Zach Top's memorable first interaction with George Strait came in stages. It started with a handshake, and it ended with tequila.

The "Sounds Like the Radio" singer broke down this memorable experience during a recent visit with Taste of Country Nights.

  • Zach Top's Cold Beer and Country Music album dropped in April.
  • The Washington native is being hailed as a new country traditionalist.
  • Keith Whitley, Merle Haggard and George Jones are his three biggest influences.

"My folks, they had George Strait playing in the house non-stop," Top tells ToC's Evan Paul. "So I grew up on a lot of that. And then a lot of Marty Robbins. We loved the cowboy songs."

From age five to 15, he'd play guitar upward of three hours a day trying to hone his craft. Before 2021 he was in several bluegrass bands, including one at age seven with his siblings called Top String.

Now 25 years old, he's playing the Grand Ole Opry and being invited on stage by heroes like Strait.

It happened in San Antonio during a charity golf event. Top played golf and country music that weekend, and on the final night, he watched the legend perform for those in attendance. Then, Strait brought him on stage to sing with his band.

"I met him later on that night when his fine tequila Código was flowing freely," he offers, smartly name-checking Strait's brand of liquor. “I was just like, ‘Hey, I don’t want to bother you. You’re the first reason why I wanted to play guitar and sing.'"

Strait was gracious, but that's been about as far as their relationship has gone. It's different with Vince Gill. After singing together at the Opry, they agreed to write a song together.

"I got his phone number and stuff," Top says, admitting he was starstruck. "He wasn’t too scared of me."

The irony is Top broke on TikTok, a platform that is seemingly the antithesis of "traditional."

"I think people are starving for stuff that's real," he says when confronted with the question. "That isn't filtered and prettied-up and made perfect."

"My folks had a briefcase of cassette tapes, and they had a tape machine down in the basement, and I’d sit in the little music room and put them tapes in one by one and try to learn every one of them on guitar."

"The only thing I've ever done on TikTok is sit there with my acoustic guitar and play and sing for 'em and, you know — there's no lip-syncing and no hanky-panky with it all. I think people appreciate that."

This summer, Top is on tour with Ian Munsick and Lainey Wilson, who are two more carrying traditional country music forward. We did find one thing about him that's not country, however.

"I'm a big ol' Lord of the Rings fan," he admits. "When I was a kid ... I would try to recreate the weapons that they made. I'd make 'em out of wood and ... run around and beat down sage brush with them."

OK, maybe that is a little country.

Billy Dukes is a Senior Editor and Executive Producer of Video Content at Taste of Country. He specializes in country music interviews, trend analysis and the Secret History of Country Music. Additionally, Billy covers Yellowstone, 1923 and related television shows through the Dutton Rules podcast. To date, he's written more than 13,000 articles for Taste of Country and produced over 3,000 videos for the Taste of Country YouTube channel.

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