Zac Brown Band is an American country/folk band based in Atlanta, Georgia, on the Southern Ground Artists label. The lineup consists of Zac Brown (lead vocals, guitar), Jimmy De Martini (fiddle, vocals), John Driskell Hopkins (bass guitar, banjo, ukulele, upright bass, vocals), Coy Bowles (guitar, keyboards), Chris Fryar (drums), Clay Cook (guitar, keyboards, mandolin, steel guitar, vocals), Matt Mangano (bass guitar), and Daniel de los Reyes (percussion). The band has toured throughout the United States, including a slot on the 2009 and 2010 Bonnaroo Music Festival. They have also recorded five studio albums, and charted ten Number One singles on the Billboard country charts: "Chicken Fried", "Toes", "Highway 20 Ride", "Free", "As She's Walking Away", "Colder Weather", "Knee Deep", "Keep Me In Mind", "Goodbye in Her Eyes", and "Sweet Annie", in addition to the singles "Whatever It Is", "No Hurry", and "Jump Right In", which peaked at number 2, and "The Wind", which peaked at number 11.
Zac Brown was born August 1, 1978, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was raised on Lake Lanier by his mom and step-father, a dentist in Cumming, Georgia. The 11th of 12 children, Brown attended Mashburn Elementary School in Cumming; Lakeview Academy in Gainesville, Georgia; and South Forsyth High School in Cumming. He later moved to Dahlonega, Georgia at age 17, where he graduated from Lumpkin County High School. Zac was given his mother's guitar at age 8, and one of his step-father's patients was enlisted teach him classical guitar. He completed two years of lessons. Soon after he developed a love for blue grass while picking with his father and brother on weekend visits. In his mid-teens Zac spent almost a year of being tutored by a voice coach from his church in Cumming. While still in high school, with James Taylor as his inspiration, he began playing solo gigs in local venues, performing country and pop cover songs. By the age of 19 he began touring the Southeast with a drummer and his dog, Pete, laying out the ground work of what would become the Zac Brown Band nine years later. Brown attended the University of West Georgia, where he became a member of the Zeta Kappa chapter of the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity. He was also a camp counselor at Camp Mikell in Toccoa, Ga., & Camp Glisson, a United Methodist summer camp and retreat center located in Dahlonega, Ga.
In 2002, Zac Brown was traveling with a heavy tour schedule of approximately 200 dates a year. The initial Zac Brown lineup consisted of Brown, on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, backed by a drummer and a bass guitarist. In 2003, Brown started his own label, called Home Grown (today, it is called Southern Ground for legal reasons).
In 2004, Brown opened a music club and restaurant with his father in the Lake Oconee area of Georgia, called "Zac's Place" where the fare was southern-style cooking. A developer bought the restaurant and, in turn, the Zac Brown Band bought a tour bus and began touring full-time, playing rock and country clubs as well as folk and jam band festivals. 2004 also saw the release of the Zac Brown Band's first independent album, Home Grown.
It was also in 2004 when Brown added violinist/fiddler and tenor vocalist Jimmy De Martini to the Zac Brown Band lineup. According to an interview with De Martini, he explained that John Driskell Hopkins, Brown's frequent songwriting collaborator, was working as a bartender at Sidelines Sports Bar in Kennesaw, Georgia, at the time, where the Zac Brown Band frequently performed. Durette suggested De Martini to Brown, who was wanting a "lead instrument" in his band, as well as a harmony singer. After doing several performances with the band at the club, Brown asked De Martini to become a permanent member, to which De Martini gladly obliged.
Brown met John Driskell Hopkins in 1998 when Hopkins was hosting an open mic night at CJ's Landing in Buckhead, GA. Hopkins later recorded Brown's album, Home Grown (released in 2003) in his music studio, Brighter Shade Studios. The two remained friends, and in 2005, Hopkins stepped in as bass guitarist while helping the group finish-up what would become their number one single "Toes." It was the second single off the band's major-label debut The Foundation which was partially recorded in Hopkins' studio. You Get What You Give was also partially recorded in "Brighter Shade Studios". In 2014, with the addition of bassist Matt Mangano to the line-up, Hopkins traded in his bass to take on the role of multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar, ukulele, stand-up bass, and banjo.
