North Central West Virginia Artist Aaron Zastawniak Chasing his Musical Dreams; Leaving Sunday to Audition for "The Voice"

By Julie Perine on January 14, 2018 via

Aaron Zastawniak started playing music when he was 7 years old. By the time he could drive a car, he had learned to play seven different instruments.
Now 24, he still plays - and pens his own tunes. In fact, you might have heard him at one of the many venues he frequents across the Mountain State. But Zastawniak, whose musical interests have run the gamut – from rock and alternative rock to pop, bluegrass and country – has decided to take his music more seriously.
The 2011 graduate of Philip-Barbour High School, where he played one year on the high school drumline, flew out Saturday for Indianapolis, where today he is auditioning for the nationally-televised NBC talent search, “The Voice.”
“I’m a welder by trade and a construction foreman. I was working seven days a week and out of nowhere, I felt a calling to up and quit my job and chase my music; see where it leads me,” he said. “All the doors are open right now so the timing of the Indianapolis audition was right.”
He isn’t sure what he’ll sing for his audition, but he has narrowed it down to likely either a Chris Stapleton or Matchbox Twenty tune.
A lifelong Barbour County resident, Zastawniak said he was first inspired to play music when his brother Michael – four years his senior – began playing guitar.
“So, I started playing drums,” he said, adding that with both his parents being music fans, the household radio was tuned to everything from Lynyrd Skynyrd to 90s pop.
When he was 10, he began playing bass guitar and a few years later, guitar.
“It was my mom who showed me my first cords,” he said. 
Next came the banjo, bringing him an appreciation for bluegrass, followed by the fiddle, harmonica and mandolin. At age 12, he was the drummer in a local rock band; one of many he loaned his talents to over the years.
It wasn’t until he was 17 or 18 years old that he started focusing on country music.
“It was a time of change in my life. I was getting older and country appealed to me,” he said.
In addition to old-school country musicians like Alan Jackson and Dwight Yokum, Zastawniak took a liking to the music of Chris Stapleton.
“He is definitely the biggest influence; definitely my No. 1,” he said. “It’s the reality of his music. There’s nothing mainstream about it. He doesn’t try to appeal to women and he’s not there for the show. He’s there to write real songs. He’s one authentic artist, in my opinion.”
Zastawniak took Stapleton's lead; writing real music, basing his lyrics on life happenings. He said he sits with his guitar as thoughts cross his mind, sketching out his next tune.
“Whatever is on my heart goes on the piece of paper,” he said.
When he sings live – venues from Braxton to Monongalia counties to New Martinsville to the far eastern pandle – he plays and sings selections made famous by his favorite artists. He also delivers original tunes, “The One Thing,” “Candlelight,” “Lonesome Song” and “Find My Way to You,” among many others.
In addition to bars, Zastawniak has played area fairs and festivals, including the Blue and Grey Festival in Philippi and the famed Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkins.
Having played and enjoyed various genres, he said he tries to be open-minded about his music.
“I think that’s what makes a good musician,” he said.
But one thing he is adamant about is making a name for himself in the music world.
“It’s killing me,” he said. “I’ve never been this broke and I’ve also never been this happy. I’m going for it.”
He and thousands of others audition today for the green light to advance to the next round.
“Let’s say I make it through this audition. Then, they’ll call me in about a week,” he said. “Before anyone would ever see my face on TV, I’d have to go through four or five auditions.”
And if that doesn’t happen, he’ll keep on trying.
“Nothing comes easy in this life,” he said. “My heart is hungry for it – and I’m chasing it.”

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