With the chart-topping release of its third studio album, Uncaged, Zac Brown Band continues to solidify its place as one of today's most innovative acts – and one of the most successful. In the last four years, the Georgia-based band has sold more than six million records and scored eight No. 1 singles, including their breakthrough hit,
Brown and his band members are well-known for blending country, folk, Southern rock, reggae and bluegrass. Brown and Chris Fryar (drums), Coy Bowles (guitar and organ), Daniel de los Reyes (percussion), Jimmy De Martini (violin and vocals), John Driskell Hopkins (bass and vocals) and Clay Cook (guitar, organ, mandolin, pedal steel, and vocals) have garnered an intensely loyal fan base for their high-energy live shows and "eat and greets." Instead of the standard visit with fans before or after a show, Zac and the boys serve up Southern-style cooking.
And that’s part of the group’s charm. As any true fan knows, there’s more to the Zac Brown phenomenon than just great music. The first annual Southern Ground Music & Food Festival in Charleston, SC was held last year. This year it returns to Charleston October 20–21, and adds a Nashville event September 21–22.
The albums are released on Brown’s label, Southern Ground Music, in partnership with Atlantic Records. Southern Ground boasts a diverse roster that includes Sonia Leigh, Levi Lowrey, The Wood Brothers, Blackberry Smoke, Nic Cowan and the Wheeler Boys. “It’s really fun to build things and build them with people you care about,” Brown says. “The team that we have is a pretty amazing village of folks and I’m really proud of [them]. I’m a working piece of the team. It’s not all about me. It’s about everybody else doing their job and being great at it, and me trying to lead that by example.”
But Brown's entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t end there. He’s expanded the Southern Ground brand to include his own line of sauces, rubs, and a signature cookbook, a metal shop that produces knives, key chains and hunting accessories (Southern Grind), and Southern Hide, which offers a variety of leather goods.
“As an artist, if I don’t feel like I’m growing, I feel like I’m dying,” says Brown. ‘That’s why I have a lot of different creative outlets... I have to keep those things going.”
Brown’s burgeoning empire is a brotherhood of family and friends. "There are 110 or so employees who are all my friends. We all believe in each other and help each other and work hard every day to make it successful."
Brown also recently purchased a studio in Nashville off the famous Music Row, has plans to open offices there, and even a restaurant. “[Our studio] was the old Masterlink studio and used to be Monument Records back in the ’60s. It’s a great historic building built in 1902 and now it's there for the Southern Ground family to go in and record. We needed a place to call home... somewhere we can work as long as we need to in our own inspiring bubble.”
A kind-hearted country boy looking for a way to share his good fortune with others, Brown is excited about launching Camp Southern Ground, a state-of-the-art facility for kids with developmental disorders. “We’re building a pretty amazing, healing place,” he says. “I’ve been a camper, a counselor and a staff member at camp myself. [This camp] will service lots and lots of kids and give them a place to come. We’re super excited about that.”
For the Love of Music
Of course, at the heart of it all lies the music, and Uncaged is another stellar effort showcasing the band’s eclectic blend. The album features guest appearances by Amos Lee and Trombone Shorty. “I’m a huge fan of Amos Lee,” Brown says. “It was an honor to have him sing a song with us. And Trombone Shorty is one of the best entertainers out there, period. He’s an incredible horn player.”
Shorty is featured on “Overnight,” which Brown describes as “a straight up R&B song.” Lee can be heard on “Day That I Die.” “It’s about a musician’s journey and the love for the music going till the day that you die with your guitar in your hands,” says Brown.
The lead single, “The Wind,” is already a hit at country radio and Brown is appreciative of the support they receive from radio and their fans. He’s passionate about delivering the best music possible.
“Every night after the show, we get on the bus and we write,” says Brown. “You can tell all our songs come from us and from our artists, the people we write with and travel with. You can hear us in them and you can hear the chemistry in our band because we live together as a band. I don’t think a lot of bands and artists work as hard as we do on the creation, on the writing, the arrangments and the recording. There are a lot of artists that do that, but they are the ones that aren’t necessarily known to the masses. I’m proud of that because I think that’s what separates us. That’s what makes us sound different; it's because we believe in our music, working on it and performing it. We take a lot of pride in it.”
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About the Writer
Deborah Evans Price has covered Christian/Gospel music for Billboard magazine since 1994. She also contributes regularly to CountryWeekly, CMA Close Up, Devo’Zine, Christian Single, HomeLife, BMI Music World, and other publications. A Nashville resident since 1983, Deborah has held editorial posts at Radio & Records, Country News, American Songwriter and Billboard. Amy Grant, Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley, Charlie Daniels, 3 Doors Down, Third Day, Don Henley, Bon Jovi, Chris Rice, Sandra Bullock, Mercy Me, Alan Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood and Steven Curtis Chapman are among her many interviews. Additionally, she's a sought-after music industry analyst who has been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, TNN, The Today Show, and ABC PrimeTime Live, among other outlets.Deborah is a member of the Gospel Music Association's board of directors and a graduate of Leadership Music. She resides south of Nashville with her husband, Gary, and son Trey.
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