“Pray For Rain,” a track from Zach DuBois’s new set Flaneur, is a song that was inspired by one of the great literary works of all time.
“At the time I was writing the song, I was reading The Grapes of Wrath,” the singer tells Billboard. “I was drawing parallels between Joad’s moving from the Midwest during the dust bowl and the Great Depression and migrating west to California. Now, you have people from South and Central America and Mexico who are immigrating to the United States to try to make a better life for their families.”
The music video for “Pray for Rain,” premiering below, is personal to DuBois. “I met this guy named Lupe, who lives in Portland, Tennessee. I got to know him, and I learned his story, which helped me while I was writing the song to get a first-hand account of what goes on when you’re coming to the United States from Mexico. It was really enlightening and insightful to talk to him. So, when I was going to shoot the music video, I thought it would be great to feature him in the video as he played such an instrumental part in inspiring the song and helping me to write it. It turned out to be cool to feature him and a day in his life, and to share his story. I’m really excited for people to see that.”
Lupe’s story took an unfortunate turn just a few weeks after the filming of the video. “About a month ago, he was involved in a near-fatal car accident, and shattered his pelvis and his shoulder blade. He wound up breaking all his ribs on one side of his body, had some internal bleeding and had to go through so many surgeries. What makes it even more sad is that he’s the only bread-winner in his family. He’s got a wife and two kids. It’s really a difficult time for him. The accident happened about three weeks after we shot the video. I’m hoping that we can generate some kind of awareness for his situation,” he said, adding that he has started a GoFundMe campaign for Lupe and his family.
DuBois insists that he’s not trying to politicize the issue of immigration, he’s simply telling a story. “Over the past few decades, we’ve seen an influx of immigrants to the United States from Mexico and Central America. People seeking the American dream. I wanted to tell that story, but I didn’t want to take a big political stance – the talking-heads in the news media and politicians on both sides of the aisle do a good enough job of that. As a songwriter, all I wanted to do was try and show the humanity of the situation. At the heart it, these are people simply trying to make a better life for their family. And I think that’s something that we can all relate to.”
If there is a sense of social awareness in some of the lyrics of Zach DuBois, he says he came about it naturally. “I think John Denver would have to be my biggest influence – not only because he is a great singer-songwriter, but also for the fact that he used his music as a platform for the causes that he was so passionate about. In thinking about the kind of career that I want to build, it’s definitely something that I hope to include in my career.”
The singer also credits his rural upbringing for inspiring him on a musical level. “I was born and raised in Elkhart, Indiana, which is in the northern part of the state. I was born and raised on a piece of land that had been in our family for six generations. Growing up in a rural setting definitely played a role in my taste in music. Family farms are such an integral part of the area of which I grew up in Indiana.”
And, just like with farming, DuBois has attached that working-man attitude toward his career, building his career from the ground up. “During my senior year at Notre Dame, I was in an entrepreneurship class, and I had to write up a business plan for what we wanted to do after graduation. I decided to do a business plan for being a singer-songwriter. I started going around and booking my own shows, with the hopes that I would be able to pursue music as a career instead of taking a more traditional path, like going to medical school, which was the plan. So, I started booking my first acoustic tour, all the way from Minnesota to Florida. I really tried to build a grassroots following early on in my career.”
From his standpoint, he has been able to have success already in his career. “From the outset, I always defined success as being able to support myself by creating music and doing what I love. In that regard, I feel like I’ve already made it. There’s a lot of artists out there right now who have control of their careers, and I’m just trying to take advantage of that, and trying to make things happen on my own.”