Two-time GRAMMY Award winners and multi platinum artists Zac Brown Band have become one of music's most heralded acts. With a historic nine consecutive #1 hit singles, awe-inspiring musicianship and dynamic live shows, the Georgia six-piece is definitely built to last.
Zac Brown Band's double-platinum major label debut 'The Foundation' (Atlantic Records/Home Grown/Big Picture) was named one of Billboard's Top 20 albums of 2009, and the platinum follow-up 'You Get What You Give' (Atlantic/Southern Ground Artists) debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart in 2010. The album features guest appearances by Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett and as Zac explained to Associated Press, "It's a defining record...Every step of it's done the right way and I expect people are really going to love this record and see the depth of our musicianship, we're always growing. Not that we've arrived at any grand finale or anything, but the progress from this last record to this one, it's tremendous and I'm proud of it."
Since 2009, the band has garnered more than 50 combined GRAMMY, ACM, AMA, CMA, and CMT award nominations with wins including their 2010 GRAMMY win for "Best New Artist," 2010 CMA win for "New Artist of the Year," and 2011 ACM Top Vocal Event of the Year for "As She's Walking Away" with Alan Jackson.
No question, the past three years have been dizzying for the hardworking act. The band's first major label release, 'The Foundation' was the first major label debut album in 18 years to yield five #1's including "Chicken Fried" and "Free." Released on November 18, 2008 on Atlantic Records, 'The Foundation' debuted at #17 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart and #3 on the Top Country Albums Chart.
"There's no way to predict how fast everything is going to come together," adds the down-to-earth Georgian. "Or that it took 13 years to get to the beginning of it." Zac Brown Band, comprised of Brown along with bassist John Hopkins, violinist Jimmy De Martini, guitarist/organist Coy Bowles and drummer Chris Fryar, and multi-instrumentalist Clay Cook marked their first headlining tour 2009-2010 with the Breaking Southern Ground Tour. "For us to come into our own, we had to make it happen as a headliner," notes the Dahlonega, GA-raised Brown.
"We've got a great following," he affirms. And while the band strongly identifies with country music and country radio and, of course, continues to have great success there, it's not an easily pigeonholed crowd; while loyal country fans show up in droves, the band also appeals to lovers of bluegrass, jam bands, reggae and seemingly everyone in between. Zac Brown Band also shared the bill with Dave Matthews Band for dates on their summer 2010 stadium tour, Kings of Leon for special guest appearances in the UK, and Kenny Chesney for several stadium stops across the country in 2011 as part of Kenny Chesney's "Goin' Coastal Tour" starring Kenny Chesney and Zac Brown Band.
In fact, the Zac Brown Band's rehearsal space provides strong clues that the unit puts no artificial limits on itself. While one wall sports a whiteboard chock full of nationwide tour dates, the other is graffitied with hundreds of song titles-sharing space on a wall that also includes a Bob Marley banner and a framed portrait of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. "Everything has to do with the song," Brown observes. "Every song is born and wants to go its own direction. When audiences hear a new song for the first time, if at the end of it they're going crazy and cheering, you know you've pulled it off."
Brown launched his Southern Ground Artists record label in 2009 and signed Atlanta-based artists Sonia Leigh, Levi Lowrey, Nic Cowan, Blackberry Smoke, The Wood Brothers, and The Wheeler Boys. In addition to the music, Brown has also launched a line of steak rubs and barbecue sauces under the Southern Ground company, and in collaboration with photographer Jeffrey Skillings and writer/bandmate Coy Bowles, released his first cookbook 'Southern Ground' in 2010. As Brown notes, these projects have their roots in Zac's Place, a lakeside restaurant he used to co-own and run. "For me it's about creating something that's really excellent," he says. "People are going to be blown away by how good the products are."
As if all this weren't enough, Brown also oversees Southern Grind, a full-production metal shop; Southern Hide, a leather artistry shop; and Camp Southern Ground, a camp for children slated to open in Georgia in 2014. Said Brown of the Camp he calls his "life's work:" "Having the camp and giving back is important for me," he says. "I'm very blessed to have what I have, and I know a lot of that's on credit for what I do down the road. It's very important for me to keep that in mind. I want to leave something behind that does some good after I'm gone."
While Brown focuses on doing good, his audiences will continue to focus on feeling good, as the band builds its following with national touring, the ZBB-curated annual Southern Ground Music & Food Festival, and a new studio album coming 2012.
And while audiences party, they'll be doing well to keep up with the musicians onstage. "We laugh all the time," Brown notes. "You're either sleeping or up laughing and having a good time. Or we're playing music. It's better than I could have dreamed of."
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