Bowles transferred to Atlanta's Georgia State University to study music. He subsequently became involved in Atlanta's various music scenes, and eventually formed Coy Bowles and the Fellowship in 2004. Two years later, Bowles decided to reconnect with Brown. Through mutual friends, he learned that the Zac Brown Band was scheduled to perform in Atlanta one evening. Bowles and Brown spent the afternoon prior to the performance reacquainting with each other, which ended with Brown inviting Bowles to sit in with his band at that night's performance, which Bowles gladly accepted. To return the favor, Bowles invited the band to attend his own gig with the Fellowship a couple of months later, which in turn resulted in Brown and his band sitting in at that gig.
This turn of events continued for eight months until Bowles concluded that it was too overwhelming to balance his time with Brown's band and his own band and other activities, thus making a difficult decision to put the Fellowship on an indefinite hiatus and become a permanent member of the Zac Brown Band, as that was what he enjoyed the most.
In 2008, the Zac Brown Band signed to Live Nation Artists Records (in association with Brown's own Home Grown label), but not before Chris Fryar became yet another addition to the band. An Alabama native, Fryar attended the University of North Texas and the Mississippi University for Women and made a name for himself in the Birmingham music scene.
According to Fryar, a mutual friend recommended him to Brown, who was in need of a new drummer for the band. Fryar, who in turn had just finished a stint with a previous band, subsequently auditioned and shortly afterward became the Zac Brown Band's newest member.
The Zac Brown Band's debut single, "Chicken Fried", was originally recorded in 2003 and included on the Home Grown album, but later re-recorded and released to country radio in 2008. This song was also recorded by The Lost Trailers, whose 2006 recording was released as a single but withdrawn after Brown decided that he wanted to release it himself. Brown also co-wrote "Simple Life", a song recorded by The Lost Trailers on their 2006 self-titled album.
In the third episode of HBO's documentary show Foo Fighters Sonic Highways Brown was a featured interview and explained why Lost Trailer's version of Chicken Fried was pulled from the radio. Brown stated that after 6 years of touring that he was broke and sleeping in his tour van. In 2005 the Lost Trailers contacted Brown and expressed interest in recording Chicken Fried. Brown stated he agreed under the condition that the song would only be an album cut and not a single as he still had hopes of releasing the song as radio single himself.
Both parties agreed and the Lost Trailers recorded the song. Some months later the Lost Trailers landed a deal with Sony Nashville and when they turned in their album Chicken Fried was among the tracks submitted. Joe Galante, then the Chairman of Sony Music Nashville heard the tracks and recognized Chicken Fried was the choice single that the label wanted to promote.
Brown described hearing his song on the radio : "The first time I hear Chicken Fried on the radio and it wasn't us singing it. It was a nightmare." Brown then called his lawyer to have the song pulled from the radio immediately. Brown's lawyer warned him that because of Galante's power in the Nashville music scene that pulling the song could essentially have him black balled in Nashville. Brown was insistent that his agreement with the Lost Trailers was violated and a Cease and Desist order was filed on his behalf and the single was pulled from the radio.
A few months later The Zac Brown Band was booked to perform at 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville and producer Keith Stegall came to watch their performance. Stegall and Brown had drinks later that night and Brown recalled Stegall stating: "I just had to meet the kid that told Joe Galante to fuck off!". Brown credits this incident and his meeting and collaboration with Stegall as the beginning of his success in the music business.
In October 2008, Atlantic Records acquired distribution of "Chicken Fried" after Live Nation Artists closed. The band's album The Foundation was released under Atlantic Records' newly re-established country division in association with the Home Grown/Bigger Picture label on November 18 of that year. "Chicken Fried" reached No. 1 on the country charts that same month, making them the first country band to reach No. 1 with a debut single since Heartland did so in 2006 with "I Loved Her First."
