Once again the mighty Zac Brown Band have unveiled another ambitious hot-picking bag of hits on a waiting public. The new album is called ‘Welcome Home’, and it shares something in common with the previous record, the genre-blending ‘Jekyll + Hyde’ – Zac is letting the record speak for itself.
So in lieu of a conversation with Mr Brown or his compatriots, I present an examination of ten recent tweets from the band’s official account (@zacbrownband), which will reveal the innermost thoughts and inspiration of one of country music’s most interesting and compelling artists. Or possibly a new song called ‘Covfefe Fried’*
*This joke may have dated by the time this is published.
If you're with us on #TeamChefRusty, give our boy a vote & let him know. You can vote one time every day!
To be honest, I spent a half hour following links to chicken recipes around the internet after reading this tweet and almost missed my deadline on this story. Point is – Zac loves food. Some artists have signature vodka brands, their own lines of headphones, Zac Brown cooks. For his fans.
The Rolling Stones has a mobile recording studio, Zac has a mobile kitchen in a truck. It is named ‘Cookie’. #TeamChefRusty is Rusty Hamlin, Zac’s old friend and partner in food. Together, they run ‘Eat and Greets’ – pre-show feasts for fans who pay for special tickets, often around $50. Considering many artists Meet and Greet experiences consist of 5 seconds of a hand shake and an awkward selfie, this is a pretty good deal. In Sydney, $50 will barely get you a plate of potato wedges and a glass of house bourbon.
While Zac is definitely the creative captain of the ship, the Zac Brown Band is a band. Boasting anywhere between three and six-hundred-and-seven members over the course of their career to date, the group is one of the most compelling collections of beards and stringed instruments you’ll find in contemporary music.
Guitar and keyboardist Coy Bowles is a fellow Georgian and a co-writer on ‘Roots’, a track on the new record that speaks to the history that the band now share together, a history that stretches back to their home state.
“It’s amazing to have a song that talks about our rise to success, but not forgetting where we came from,” Bowles told Sounds Like Country. “Being from the south and from Georgia, a lot of us grew up in small towns outside of Atlanta. My dad used to drill in to me ‘Don’t forget where you came from.’ So, that’s kind of the centrepiece of the song – wherever you go, you take your roots with you.”
Chris Cornell touched so many & we were fortunate to have worked w/ him. He was a true talent & gentleman. Our thoughts are with his family.
This message soon after the passing of alternative rock legend Chris Cornell reminds us that Zac’s influences and appeal stretches far beyond the boundaries of country music. Their live shows regularly feature rock covers from Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ to Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’. The intense shredding and almost competitive musicality of the band veers easily into metal territory, and they famously collaborated with Foo Fighter Dave Grohl on an EP in 2013. Cornell featured on the track ‘Heavy is the Head’ from ZBB’s ‘Jekyll + Hyde’ album.
Just a handful of days left to see the Zac Brown Band exhibit at the @countrymusichof, if you're in Nashville swing by & see it!
“We try to make sure we’re reflecting what’s going on right now in the music, not just what happened sixty years ago,” Peter Cooper told me once as we walked around his office. By office I mean the Country Music Hall of Fame, where the journalist and country historian now overseas various events and programs.
ZBB’s presence in the Hall casts them as the latest link in a chain stretching back to Merle, the Possum and the various Hanks, the “grand story” of country music. Not every contemporary star with a string of hits gets an exhibition. More than a decade into their career, they have achieved impact and significance, and the overwhelming respect of their peers.
Love seeing all your tweets about staying up to listen to WELCOME HOME. Thank you for your support!
The best essay I’ve ever read about marketing is by Kevin Kelly and it’s called ‘1000 True Fans’. The essence is that if you focus on building a core community of dedicated die-hards, they’ll act as your foot soldiers without you even asking, converting their friends to the cause, who then evangelize to their friends, etc. The energy of Zac’s fanbase is proof of this concept.
Zac Brown Band fans are rabid. There’s no tabloid dilettantism to their audience and the love extends far beyond the radio hits. To see a ZBB gig is to see thousands on their feet breathless from singing along, awestruck at the playing and sometimes on the verge of tears.
From Dixie Tavern to #WelcomeHome & everything in between. It's been a wild journey and we're just getting started.
Dixie Tavern is a rock club in Zac Brown’s home state of Georgia. Back in his solo days, Zac would play there frequently and struck up a rapport with bartender Wyatt Durrette, which became a songwriting partnership. One of their early tunes was based on an existing song fragment about the simple pleasures of southern living, in particular fried chicken.
Legend has it that the song came across the desk of country icon Alan Jackson. Jackson would later go on to duet with Zac on multiple occasions, but this time he turned down the chance to cut ‘Chicken Fried’.
“Man, I just had a song about cornbread and chicken, and I had a song about bologna,” he recalled to The Boot, of his thinking at the time. “Every album I’ve got has these songs about food, so I just don’t think I want to do one about chicken fried right now”.
The song ended up launching Zac Brown Band into the mainstream country stratosphere in 2008 when it appeared on their album ‘The Foundation’, and the tune still raises the roof at ZBB gigs.
The new album ‘Welcome Home’ is a conscious harkening back to the sound of that album. After exploring the boundaries of what the band are capable of on ‘Jekyll + Hyde’, the new record is a renewed focus and commitment to the core of their sound. The perspective is a decade on, with recurring themes of family abundant through the songs.
While a plurality of top 40 hits on country radio sing the virtues of cut-off jeans, tailgating and burgeoning attraction, the lyrics of songs like ‘Family Table’, ‘Roots’ and ‘My Old Man’ reveal the point of view of a 38 year old husband and father comfortable with maturity and adulthood.
#WELCOMEHOME is the most personal album we've ever written & we're really excited to finally share it with you.