He likes his chicken fried, his cold beverages on Friday nights, pairs of jeans that fit just right, the radio up, and, oh yeah, baseball, too.
Particularly Atlanta Braves baseball.
Sit down with lead singer and guitarist Zac Brown of the Atlanta-based country music phenomenon known as the Zac Brown Band and you find out that while growing up in Dahlonega, Ga., as one of 12 children, he found time to take in plenty of Braves games on TV.
“My whole life, it’s been the Braves,” Brown said while relaxing backstage at the recent Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn. “I just grew up going to hometown games since Bob Horner was hitting four homers in a game back in the day. It was very cool in the 1990s. Pretty much every night we were watching baseball.”
It’s pretty cool now for the Zac Brown Band, too.
“Chicken Fried,” the radio-friendly, downhome paean to wholesome Southern living, became a radio senstation after being re-released In October 2008. It shot to No. 1 on the country charts the following month and led to the major-label release of the album <i>The Foundation</i>, which also produced the No. 1 hit “Whatever It Is.”
Since then, the Zac Brown Band, which also includes bassist and vocalist John Driskell Hopkins, fiddle player and vocalist Jimmy DeMartini, guitarist and organist Coy Bowles, drummer Chris Fryar and multi-instrumentalist and singer Clay Cook, has gone from opening for larger country acts to headlining their own shows, including a 90-minute set that closed out the opening night of Bonnaroo 2009.
“It’s great,” Brown says. “We’ve got kind of a grander vision for how we want to set up our headlining tour, and this fall is the first one we’re really heading toward that direction. Being able to play two-hour shows every night, it’s going to be great to really stretch it out and really lay out the different styles that we do. “
The band is as comfortable and capable at performing classic rock, reggae or select cover tunes (they did “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by The Band at Bonnaroo ) as they are at ripping up honky-tonk hits like “Chicken Fried.”
“We’re really excited about the success and excited to really unleash the other styles,” Brown says. “The country [influence] is the only one we’ve really been able to service, so to be able to dig into these other ones and get it out there is really exciting.”
As Bowles explains, the music can’t really be defined by any one genre, which is why an eclectic festival gig like the one at Bonnaroo is a perfect showcase for the band’s surprising repertoire.
“It’s more Southern than it is anything,” Bowles says. “Stylistically, we do so many different things. I never thought about it, really, but this concert might be the first show where we’ve done where the audience that’s listening to us will be able to get the whole grasp of what we’re doing, from the bluegrass stuff to the reggae to the country.
“A lot of times people ask us about being a country band and we say, ‘Well, we’re not really a country band.’ And we’re not knocking country, because we like it, but we don’t want to be limited.”
That’s why the Zac Brown Band has been accepting all kinds of gigs, including a few at baseball stadiums.
The band played at PNC Park in Pittsburgh this season for a Pirates fireworks show and didn’t embarrass themselves while getting through the National Anthem, which they also performed at Comerica Park in Detroit.
While in Pittsburgh, Zac Brown Band fan, Pirates first baseman and former Atlanta Brave Adam LaRoche hung out with them for a little while pregame and Bucs manager John Russell showed the band around the clubhouse.
And while Brown says he misses the days of great Braves like Dale Murphy, he likes the young direction the team’s going in these days.
“They’re still fun to watch,” Brown says. “I’m still going to watch them whenever I can.”