Sunday, August 7, 2022

What Is Nine Leaves?

Before my career as a solo artist, there was Nine Leaves.  A collective of 4 rappers and myself, the sole composer and non-rapper.  Prior to this, I was interested in one day scoring film.  After this, I didn’t give a shit about scoring film.  Prior to this, I hated rap.  After this, I was rapping.  Prior to this, I was just a composer.  After this, I was a composer, and a lyricist, and a recording artist.

It was Nine Leaves that introduced me to the power of songwriting and the spoken word.  And it was within Nine Leaves that I learned how lyrics can influence and shape the underlying music, for better or worse.  I went from watching the other members react to my music, interact with it, compliment it, and transform it with their lyrics, to eventually doing the same alongside them.  And I ultimately came to see the spoken word as another instrument within the orchestra.  

Lyrics have specificity.  Even the most vague lyrics will inevitably narrow the total possible interpretations that would otherwise be available to a listener.  And thus, the absence of lyrics maintains a lack of specificity in music.  Both states, lyrical and non-lyrical, are powerful.  Both do things the other is incapable of.  And so it’s no surprise that throughout my career I’ve continuously utilized both states, moving between them as desired.

Nine Leaves is where these revelations and insights all started for me.  It’s the prequel to Zack Hemsey.  An effort that spanned 10 years, bridging adolescence into adulthood.  We were all teenage kids at the beginning, and by the end of it, most had children of their own.  It was a garden of ideas, and the studio a laboratory in which we tested our experiments.  Our collective explorations, our personal transformations, and our artistic evolution is all embedded in the body of work that Nine Leaves created.  A body of work that up until now, has largely been unreleased, and generally ignored.

So is the way it sometimes goes.  Except I found myself going through archives, resurrecting and restoring old sessions, and remastering the entire Nine Leaves catalog.  My intention was not to substantially alter the music, or attempt to “modernize” the songs in any way.  Rather, it was to treat the catalog as a historical work, doing only what was necessary to ensure that it speaks as it was intended to speak at the time it was created.

This process has been like opening up a time capsule.  Much of the material I hadn’t heard in two decades.  I fully expected my face to contort with embarrassment and disgust at what I was certain was going to be a sea of flaws, awful performances, and amateur mixes that were painful to listen to.  But instead, I was met with the carefree attitudes of young individuals making songs simply because they wanted to, and performances that were infectious because of their purity and sincerity.  Yes, it all sounded young…but it didn’t sound bad.  Quite the opposite.  The body of work still had value.  It was still worthy of being shared.

And so it’s my pleasure to introduce this.  It’s Nine Leaves music.

Apple Music -

Spotify -

Bandcamp -

Deezer -



  1. it is quite interesting to see where your motivation and start up for all these masterworks originated from i hope this does not upset you as i found nowhere to tell you what the social media should but we both know if people would be more open to the style of music you do and actually listen to you rather than without listening to your words and just push the pedal and say youre good with instruments please do those more as if the lyrics are like nothing at all dont wanna jump on another subject but im disappointed in the whole music industry that the real talents like you have to be unnoticed like this and by unnoticed i mean it you deserve billions of listeners not millions it boils the blood in my veins to see the drugs,hoes,guns gangs take over what rap was meant to deliver and to make it clear what you do isnt just rap its literally poetic enlightenment where you need to keep listening to it to understand it to have different perspectives i dont know how you write them but know that youll probably be the only one who can come up with this amount of knowledge and wisdom
    and also as a huge fan of your works i really love to see more activity from you man it doesnt have to always be masterpieces they take alot of time and effort lets just say just seeing you sitting somewhere or just talking
    brings a smile to my face i have watched all of your interview not as if theres much of them but i really wish to see more of you on internet man also wanted to say your works are perfect material for movies specially for their stories
    i cant say which one of them are better or best i have listened to all of them and they all are masterworks in their own category and purposes even the there are some that didnt get the recognition hat they deserved like the forgotten changing and alot more not as if the rest got the attention they deserved but it upsets me to find out about your works from an epic music selection channel idk about any other rapper that does something your level or higher cuz yours was the only one which made me fall in love with the rap and probably youre the first one and always the best one in the style you do
    i really hope your passion for these works stays with you
    found your works in my worst period of life and they made me sane and motivated youre truly a savior
    always following and know this its not only me you bring so much joy in alot of people and we always support your works no matter how much the society denies them love you from all our hearts and good luck enlightener

