Music / Zac Brown Band
band consisting of Zac Brown (guitar, lead vocals), Jimmy De Martini (fiddle, backing vocals), John Driskell Hopkins (bass, banjo, ukulele, guitar, backing vocals), Coy Bowles (keyboards), Chris Fryar (drums), Clay Cook (guitar, organ, piano, pedal steel, mandolin, backing vocals), Matt Mangano (bass guitar), and Daniel de los Reyes (percussion). The band enjoyed several years of independent success in its native Atlanta, Georgia under a slightly different and smaller lineup of just Brown, Hopkins (who was then the bassist), De Martini, and little-known Marcus Petruska and Tim Ussery, the latter of whom was briefly replaced by Joel Williams.
After a series of independent albums, the band broke through in 2008 with the song "Chicken Fried". Originally released through a now-defunct indie label, the song was picked up by Atlantic Records
partway through its chart run and included on the album The Foundation
. By this point, Fryar, Bowles, and Cook had joined (although Petruska and Williams were still credited on the album). "Chicken Fried" made them only the third country band ever to send its debut single to #1 on the Billboard
country charts, and three of the other album's four singles topped the charts as well. Oh, and they won the 2010 Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Following two live albums, 2010's You Get What You Give
notched four more chart-toppers, including a duet with Alan Jackson
on "As She's Walking Away".
de Los Reyes joined just before their third album, Uncaged
, which included the smashes "Goodbye in Her Eyes" and "Sweet Annie", along with the Jason Mraz
-penned "Jump Right In". This was also their last album under the production of Keith Stegall, best known for his work with Jackson. Matt Mangano joined in 2014, taking over as bassist so that Hopkins could begin playing other instruments as well. During the transition, the band recorded a four-song EP produced by music/Dave Grohl
.Jekyll + Hyde
followed in 2015, producing the country hits "Homegrown", "Loving You Easy", and "Beautiful Drug". This album included a vast array of collaborators such as Chris Cornell
, Sara Bareilles
, and Cee Lo Green
, and a cover of alt-country singer Jason Isbell's "Dress Blues". The Cornell collaboration, "Heavy Is the Head", introduced the band's hard-rock influences for the first time, and even topped the Mainstream Rock charts (making them only the second act after Bon Jovi
to have both a #1 country and #1 mainstream rock hit). Alt-country producer Dave Cobb took the boards for the band's fifth major-label album Welcome Home
, led off by the tender ballad "My Old Man".
The band is known for its wide array of instrumentation and musical styles to the point of Genre Roulette
, all usually anchored by Brown's nylon-string guitar, De Martini's fiddle, and the band's strong four-part harmonies.
- Album Title Drop: You Get What You Give is title-dropped in "Martin".
- Animated Music Video: "The Wind" has one animated by Mike Judge. Yes, that Mike Judge.
- Badass Beard: Zac Brown.
- Bowdlerize: Several radio edits of "Toes" exist, primarily censoring "I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand" to "...toes in the sand" and censoring "roll a big fat one". Zac was not pleased, but his co-writer didn't mind.
- Broken Record: "No, we don't have a lot of money" is sung seven times in a row on "Free".
- Continuity Nod: Floaty Boatwood, the fictional lead in the "Toes" video, reappears in "Knee Deep" and "Jump Right In".
- Doo-Wop Progression: "As She's Walking Away" uses this in the first half of its verses.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The Foundation in general. Most of the songs are re-recordings of stuff from their early independent days, so the lyrics are a lot simpler (particularly "Chicken Fried"), there's a lot less of a Genre Roulette feel (the album is mostly dominated by mid-tempos that feel like a cross between Dave Matthews Band and Jimmy Buffett), and neither Chris Fryar, Coy Bowles, nor Clay Cook is present (thus meaning that Marcus Petruska and Joel Williams are credited on drums and guitar, session musicians play all the keyboard parts and some of the guitar parts, and all of the harmonies are only three-part instead of four part). "It's Not OK" also stands out due to being their only song to date not sung by Zac (John Driskell Hopkins takes the lead vocal instead).
- Epic Instrumental Opener: The album version of "Free" opens with a minute-long fiddle solo.
- Genre Roulette: Southern rock, jam band, bluegrass, mainstream country? It's all there. Jekyll + Hyde pushes it Up to 11 with hard rock ("Heavy Is the Head", "Junkyard"), jazz ("Mango Tree", with Sara Bareilles), EDM ("Beautiful Drug"), and more.
- Love Is a Drug: "Beautiful Drug" uses the well known metaphor ("Such a beautiful drug, I can't get enough / Got a habit and I'm dying for a hit of your love...").
- Motor Mouth: "The Wind" is really freaking fast.
- Nice Hat: Zac's skullcap.
- Once an Episode: Every album except the Grohl Sessions EP has an upbeat beach-themed song that gets released in the summer ("Toes", "Knee Deep", "Jump Right In", "Castaway").
- One-Woman Song: "Sweet Annie".
- Rearrange the Song:
- For some reason, the radio edit of "Chicken Fried" abridges some of the solos and has a few barely discernible organ notes dubbed into the last chorus.
- The radio edit of "All Alright" removes A. J. Ghent's guitar solo before the bridge.
- There's a remix of "Beautiful Drug" that lessens the EDM elements in favor of more fiddle.
- "Castaway" was remixed for radio by moving the coda to the beginning and toning down the bridge a bit.
- "Roots" had a verse removed from the radio edit.
- Welcome Home has a studio version of "Trying to Drive", previously found in live form on Pass the Jar.
- Signature Style: Heavy focus on instrumentation and melody, usually fronted by nylon-string guitar and fiddle.
- Sixth Ranger: Matt Mangano had collaborated with the ZBB a few times (most notably on one track from Uncaged) before officially becoming bassist in 2014.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Hopkins sings most of "It's Not OK" on their debut album, and Cook sings part of "Last but Not Least" on Uncaged. The band has also done covers of "Baba O'Riley" in concert with Brown and Cook alternating the lead.
- Subdued Section: They love this trope:
- The third verse of "Chicken Fried" has just nylon-string guitar.
- The final verse of "Colder Weather". A cappella for the first two lines, and just piano for the rest.
- The midsection of "Keep Me in Mind" goes into a slower tempo, with just piano and synthesized strings.
- The third verse of "All Alright" drops most of the instruments and slows down to a waltz before resuming the usual time signature and tempo.
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: Inverted in "Whiskey's Gone":
Well I stumble my way into my local bar
Where I saw the devil in my glass
The bartender told me it was time to go
I told him that he could lick my sack
- Uncommon Time: "Heavy Is the Head" isn't entirely in 4/4; the chorus is in 6/8, there are measures of 2/4 and 3/4 sprinkled throughout, and most of the ending is in 7/8. Fittingly, the song features Chris Cornell, better known for being in another band that used many odd time signatures.