Welcome to #TBT Mixtape, Billboard‘s weekly series that showcases artists’ very own throwback-themed playlists exclusive to Billboard‘s Spotify account. The curated set features the artists’ favorite tracks from their youth and childhood.
This week’s spin comes from Zac Farro. The Nashville musician got his start as the longtime drummer of Paramore, joining the band when he was just 14 years old. But in the 15 years since, he has evolved into a triple threat as an accomplished producer, photographer and music video director, who helmed clips for Paramore (“Fake Happy,” “Told You So”) as well as his own psych-rock project HalfNoise. “I try to capture everything with my music, just like a camera would,” he says.
The band toured the festival circuit this summer with stops at BottleRock, The Great Escape, Electric Forest, Firefly, Bonnaroo and more, with a forthcoming third full-length Natural Disguise set for release Friday via his own artist collective/label Congrats Records.
Farro has always existed “between genres,” he says, drawn to eclectic sounds from ‘60s and ‘70s surf rock to dreamy, psychedelic synch pop and even Afrobeats. Natural Disguise all began with a New Year’s resolution, which found him committing to being more open and introspective in his music, including the title track, which was written about the masks that we wear daily, and the joy, liberation and wholeness that often comes with removing them.
“It was like a lightning bolt hit me,” says Zac, who produced the album in its entirety. “I seriously feel this record is like nothing I’ve done before. It feels like step one, in the form of an asteroid.”
To usher in the Natural Disguise era, Farro crafted this week’s #TBT Mixtape to detail the wide range of sonic influences felt on the record, including cuts by Lou Reed, The Kinks, The Zombies and John Lennon.
“There isn’t really a specific song or track that inspired me for Natural Disguise. It was an overall feeling/attitude as well as the tones that gave me the inspiration,” he says. “I loved hearing really distorted guitars over clean instruments and performances, this amazing juxtaposition. I really love the energy from old afrobeat music. I wanted to merge the two worlds of ‘60s rock and ‘70s afrobeat into a modern rendition of new sound.”
With the new record, Farro chose to let the universe take control in many ways. “I let each song take me to wherever it wanted. I feel like the worst thing to do as an artist is to put immediate limitations on a fresh idea,” he adds. “I tried to free myself from bad habits I had built from always overthinking my music. As soon as I let go I not only made this album but I enjoyed every step.”
Give the playlist a spin and check out a throwback snap of the artist below.