In July 2012, Zac Brown Band debuted their new CD, Uncaged, which was well received. Billboard considered the album to be the best country album of 2012 as of its release.
On January 20, 2013, Zac Brown Band performed the National Anthem during the NFC Championship Game between the Atlanta Falcons and the San Francisco 49ers at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
On January 1, 2014, Zac Brown Band performed the National Anthem during the NHL's Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings & Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mi, home of the Michigan Wolverines football team.
The Zac Brown Band announced on January 12, 2015, that it had finalized a four-way strategic partnership involving the Southern Ground Artists record label, Big Machine Label Group, Republic Records and John Varvatos Records for the release of its fourth studio album. The terms of the deal state that the Zac Brown Band will work with Big Machine Label Group for marketing and distribution, while Southern Ground Artists will work on radio promotion, Republic will provide support in the area of non-country radio formats and international promotion, and Varvatos will oversee branding and styling.
Brown stated in a press release: "Southern Ground Artists together with John Varvatos Records, Big Machine Label Group, and Republic Records is the dream team for Zac Brown Band’s evolution ... We’re excited to reach new music fans worldwide."
In January 2009, two months after "Chicken Fried" went to No. 1, Atlanta native Clay Cook joined the Zac Brown Band as its multi-instrumentalist and high tenor vocalist. Cook had previously collaborated with John Mayer and Shawn Mullins, and was also a member of the Marshall Tucker Band for two years prior to joining the Zac Brown Band. According to Cook, he and Brown actually both attended and graduated from high school together, but were never acquainted with each other during that period.
He explains how he first met Brown: "We ran into each other (in) 2003 in a club scene in Atlanta, where I think my band opened up for his band...ever since then, we've been friendly...and I think he just thought I was a singer-songwriter for a long time; and then we were on a (music) cruise ship together...and I was playing with the Marshall Tucker Band at the time, and (Brown)'s band (also participated in the cruise)...and he actually got to see me play the guitar...and then he realized, 'I need this guy in my band,' I guess."
Brown himself admitted his strong desire to add Cook to the lineup, for he believed Cook's musicianship would enhance the Zac Brown Band's overall musical style:
"I’d been tryin’ to get him in the band for three years, and you know, it’s been a journey, but I always knew [he could make us better]. I’m a harmony fanatic. I love big harmonies and things, and we didn’t have a high tenor, and Jimmy [De Martini], my fiddle player, sings a lot of the high stuff now, but havin’ somebody that can actually sing on top of that, we’ve added a four-part harmony now that’s searing, and the guy’s a monster player, too.""
With the new Zac Brown Band lineup completed, the band released its second single, "Whatever It Is," which went to No. 2. In October 2009, a third single, "Toes," became the band's second Number One. The album's fourth single, and third No. 1, was "Highway 20 Ride". "Free" was the album's fifth single and on the week of August 21, 2010, it also peaked at Number One.
On April 25, 2012, it was announced via the Zac Brown Band's website that percussionist Daniel de los Reyes had joined the band on a permanent basis. De los Reyes had previously performed with the band as a touring musician and participated in the recording of their album Uncaged. De los Reyes has also performed with artists and groups such as Earth, Wind and Fire, Jennifer Lopez and Sting. "Goodbye in Her Eyes" reached Number One on the Country Airplay chart in 2013. The album's third single, "Jump Right In", was released to country radio on February 25, 2013. It peaked at number 2 on the Country Airplay chart in August 2013. The album's fourth single, "Sweet Annie", was released to country radio in August 2013, and rose to number 1 in January, 2014.
In April 2014, the band announced its summer tour schedule, which will include Kacey Musgraves as an opening act, and the addition of Matt Mangano as an eighth member. Mangano assumed the role of bass guitarist, while original bassist John Driskell Hopkins began adding other instruments to his arsenal, including banjo and ukulele.
Since 2009, the Zac Brown Band has earned 55 award nominations from the Grammys, Academy of Country Music, American Music Awards, Country Music Association and Country Music Television, and has won 8.
