When Zach Rickard stepped onto the stage in late August at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts — capacity 66,000 — he faced a scene he’d never encountered while growing up in Laramie.
“It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, obviously, in Wyoming,” he said.
About 110,000 music fans filled the stadium for two nights to see country superstar Kenny Chesney. Opening for Chesney were the Brothers Osborne, for whom Rickard works as a guitar tech.
His job is to make sure their numerous guitars are tuned and ready to go before and during each show.
“There’s a guitar switch in nearly every song on their set list, so typically, I will run out in between every single song and hand either one or two of the brothers a guitar,” Rickard said.
Rickard returned to Laramie on Friday with the Brothers Osborne, who played their first-ever Wyoming show at the University of Wyoming Arena-Auditorium as part of the Cowboy Kickoff Concert. The concert preceded the UW football team’s home opener today.
It’s a familiar spot for him, as he’s played with local musicians during football pregame festivities before. This time around, however, the stage was a lot bigger.
“They are some of the best, most talented guys, and they are just blowing up right now,” he said.
To say Rickard grew up around music is an understatement. His dad, Dave, runs D&L Music in downtown Laramie and is a fixture in the sound booth at many local events. Zach’s mom, Lisa, is a pianist who accompanies various choirs at UW and plays in the ensemble Lights Along the Shore. Rickard has two older sisters who both studied music at UW and were both finalists in the Jacoby Student Soloist competition.
Rickard grew up working on guitars and playing whenever he could.
“I’ve built and repaired guitars since I was a kid at my dad’s shop,” he said.
As he was finishing high school, he got a phone call from local musician Dan Brain, who goes by the stage name Danno.
Danno knew Rickard because he’d repaired his guitars. He needed a lead guitarist, and he asked Rickard to join him. His group, Have Fun Will Travel, has been playing classic rock, reggae and country music for decades, including during football pregame parties at UW.
Rickard didn’t play country music at the time, but the two started practicing together in the evenings.
“We’d just sit down and run through stuff, and run through stuff, and he gained an appreciation of country music,” Danno said.
Rickard spent two years playing lead guitar with Danno and also joined up with Cheyenne country group Allison Draw.
“I fell in love with the genre and the playing style,” he said.
Rickard decided a few years ago he wanted to continue working in the music industry and be a part of larger productions. Everyone he talked to pointed him to Nashville, Tennessee, the heart of the country music scene, and he decided to move there in 2015.
“You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time,” he said. “The more I looked around, the more I realized that Nashville was definitely the right place, and as long as I was there, eventually the right time would come around.”
He moved there with a lead about possible work at the Gibson Custom Shop in Nashville, which makes high-end guitars and vintage recreations. He eventually began doing contract work for Gibson while also doing repairs for touring professionals and playing most weekends.
Dave said his son’s eight years of repair experience in Laramie prepared him for work in Nashville.
“He went from here to a pretty high-level position, so it’s way cool,” he said.
When the Brothers Osborne were looking for a guitar tech earlier this summer, Rickard’s name came up in several different conversations.
“They ended up giving me a call, and at the time, I was really looking to get on the road,” he said.
Danno praised Rickard’s professionalism, work ethic and ability to get along with anyone, which he said contributed to his success in Nashville.
“Zach was always the ultimate professional,” Danno said.
The Brothers Osborne, led by brothers TJ and John, released their first single in 2013 and a self-titled extended play in 2014. Their debut album, “Pawn Shop,” came out in 2016, and their second album, “Port Saint Joe,” was released in April.
They’ve won multiple vocal duo awards from the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music.
The brothers are currently traveling with Dierks Bentley as the main opener for his Mountain High Tour. They’re scheduled to headline tours in Canada and the United Kingdom later this fall.
Rickard spends the hours before a show making sure guitars are tuned, instruments are in the right place, amps are in the right place, lights are on and more.
“My main job boils down to making them as comfortable as possible,” he said.
Both brothers play guitar — John is renowned for his chops — and their live shows reflect that passion.
“The guitar is such a quintessential part of their sound and show, which is great. I love that,” Rickard said.
Rickard said he enjoys playing state fairs and touring in rural areas, which remind him of home. He was surprised to learn the job would also bring him to his actual home.
“I just about jumped out of my skin,” he joked.
He hopes to stick with the band as long as he can and looks forward to staying busy during the next few years.
“There’s really no slowing down in sight,” he said.