Zach DuBois’ “Flâneur” is a self-defining album in the true sense of the term.
A world traveler for the past six years, DuBois has turned his stories from the road into 12 intimate songs, as the title of the album itself encapsulates DuBois’ journey of observing. “And ‘flâneur’ basically means that – a gentleman philosopher that walks around and observes his surroundings,” DuBois explains. “And I felt like that really kind of captured what this group of songs is all about and where they came from.”
The album covers DuBois’ journeys everywhere from Paris, France to Galway, Ireland and back to the U.S. with songs stopping in Nashville and Chicago. “Life on the Road” perfectly captures it all, with DuBois referring to it as a “very autobiographical song” that shares the trials and tribulations of chasing one’s dream. “I sleep on my friends’ couches that make more money than me, sometimes I’m jealous of their houses, but they’re jealous that I’m free,” is a line inspired by the people he stayed with along the way, many of whom had full pockets, but were envious of his untethered life.
“Paris is For Lovers” tells the serendipitous true story of when DuBois and his girlfriend traveled to Paris, expecting a romantic getaway, but instead found themselves in “several minor disagreements at a cafe after drinking too much wine at night,” he chuckles. When his girlfriend angrily left him alone in a cafe one evening, DuBois jotted down an idea he knew would make for a quality song: “write a breakup song about Paris.” “You hear all these romantic, love songs about Paris, but never breakup song,” he says. But unlike the main character in the song, the couple instead returned to the City of Love a year later where they got engaged.
People have a way of powerfully inspiring Dubois’ work. “Pray For Rain” is just one example, which finds DuBois penning a “modern story of ‘The Grapes of Wrath,'” which he was reading at the time the song was written. Inspired by the rigorous journey of those moving from the Midwest to California during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, DuBois insightfully found parallels between their journey and those immigrating from Mexico and Central and South America today to the United States Equally as important is Lupe Romero, the man who inspired the song.
DuBois was so moved by Romero’s story of moving from Mexico to the U.S. to build a better life for his family that he knew he had to shine a spotlight on him in the music video. “He lived out a lot of the story and the song and so it was really cool to talk to him about,” DuBois says of Romero. “It was really cool to marry both the music video and the song so closely because he played such an integral role in inspiring song, so it was really cool to feature him in the video as well.”
Unfortunately, tragedy struck for Romero and his family when he was in a near-fatal car accident not long after the video was shot, leaving him with a shattered pelvis, several broken ribs and seven broken vertabrae. Romero is the only source of income for his family, prompting Dubois and other members of the music industry to give back by creating a GoFundMe page to assist with their financial burdens.
“Proverbs to Peter” is a similarly powerful story, loosely based on a man Dubois met at the Little Pantry That Could in Nashville who became homeless due to his alcoholism. “It’s a riff on ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’ and so it’s literal and metaphorical in the song as well,” he describes. “Bleed Red” is a song of optimism, encouraging people to see how we’re all intricately connected, with the singer hoping to invoke views that are “optimistic about the world and about the people that make up the world. It’s kind of a grand thought to have, but I think in music and art in general, I think that’s what you should be shooting for,” he says.
If you’re seeing a pattern of insight and positivity weaved throughout Dubois’ music, that’s exactly what he’s going for. The young singer longs only to make a enriching impression on the world through the power of his music. “I think I’ve done that with this album and I hope to continue to do that with future projects,” he vows. “That’s really what I want my music to do is just to have meaning and be a positive impact on the world.”
“Flâneur” is available now.