Singer-songwriter Warren Zeiders has signed with Warner Records after “Ride The Lightning,” a stormy, somber look at the final moments of someone straddling the line between temptation and resistance, resonated on social media and streaming. The song reached No. 30 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart in 2021, and has earned over 72 million global streams to date and over 500 million global TikTok views.
“I had one meeting with Warner and it sealed the deal for me,” Zeiders, 22, tells Billboard of the signing. “It was just how open the whole Warner team was, from marketing to sync to the heads of the label. When I was talking to labels, I wanted to see the passion from every single level and Warner had that.”
“Ride The Lightning” now has moved more than 500,000 units between streaming and sales in the United States, earning Zeiders his first RIAA-certified Gold single.
Naturally, as Zeiders’ music began gaining traction on TikTok and streaming, labels took notice.
“Warren is a gifted songwriter and storyteller, has the confidence and drive to work harder than anyone, understands all the modern tools at an artist’s fingertips to market and promote themselves, and is just a great human being,” says Aaron Bay-Schuck, co-chairman and CEO of Warner Records. “We just had the best time getting to know one another and both Tom (Corson) and I felt that Warner Records was a natural fit for Warren.”
Growing up in Pennsylvania, Zeiders grew up in a non-musical home. His father sold life insurance, and has operated a car dealership for more than a decade, while his mom works as a company CFO. Until recent years, Zeiders’ life was focused primarily around sports, although music would creep in.
“My life revolved around lacrosse, 24/7,” he says, playing the sport until he was sidelined by an injury in college. Still, his natural musical talent led him to pick up a guitar in sixth grade and he was soon writing his own songs.
“I never took lessons or anything, but when I was doing dishes or out on the lacrosse field, I was singing, humming tunes, which drove my friends nuts,” he recalls.
Zeiders had no plans to pursue a career in music, and thought he would likely wind up working in medical sales after he graduated college. But like everyone in 2020, his schedule slowed down and he began putting music on out on TikTok for fun. Music manager Salvatore of Underscore Works, who also works with Logan Mize and Priscilla Block, saw his TikTok videos and signed Zeiders.
“Ride The Lightning” became the first song Zeiders ever wrote in Nashville, penning the tune over Zoom from Salvatore’s home with Eric Paslay and Rob Crosby.
“I had no idea that song would be my breakout song,” Zeiders says. “I put teasers up on social media after I finished writing it, and then I played it on my livestreams and realized there was a real demand for it. It was just this overwhelming love for this song that we didn’t see coming.”
“Ride The Lightning” was included on his debut EP, the 717 Tapes, which Zeiders self-released in October. He followed with Acoustic Covers (Deluxe), a collection of Zeiders’ renditions of songs including “Simple Man,” Jason Isbell’s “Cover Me Up,” and Tyler Childers’ “Lady May.” Craig Campbell joined Zeiders for a cover of Campbell’s 2016 country single “Outskirts of Heaven.”
While Zeiders is signed out of Warner Records’ Los Angeles office, the label plans to work with Warner Music’s Nashville office to promote his music to country radio. Right now, Warner Records’ focus for radio is on “Ride The Lightning,” though they may soon begin work on “Burn It Down.” Zeiders will perform “Ride The Lightning” on The Kelly Clarkson Show today (Jan. 27).
“Radio is an essential piece of the puzzle to Warren’s artist development story,” Bay-Schuck says. “Warner Nashville played an important role in our signing of Warren and we have a fantastic relationship with the team there. They will be there to jump in and give us the support we need in all aspects of the country marketplace when we need them.”
Warner Records’ Los Angeles team has inked deals with other country artists, including Zach Bryan and Grammy winner Brandy Clark. Warner Music has also been instrumental in helping songs from Warner Music Nashville artists crossover onto the pop charts, including Dan+Shay’s “Tequila” and Gabby Barrett’s “I Hope.”
Bay-Schuck says Warner Records plans to sign more country artists. “I’ve always responded to great songwriting and storytelling, no matter the genre, but obviously country music is built on those things,” he says. “As country music continues to collide with other artists in the pop, rock, Americana, and urban space and becomes more and more mainstream, it’s only natural that we would be looking at more artists in the genre. Artists like Warren are breaking the mold. Rooted in country, he’s bringing in rock, pop, and soul influences all throughout his music and breaking in modern ways that traditional country artists have not before. Warren is anything but traditional.”
“I like to be different,” Zeiders says of signing with Warner Records. “I don’t want to do the normal thing. The thing most people do is sign out of Nashville, but for me, getting interest in parties outside of Nashville piqued my interest. These L.A. labels really intrigued me, having a larger roster in different genres. Growing up, I was raised on Christian music, country, rock, hip-hop. The first concert I ever saw was Jeremy Camp and TobyMac, but some of my favorite artists were also Mötley Crüe, AC/DC and Quiet Riot.”
That rock influence can be heard on his latest release, “Burn It Down,” which he wrote with Erik Dylan, Andy Sheridan and Rob Snyder. Zeiders says while he and his team are working on plans for touring and new music, he hopes that like “Ride The Lightning,” his new track “Burn It Down” serves as another statement of who he is as an artist.
“I had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder that day, in a good way,” he says of the writing session. “This song is just me being who I am, and saying that I’m ready to play ball and make my mark on country music.”