Warren Zeiders’ Secret: Sing Like Chris Stapleton, Work Like Taylor Swift
"Inside Your Head" goes back at least a decade — Stapleton wrote it while he was with the Jompson Brothers. His co-writer, Lee Thomas Miller, would eventually tell Zeiders that everyone in Nashville passed on it, in part because the demo — performed by Stapleton — was terrifying.
“I was like, I’m not going to do it better than Chris, and I’m not going to approach it like that," Zeiders tells Taste of Country. "I think that’s the wrong mindset to have. I’m going to do my best version. I’m going to make this a Warren Zeiders song.”
It's fitting because Zeiders (rhymes with "riders") became TikTok famous doing his best version of a Stapleton song. To label him as a social media star would be disingenuous, however — what he did after achieving overnight success is why we're talking about him today. With no formal training, the 24-year-old honed his artistry one song and one live performance at a time.
He also listened to his parents ... except for that one time he didn't.
Zeiders' new Pretty Little Poison (now available) album features his current Top 40 radio single "Pretty Little Poison." He talked to Taste of Country Nights host Evan Paul in Nashville.
Taste of Country: Tell me the story of getting signed to a record deal right out of college.
Warren Zeiders: I wasn’t out of college. I dropped out. So, anyone listening, yes you can do it ... but the story is so weird, man. Being in college, thinking you’re about to graduate … then one thing leads to another and you’ve got every single record label (reaching out) and you have no idea about this industry. You have no idea how it works. You’re under the assumption that to get into the music industry is through American Idol. Literally, that’s what I thought growing up because I had nobody in the music industry, nobody musically talented.
What were you planning to do out of college?
I have a background in marketing and sales. Shoutout to my parents — huge business acumen family. Parents had real estate, parents had businesses that I worked at growing up. I sold cars for two years with my pops. I thought maybe medical sales is where I would lean toward and make some pretty good money.
Your cover of Chris Stapleton's "Tennessee Whiskey" blew up on TikTok a few years ago. What were the tangible effects of that song?
When it came to posting certain covers on social media, it was artists that I loved. It was what I was listening to at that time, and I just loved the way my voice sounded with that song.
I posted that video on social media, no regards of a music career. I go to bed that night and wake up and it’s got 300,000 or 400,000 views. I’m like, "What is this app?"
What do your parents think of it?
I’ll condense the story, but parents … they’re like, "You need to graduate." They don’t understand numbers on a phone, views, followers, whatever it might be — streams. Now they do. (Laughs).
There was a moment in time after doing this for months, posting and posting — and it was for pure enjoyment, no mindset flip yet of, this is something I’m going to chase. It wasn’t until finally I went one night and bought two microphones, an interface — I have no idea what I’m doing — watch a YouTube video, plug it all in, record my entire acoustic cover album in my childhood bedroom and the first song I wrote, “On the Run.” Put that out ... and then managers reaching out … there’s record labels in my DMs.
When it clicked for my parents was when I was on the streets of Nashville and people were coming up to me saying, “Hey, you’re Warren Zeiders.”
You had great streaming numbers for your last album (717 Tapes, the Album). What’s the secret to transitioning from a social media artist to a mainstream artist?
There’s no formula. There’s no secret sauce. I think for me it was the organic story, and I think people bought in along the way watching this dude spend night after night on lives on Instagram, TikTok, playing music for two hours and watching me record acoustic stuff in my bedroom. They just followed along on this journey, and with my marketing and sales background, I started branding myself.
And I always say this too: I listen to my fans. The Taylor Swift method. I listen to the fans, what they want from me, what they’re saying. And I’m so heavily prevalent on social media still, I’m still posting my own stuff, I’m putting text on the videos, I’m writing captions. I’m so engrained in that universe that they feel loved and attended to, and I think that’s showing up when they show up to the shows.