Artist to Artist: Zarbo

One Size Does Not Fit All

There has never been a time in my life when I wasn’t passionate about music––all aspects, from creating to the technical side! Singing was my first musical passion and still is. Growing up, I constantly sang, accompanying myself on whatever instruments were available. At an early age, I started writing my own songs, recorded them, eventually overcoming shyness to perform my music. Today, I am still engaged in performing modern versions of original Zarbo music as well as the brand new.

Zarbo became my brand. The same name as my Canadian ‘80s power pop-rock trio with original members Derek Sharp (currently frontman for The Guess Who), Greg Anzelc (drummer vocalist) and myself Alexander Zarbo as the frontman, bassist, singer, songwriter. After the boys and I parted ways, although I continued writing songs, I found myself in a new lane in the music industry. Being the owner operator of a large live event A/V production company, Stargate Sound & Light, allowed me to step out of the performing limelight (temporarily) and to provide quality sound production and lighting for many major festivals and events all over the country. Working behind the scenes on the larger concert stages with international bands like Aqua, Sam Roberts, Ace of Base, Venga Boys, Right Said Fred, S-Club, C&C Music Factory, Haddaway, Men Without Hats, Rob Base, The Real McCoy plus many others.

Being on the support side of the industry has provided a valuable perspective view with an immense appreciation for what it takes to perform and work symbiotically with your own support staff.

It’s Never Too Late

When Covid-19 virus hit around the globe, most live music productions came to a screeching halt. And with that halt came plenty of extra time which, to my delight, would be freed up to invest in my own musical roots and become the silver lining during these pandemic times!!

I then remembered my daughter during her first year at university a few years ago asking, “Daddy where can I find your music online?... I want to play it for my new friends.” My only answer was, “Sweetheart, you’ll have to get yourself a turntable.” Come March 2020, though, I had a lightbulb moment sparking an unforeseen chain of events when I decided to digitize my old 1985 8-song LP, A-Z Collection, to share with my daughter. I modernized my tunes, remixing and re-mastering new versions of several tracks. I also wrote new material for a soon-to-be-released 2021 Zarbo album. Look for it by the end of this year!

Who knew a year ago I would have the privilege to re-create my Zarbo brand. Who knew my music would touch people’s hearts and become a huge success globally in such a short time! Although the pandemic prevented many bands from touring, affecting much of the support staff needed to host a musical event––the music still goes on because music provides the joy and hope we need in these extreme times. I am indebted to the professionals I have been blessed to work with recently who have helped me return to my Zarbo roots!

Supporting fellow musicians behind the scenes is equally as important as standing in front of a mic singing and playing an instrument. I realized the best advice in the music industry is there is no one-size-fits-all––there are many roads leading to success. Of course, success is defined differently depending on whom you speak to, but let’s be real, a big-name musical star can’t shine without the people behind supporting their effort with their best effort! I learned through experience both on stage and behind it, that success is about creatively using your head, heart and soul. When I share my passion for music freely with others, be it a fellow musician, or an audience, I notice it’s when they feel moved, and I feel complete––my purpose is fulfilled.

If there is anything I can offer to a fellow musician, it would be to always…

  • Create music from your heart for yourself first! Draw on your life experiences, needs and passion. Tell your story in your voice, be authentic, it’s what will resonate with others much more so.
  • Figure out what you want––if you have to sidestep off the stage for a time, choose an area in the industry that will help you to grow musically until you can realize your dreams.
  • Wanting to be a star has nothing to do with making great music––that’s about ego. Many of the best in the music biz in my experience are the most humble. Their interest is only to play, make great music and entertain their audience.
  • Surround yourself with the best––learn from them willingly. Great models help you to become your best. Remember that every great song written and performed happens with the support of others. Value your fellow artists and those working behind the scenes––they will help you make it.
  • No question is dumb––ask!!!!! Especially in the business side of making music! Don’t get taken––don’t be afraid to learn!
  • No such thing as too much publicity––however it can cost. Work social media, but if people like what they hear and see, they’ll let others know about you!
  • It's never too late, plus no one is ever too old to get back on the horse to re-start their music career.
  • Be careful what you wish for––if your music takes off, try to be humble and true to yourself. Try to anticipate all possibilities of your future with a contingency plan in place. There are many pitfalls in the music biz that can erode your passion––hang tight to being creative first and foremost. •

ZARBO is an artist and producer, recently with a focus on creating catchy electronic dance music amongst other new genres that didn’t exist at the outset of his career. He was the founding member, frontman, and bassist of the Canadian power-pop-rock trio Zarbo that formed in the 1980’s. He has currently remastered and remixed his 1985 8-song LP A-Z Collection, releasing modern EDM and hip-hop remixes of four original Zarbo songs. Since reviving the Zarbo brand full-force, he passed 1 million streams in the first 6 months on Spotify plus he achieved 360K views on the ZarboVEVO channel on YouTube.