They have received four nominations for the 2009 CMA Awards: New Artist of the Year, Song of the Year, Single of the Year, and Music Video of the Year for their No. 1 single, "Chicken Fried". That same year, they received three Grammy nominations for Best Country Album, Best Country Performance By a Duo or Group With Vocals and Best New Artist. On January 31, 2010, the band won the Grammy award for Best New Artist.
The Zac Brown Band was also nominated in 2009 for three ACM awards, "Album of the Year", "Top Vocal Group", and was one of eight contenders for "Entertainer of the Year".
The Zac Brown Band led the nominees for the 46th annual Academy of Country Music Awards 2011, with a total of nine nominations including: Top Vocal Group of the Year, Album of the Year, Single Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Vocal Event of the Year.
Along with recent commercial success, the band has made appearances at The Hangout Music Festival, Hullabalou Music Festival and the Bonnaroo Music Festival in 2006, 2009, and 2010 along with an opening slot for the Dave Matthews Band during their 2010 Summer Tour. Also, after several years as perennial favorites on the annual The Rock Boat theme-cruise, the Zac Brown Band has been elevated to hosting their own theme-cruise, Sailing Southern Ground, in September 2010. In Fall of 2009, the band began offering fan-club members the ability to purchase tickets to VIP Eat & Greet experiences before the majority of their tour appearances. These events afford fans the opportunity to share a meal with band-members before the show, and have become an integral part of the overall Zac Brown Band live experience.
In 2011, the Zac Brown Band and Blackberry Smoke held a concert tour at venues and amphitheaters including Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, CA.
On April 28, 2013, the Zac Brown Band headlined the 2013 Stagecoach Festival in Indio, California.
Zac Brown Band completed a three-night, headlining stint at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Wednesday, May 8, 2013, Thursday, May 9th, 2013, and Friday, May 10, 2013. All three performances were completely sold out.
On September 6, 2013, Zac Brown sat in with The String Cheese Incident and performed as the Zac Brown Incident during the inaugural Lockin' Festival in Arrington, VA.
On November 6, 2013, Zac Brown Band performed at the 2013 CMA awards with Dave Grohl on drums, debuting their new song "Day for the Dead". On November 24, while being interviewed at the American Music Awards, Grohl revealed that he recently produced the band's new EP.
On January 21, 2014, Zac Brown Band released a live version of their 2010 #1 hit "Free" (transitioning into the Van Morrison classic "Into the Mystic"). The track features Clare Bowen and precedes their January 22 appearance on the ABC TV show Nashville. The song(s) were recorded at the 2013 Southern Ground Music & Food Festival in Nashville.
Zac Brown guests on the Foo Fighters track "Congregation" that was recorded for their 8th studio album, Sonic Highways. The track was recorded at Southern Ground Studios in Nashville.
The band has also supported Little Kids Rock, a national nonprofit that works to restore and revitalize music education programs in disadvantaged U.S. public schools, by generously donating items for auction to raise money for the organization. On Wednesday January 16th, 2013, Zac Brown, Clay Cook, and David Ryan Harris played a benefit with John Mayer for the firefighters and the residents of Pine Creek in Park County, Montana, who fought a fire that swept through the area, only five homes and no lives were lost.
Zac Brown - lead vocals, guitar (2002-present)
Jimmy De Martini - fiddle, backing vocals (2004-present)
John Driskell Hopkins - bass guitar (2005-2014), guitar, ukulele, stand-up bass, banjo (2005-present)
Coy Bowles - guitar, Hammond organ (2006-present)
Chris Fryar - drums, percussion (2008-present)
Clay Cook - Hammond organ, Wurlitzer electric piano, clavinet, guitar (2009-present)
Daniel De Los Reyes - percussion (2012-present)
Matt Mangano - bass guitar (2014-present)
The Foundation (2008)
You Get What You Give (2010)
Jekyll + Hyde (2015)
Sources: Last.fm, Wikipedia
Zac Brown Band in the news
|Songs by Zac Brown Band|