    1. I appreciate the comment and the kind words.

      Like all industries, the music industry is primarily motivated by’s not concerned with matters of wisdom, as you put it. Sometimes wisdom can still come through, but overall, it’s about entertainment that sells. There’s a lot of talented people in the world, and the industry focuses on those they think they can profit from. Nothing wrong with entertainment, and nothing wrong with making money. I simply fall outside the bounds of what they’re familiar with and what they understand.

      So the industry pumps huge amounts of money into marketing / promoting / branding the talent they represent. This puts it in front of a huge potential audience. Large fractions of that audience then consume it, regardless of whether it’s “good” or “bad”. This reinforces the notion that the industry knows what it’s doing, and encourages them to repeat the same behavior. In my view, the entire enterprise is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      I’m in a position where there is zero money going into marketing and promoting. This means the music starts out with an audience of zero. Thus, the music can only succeed in gaining an audience through word of mouth and to the degree that it genuinely resonates with people. That path is really really really fucking long, and chances are that most people who take it won’t be able to stay on it long enough to get to where they’re trying to go.

      Considering the above, if there are millions of listeners of my music, it means the music must actually have something of value to offer. And whether my audience continues to grow, remains the same, or shrinks back to zero, this doesn’t change. I’m not in control of what other people do - all I can influence is the music itself. It was always a long shot that I would make it this far, yet here we are having a conversation about millions vs billions of listeners. Is that not a cause for optimism? :)

    2. I kind of disagree because entertainment breeds distraction and distraction literally breeds half if not more of what's wrong with the world today..

    3. Entertainment does more than one thing. I agree that one of those things is provide distraction. However, built into your comment is the assumption that distraction is always bad - I disagree with that assumption.

      When you really need to confront and address your problems, being distracted from them isn’t helpful. But when your problems are suffocating you to the point where you can’t breathe, distraction can offer temporary relief, after which you may be able to better deal with them.

      Keep in mind too that no one is forced to consume entertainment. So is it that entertainment breeds distraction, or that people seek to be distracted? And if it’s the latter, is your criticism really about entertainment, or about people / society in general? :)

  2. It was awesome to get more perspective on the story and music of you and nine leaves! I've been really enjoying the remasters. Holding hope for a day where deep and thoughtful art like yours is more encouraged and celebrated!

  3. Great music. "I'm here tomorrow but I'm down today". "Henry was pulling hair like we wasn't there" "and I was minding mine" "cuz that's what's life's about"!

  4. Man we really need a new album, missed you lot.

  5. But the beauty of her form brings violence... And I succumb to dancing with the siren ...

  6. I'm a bit late to the party but I wanted to contribute.
    I'm sure you would agree that Nine Leaves produced different music compared to what you create today, given the time difference and the number of people working on said projects. Now, after having been listening to your music for a few years now, I feel I have a pretty good grasp of what you are saying in most songs. A general idea of the story you're telling. With this, and because Nine Leaves is entirely new to me, I wanted to ask: What are the stories behind certain songs from Nine Leaves? Songs that are your personal favorites, songs you worked a considerable amount on, songs you think are the highest quality, doesn't matter. Like you have said, Nine Leaves is the prelude to Zack Hemsey, but I want to see how it is so. Put simply, I am asking which songs from Nine Leaves influenced you the most. Because from my perspective, Nine Leaves and Zack Hemsey are similar, but two entirely different projects nonetheless. Put in a different way, how exactly did being a part of Nine Leaves influence your future music endeavors?

    Also, what is the origin for the name Nine Leaves? It sounds too specific and creative to just be a random name or one that just "felt right." Is there a specific story or event that determined the name or does it go deeper than that? If so, I would like to hear about it.

    Thank you for your time.

