While he has always been a hometown boy at heart, it took a trip to Texas for local singer/songwriter Zach Paxson to truly realize how much he loves his home state, and now he hopes a move by legislators will allow others to appreciate all that Ohio has to offer.
On Nov. 5, state Rep. Nick Barborak introduced House Bill 330, which would make Paxson's song, "OHIO" the state's official country song.
If approved by the legislature, the upbeat country tune would be in good company, with "Beautiful Ohio," designated the official state song in 1969 and "Hang on Sloopy," named the official state rock and roll song in 1985.
Currently, Ohio is the only state to have an official rock and roll song.
Paxson said he had been invited by cousins to Austin, Texas to see Ohio State University play.
"I was blown away by how many OSU fans were there. That's the first time I came back (to Ohio) with a sense of state pride. I couldn't believe the amount of people rallying around the team," the former county Career Center teacher said.
Flying home on the plane, Paxson penned the words to OHIO and then cut a rough demo in Nashville, recording it in 2011.
In Paxson's typical style, the song boasts a lot of toe-tapping music, but it's the lyrics he hopes listeners can relate to as he sings that, "Austin, Texas was a great place, but I couldn't wait to get hometo see those green fields and factories; every morning I pass them in their work boots and business suits, we all come from the same roots; a 'W' for the Scarlet and Gray; it's still the greatest place I've known, O-H-I-O."
His publicist, Randy Schneider, said he recently played the song at the Beaver Local/East Liverpool football game and said, "I was pretty excited. Toward the end (of the song), I started to see the O-H-I-O hand gestures."
Paxson said, "Do I think this song is the greatest thing since sliced bread? No. But, Ohio is as good as anywhere else. I love it here. People are good; they're hard working. That's what I'm saying in this song. I love coming back home. Ohio's where it's at for me."
With Schneider's background working for former state Sen. Jason Wilson, he and Paxson put their heads together and approached former state Rep. Craig Newbold about introducing a bill to name "OHIO" the state's official country song.
When Newbold was not re-elected, no bill was filed, but then Barborak heard the song this year during a charity event at which Paxson was donating his performance.
"I went up and asked if he ever thought about having it considered for the state song," Barborak said, noting, "We have an official state song, a state rock and roll song; it's time we had a state country song."
"We actually drove it to the Statehouse. We wanted to take all the legwork out of it for them. We handed them the CD and the explanation," Paxson said.
On Nov. 5, Barborak introduced House Bill 330, and the significance of the number was not lost on him or Paxson.
"That's our area code (in Columbiana County)," Paxson pointed out, and Barborak said that since numbers are assigned to bills chronologically, it was a fluke that this one just happened to be assigned 330.
"I think it's appropriate. Hopefully, it's a good sign," Barborak said, adding, "It's uplifting. It's a good song. I'd be honored to have it as a state song."
Admitting that having a state song designated is "obviously not life shattering," Barborak said, nonetheless, "It's nice to have something like this coming from a local artist."
The bill has been assigned to the State and Local Government Committee for review, where a decision will be made whether hearings will be held. As primary sponsor of HB 330, Barborak expects to be contacted to provide testimony as to its merit, if such hearings are scheduled.
If it passes the House of Representatives, it would then go to a Senate committee prior to being considered by the Senate.
"It's a long process, challenging," Barborak said.
Paxson said there is already a "good buzz" about the move, saying there was even a blurb about it on The List, a television news broadcast that aired just prior to the recent Country Music Awards show.
"A lot of people are downloading 'OHIO' from iTunes all over the country," Paxson said, adding he would also like to get Ohio radio stations to play his song and that he hopes the OSU band will start playing it regularly.
"There's a good buzz about it. It's harmless. It's not life-changing (politically), but it might well be life-changing for me," Paxson said.
He is currently working on a new album, "Built to Last," following his two successful albums, "Good Luck with That" and "Simple Life" and completion of a recent tour with Lynyrd Skynyrd.