His early forays into the Irish music scene began in 1979 when he and North Carolina singer/songwriter Mike Cross visited Nashville. On tour from his home in Chapel Hill, NC he met Triona NiDhomnaill, of the legendary Bothy Band, while recording in Nashville. Their musical chemistry inspired Triona and Zan to form the innovative and groundbreaking band Touchstone. For 5 years they recorded and toured together. Touchstone’s album The New Land won the NAIRD Award for best Indie album of 1981. Jealousy, Touchstone’s second album, was well received and both were on the Green Linnet Label.
In 1985 Zan’s electric roots called him back home and he further explored his love of the electric by playing reggae and Caribbean music. He toured and played with The Fun Addix until moving to Washington, DC in 1988.
Peter O’Toole, Zan McLeod, Paddy Maloney
Zan immediately took up the Irish reins and was a mainstay of the Washington, DC Irish music scene performing at Irish festivals, Ceili Club Events, CCE, Gaston Hall and Smithsonian. Zan accompanied the winners of The National Council for Traditional Arts; Donny Golden, Mick Maloney, Seamus Connolly, and Joe Derrane were at their award ceremonies as well as The Folk Masters at The Barns of Wolf Trap.
Zan was a contributing musician on the 1999 Grammy winning CD, Celtic Solstice by Paul Winter. In addition, he appeared on the Grammy nominated CD, Journey with the Sun by Paul Winter and The Long Journey Home by the Chieftains. Zan’s self-produced solo album, Highland Soul, won the Washington, DC WAMMIE Award for Best Album in 1994, inspiring him to pursue a simultaneous career as musician and audio engineer.
After graduating from the Omega School of Recording, he established his project studio Tonehouse Recording.
R. Landes, J. Whelan, Zan McLeod, Ang Lee, standing
In addition to recording on over 200 CDs, Zan recorded several film soundtracks including: Edward Burns’ The Brothers McMullen, Ang Lee’s Ride with the Devil, Sam Shepard’s Far North, and James Horner’s Back to Titanic.
As a respected and experienced workshop leader and guitar instructor, Zan taught for 20 years at the Augusta Heritage Center’s Irish/Celtic Week , Boston College’s Gaelic Roots Program , McDaniel College’s Common Ground , Jerry Holland’s Ceili Trail School, and he was one of the founders of Warren Wilson College’s Swannanoa Gathering.
In 2001, Zan released the instructional video Learn to Play the Irish Bouzouki for Homespun Tapes. In 2008, Zan starred in Fire On The Mountain at the Arkansas Repertory Theater. The musical, an environmental, anti-coal mining work set in Appalachia, was a great success.
Zan won the Maryland State Arts Council’s Individual Artist Grant for composition in 2011, 2014 and 2017.
Zan has been a voting member of the GRAMMY’S (NARAS) since 1993.