    1. I appreciate the interest. For the origin of the name Nine Leaves, listen to “The Origin” (track 1 on Volume One). I think the influence of Nine Leaves on my future music was in introducing me to the power of lyricism, and the sensibilities that developed from a decade of experimentation.

      I don’t necessarily have favorite songs, but there are some I feel more strongly about than others, and I have different feelings and memories with different songs. Some songs also serve as milestones. For example, the first time I ever recorded my own voice on a song was the ending speech in “Take Control”. The first actual verse I ever wrote was in “Warfare.” Things like that.

      “The Silver Lining” was an especially important milestone, because up until that point, I had very little experience as a lyricist or vocalist and I had never attempted to tackle a song of such length and complexity by myself (songs typically had multiple vocalists sharing the load) - and the nature of the song concept I wanted to pursue was so bizarre that there was a good chance it wouldn’t hold up. But I went for it anyway and by the time I was done, I absolutely loved it. And I realized that I was the only one who could have made that song - others could have written different lyrics or pursued a different concept, but I was uniquely capable of making the song in the way that I had done, and the completion of the song revealed that to me.

      I do agree that Nine Leaves produced different music compared to what I created after that period, but that’s to be expected. Not because I was engaged in a different process then, but because the 10 years that Nine Leaves made music took me from the age of 16 to the age of 26…you’re going to grow during any 10 year stretch of time, and all the more so during early stages of development. Even within that 10 year period, you can hear an evolution - just compare Volume One with Volume Four - they’re very different! And so in my view, this process simply continued into my work as a solo artist. Fundamentally, I’m still doing the same thing now that I was doing at 16 - I just have the benefit of years of experience, and I’ve had the time to explore different territories.

  7. I used to be a 25 living like a 15 but after listening to your music and reading this article I feel more mature and started to apply what I understand from your amazing art
    It's a bit challenging since english is my third language and am not that good at it .
    I discovered your art about 5 years ago but believe it or not I didn't come across the lyrical
    Content till last month
    I can get it back
    Felt like it was written for me it reignited the flame in my soul to chase my dreams (one's that I forgot I had )
    Words can not describe how grateful I am to be one of the few individuals that were lucky to come across this form of pure art

    1. I appreciate the kind words, and happy to hear your fire burns again. Thank you for listening. FYI, that’s a very well written comment for someone who thinks they’re not good at English :)

  8. no matter what happens in my life i am grateful that i have discovered your music, to me you are the greatest artist ever walked god's green earth, simply cause i feel you do what you do not for the sake of fame or money but you make real music cause you love doing so, cause you're good at it, your lyrics and instruments got so much depth into it it makes wonder and think about them, that's real art, you inspire me every day, it is my wish to become an artist myself (film director) and i hope someday my dream will come true by making a movie and your music as a soundtrack and i will never stop trying until i make that happen.
    thank you Zack Hemsey, you have my respect from a future artist to the greatest and the truest artist.

    1. I appreciate the comment Zak. I look forward to your dream becoming a reality.

  9. Your albums Nomad and Ronin saved me after a suicide attempt and helped me reconnect with life.

    I had discovered your music several years prior and Ronin in particular has been a daily driver in my rotation for years the words always resonated with me

    I had found myself in a valley filled with emotional and mental turmoil that attacked me steadily across several years culminating in one especially bad day.

    After the attempt and the transition from my twenties to thirties, everything seemed to hit on a different level.

    I came out the other side still breathing and I wish I could relay some victory speech at the end of this about how I turned all of my struggles around and that life is good now but I do not think we are there yet.

    but your music carries some serious power.


    1. I hear you. Not every ending is a happy one with butterflies and rainbows. Sometimes things are simply less shitty and a little more tolerable than they were before. However, even in that, there is perhaps hope. For even a minor unremarkable change is still a testament that change is possible. And sometimes a major change is simply a series of minor changes amalgamated together. None of this is romantic or utopian. But maybe it doesn’t have to be. Maybe all that matters is that how things were, and how things are, doesn’t automatically dictate how things have to be, or will be, moving forward. And maybe it’s not about attaining a life free of struggle, but more so learning how to not be overwhelmed by struggle, or even how to thrive in concert with it. Maybe struggle is a secret weapon. Maybe it’s a catalyst to something of value. And maybe not everyone is cut out to walk through the fire, so to speak...and that’s ok. But some people are cut out for it - some people have the necessary capacity - and maybe those are the ones that choose to stick around, that choose to keep pushing forward, despite the constant struggle, and the turmoil, and the grief. Maybe those people are cut from a different cloth. And maybe you are among them.

