taylor Swift fan. I think she’s the best songwriter alive. I’ll die on that hill”, he said. 

Zellar emphasized how he respects artists who remain kind, even when given large amounts of fame. 

“It’s pretty amazing to reach that point and still be a good human being”, he said. 

As for the future, Zellar aims to enjoy the next two months of touring before he can get back to what matters the most; his family. Although he likes being on the road, he misses hanging out with his family in Mexico where they all reside. The prospect of recording a new album remains up in the air. 

“I love what I do and I’ll always write. But if I never record another album I’ll be perfectly happy. I’ve got a great life and a great family. Music is a big part of it but I’d be okay if I didn’t do it for a living. I’ve had a great run.”


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