Zack Tabudlo: Victim of Love
Love is a simple concept. Point-blank, it’s defined as the feeling of deep affection. We feel it in the ache in our cheeks from smiling too much, the warm hum of contentment after an amazing date. It’s the ease and comfort that settles in the air when you sit in a room with people who understand you; maybe it’s a random text in the middle of the day. Love is small and larger than life, so much so that we don’t know what to do with it.
But despite its simplicity, love also leaves a trail of complications in its wake. It’s misunderstood, fought over and fought for. It beats us down, sometimes to a point that we can’t comprehend or recognize. Maybe it’s because it stands at the very core of almost everything we do, down to the mistakes that need fixing and mending. Vision says it best in WandaVision: “But what is grief if not love persevering?”
In tiding over such heartbreak-induced misery, we try different ways to rid ourselves of the burden. And for Habang Buhay hitmaker Zack Tabudlo, putting everything into songs helps the most.
Zack Tabudlo has visibly grown from the young boy who auditioned for The Voice Kids in 2014. Now 21, he’s had his own turn in learning the ropes of romance, and his rich discography is a testament to all these lessons learned. “I mainly create music because of personal experience and [the act of] putting it out there,” he shares. “It’s therapeutic for me, in the sense that I could release my inner thoughts into the studio.” So in learning that his music has garnered millions of streams, which have crowned him as one of OPM’s rising Hugot Kings, Zack Tabudlo says it’s an honor. “I’m happy that many people can relate to the songs, and they can put their feet into the shoes I’ve been sharing with the world.”
Working on a song from a third-person point of view doesn’t work for the singer. Instead, Zack insists on drawing inspiration from his own memories. “That’s where it gets a bit more heartfelt, honest and vulnerable—when you write about yourself and what you went through,” he divulges. “It’s just the vulnerability of how you write those songs from those experiences that’s very important. Just really getting yourself beat up with love. That’s the key.”
A quick search of his Spotify artist profile shows Pano at the top of his most popular songs, with over 129 million streams marking its success. Safe to say, Zack Tabudlo considers this as one of his biggest achievements for 2022. “It was the longest number one in Spotify’s Top 50 – Philippines playlist, and it’s also exploding in Southeast Asia,” shares Zack. “It’s amazing how many people got to really hear that song. It’s crazy.”
Despite the year’s success, Zack Tabudlo is still trying to overcome a big challenge that he first saw in 2022. “I think I can talk on behalf of other artists where somehow, in a way, it can be easier to kind of blow up with social media in terms of artistry and songs,” he admits. “But it’s difficult to sustain [the hype].” Getting listeners to stay tuned for more proved difficult for Zack, and it’s something he risks for what he dubs as his new era.
The singer, along with his band, dives deeper into the funk touches we first heard on Habang Buhay and Asan Ka Na Ba. “That was the goal, the look of everything and how my band and I dressed. It’s giving [audiences] a nostalgic feel with the album,” he explains. He consciously chose to channel the likes of OPM founders VST & Company, instant classic April Boy Regino and some touches of Motown, James Brown and Alicia Keys. He explains: “I really wanted to dive into something different for everyone to hear.”
The singer punctuated this with a big, funky reveal at the 8th Wish Awards. He performed Akin Ka before its release with swagger and smoothness like Silk Sonic—Bruno Mars would have undoubtedly been proud. The multihyphenate musician veers from his usual method of experience-based writing, focusing on nailing a specific sound and feel with his new album, ZACK: FOR ∀LL. It clocks 10 songs in 30 minutes, bravely blurring the lines of pop, soul and funk with each cheeky lyric. Case in point: a personal favorite of his from Hinga. He sings: “Sana nga totoo ang multo / para magkasama tayo hanggang sa kabilang mundo (I wish ghosts were real / so we can be together until the afterlife).”
Amid the delicate collection of groovy bops and heartfelt ballads, Zack Tabudlo proves to the world that, yes, he has impressive power over the pen. But it multiplies tenfold when you let him do his thing and take the lead, from the intention in each beat to the overall heart he puts into producing his music. And that’s a different kind of love that everyone needs to see—the one he has for his craft and keeps him going.
It becomes clearer and clearer that Zack is the type of artist who welcomes the melding of his personal and professional life. For the sake of making music, of getting through an experience or a person, of making someone feel like they’re seen. “I feel like that’s one big reason as well that people keep listening to the songs I write now,” he says. “It’s real, and they can really hear and really feel these emotions through the songs. Kasi it really happened.”
But another thing that Zack Tabudlo teaches us is that these missteps don’t mean an end. Romances might not lead to our happily ever afters, but they should never be the cause of our downfall. “I’m more of a lover [than a fighter],” he admits. “At the end of the day it’s just love—family, friends, relationships. It doesn’t matter, just love.”
After all, each experience has the potential of being an adventure if you chose to make it one. Recalling his first heartbreak, which he describes as “shallow” and “puppy love,” he tells us about how he used to skate from Las Piñas to Alabang to meet a girl. It didn’t matter how long it took him or how tired he was, or how sweaty he’d be when he got there. “I was in love,” he says matter-of-factly. What else was there to say?
But that was his past, and he admits to going through so much more “hurt” and “breakups” and “growing up” since then. And it’s all been channeled into his music.
Zack’s new album marks his new era. He’s doing something different, sounds changed from what and who we’re used to. This isn’t the puppy-eyed sadboi that first broke records. And as much as he’s stepped into his new era, he invites us all to step up.
“It’s just really diving into nothing,” he says. “That’s one of the scariest parts ever, but at the same time that’s where you should dive in. Where you have no idea what’s going to happen.”
We spend the whole month of February talking about love in all its forms. We spend our entire lives chasing that feeling that’s just the right level of comfort and security and happiness. And when love seems to shut us out—and at times even stomp on us—it gets difficult to keep believing. Sometimes it’s easier to just give up. But through failure and success, simplicity and complication, just keep going. Keep fighting. Keep making music.
Something or someone will make it all real.
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Photography Ed Enclona
Art Direction Alexandra Lara and Matthew Ian Fetalver
Art Alexandra Lara
Interview and Cover Story Kai Franco and Adie Pieraz
Fashion Direction Nicole Blanco Ramos
Styling Aaron Mangsat assisted by Carvey Samonte and Donald Neri
Beauty Direction Elisa Aquino
Makeup Yaj Labeo
Hair Michole Mananquil assisted by Rica Alcanzo
Location Chroma Studios
Special Thanks Republic Records Philippines and UMG Philippines Inc.