      Thank you for the kind words. Thank you for listening. And I wish you well.

  10. Nine Leaves was and still is a bar above the rest. As a side note, wanted to thank you again for the healing words you put in your music. Your soul really shines through and believe you me, your music HAS saved lives (especially the song I'll Find a Way).

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. How long can I survive this for
      How long can I abate this for
      How long can I remain this strong
      Well how long can I just sing this song

      Thanks Zack, we will always find a way thanks to your song.

  11. Hi Zack
    I just starting up music creation and wanted to know what sound libraries you use, I would appreciate any guidence or recommendations.

    1. Everything has the potential to be useful - it all depends on the context. When starting out, my recommendation is do what you can with whatever you have, and little by little, pick up additional sounds over time. Necessity can be the mother of invention…you’d be surprised what you can accomplish with “inferior” sound libraries.

  12. Hi, Zack I've been listening to your work probably around 8 years and currently 25 years old, doesn’t time fly by such a different person back then, anyway I decided to go back to college to do music in Birmingham city centre, which is in England if you didn't know.
    I went back after 5 to 6 years of doing nothing, with no purpose in life you inspired me along with many other people. Currently I have almost finished my first year and everyone is nice, I think I have found the right people to work with, I listened to one of my friends track who had another friend on and it sounded a bit like Nine Leaves I took that as a sign that I should make music with them.
    Honestly kind of hate my city more after visiting the city centre, feels kind of dead, everyone is in there own bubble, everyone has there own culture there is no unified culture anymore even if they had different religions, knowone cares about there community only there self.
    Eveyones on there phones even in the class room, I'm like why you doing music if you're going to be on your phone then there's the fact people are dumb I didn't realise how dumb my generation was until I went back to college.
    Lucky I haven't seen any knife crime which is a big problem in my country, i just wanna say thank you for helping giving me purpose my favourite songs are probably silver lining its just relaxing to listen to, not gonna lie I didn't realise you did the deep voice I thought that sounds nothing like zack and it doesn't sound like a white guy voice and i thought harris was you on the different tracks lol,
    I also like flyers, fallen down and iron grip, warfare and nameless, I myself am a songwriter first I have written like over 50 songs pretty dope if you ask me.
    However there are songs I wish I could hear the instruments more so I listen to the instrumental version instead,
    songs like drift and vision
    I do have a few questions to ask if you don't mind answering.
    Will you do any new music with nine leaves?
    Are you working on any new solo album?
    Will you do a masterclass I would love to learn from someone like you? I think it's always important to pass knowledge onto the next generation.
    Would you do any new music videos? lyrics and instruments arnt the only way to tell a story and waiting between worlds video brought that song to life.
    Do the other guys make any music outside of nine leaves?
    Does Heather not have any inspiration to write her own music she is an amazing singer, not that it's any of my business but what does your wife do?
    Any plan to write a book? feel like I learnt more from your blogs then I did when I was at school.
    What are your views on the bible do you belive in Jesus?
    Finally do you listen to these bands?
    Holywood Undead there a rock hip hop band
    Falling in Reverse who is a rock band with some rap, music videos are amazing
    Nf who is the best rapper apart from you of course he makes sick movie like videos
    Starset who is a rock band that wears space suits they have made there own fictional universe they wrote a novel with marvel and a bigger one in more detail there also planning to make a movie at some point they are my favourite band of all time such cinematic master pieces honestly better then your music in my opinion even the songwriting and there music videos are really good you would like them, Vessel's is the best album ever made in my opinion.
    Sorry for any bad grammar, thanks for taking the time to read.

    1. I appreciate the comment. Maybe when you start your own podcast, we can discuss that long list of questions :)

  13. Don't ever stop making music Mr. Hemsey

  14. .....I hope to meet you....I really hope so