Zac Griffith impressed judges in the Smokefreerockquest nationals with his unique country style and original songs. Photo: Matt McCrorie.

Garin student impresses with his country style


A Garin College student has wowed national judges with his unique entry into this year’s Smokefreerockquest.

Zac Griffith, 15, who placed in the top three for the regional competition, was placed highly commended in the national competition this year for his unique country music style and original songs.

This year, due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, the usual weekend of high-school bands rocking out on stage was replaced by video entries, with students recording themselves performing and sending videos to judges to be placed.

Zac, who sings and plays guitar, placed in the Nelson regional competition with his original song ‘When tracks had trains’ which he wrote about the old railway lines in the Top of the South.

His first time entering Smokefreerockquest, Zac was nervous that his country style might not fly.

“I had to write two more songs for the national competition, it took me by surprise,” Zac says.

“Zac is one of these amazing young people who is a song writing machine. It wasn’t like starting from scratch,” says music teacher Kathryn Hunt.

“He was very reluctant to enter as a country boy, he didn’t feel it was the genre,” she says.

While this year is Zac’s first foray into Smokefreerockquest, performing country music isn’t new to him.

He travelled to a country music academy in Australia in 2018 on a scholarship.

“That’s when I started song writing.”

An experienced performer, Zac first got into country music when he was 7-years-old.

“I watched the Johnny Cash movie ‘Walk the Line’ when I was seven, and then we went to the pub in Tapawera with my family one night, and I got up and sung ‘Ring of Fire,’ and I’ve been hooked ever since.”

“I didn’t think Rockquest would be the right fit for my country music, but obviously it was,” Zac says of his win.

“Zac’s style wasn’t like anything I’d seen at rockquest, and I thought that would be a good thing,” says Kathryn, who encouraged Zac to enter.

“He’s going to win next year, no doubt,” says Kathryn.