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Music / Zac Brown Band

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The Zac Brown Band are a Country Music 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 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, Jewel, 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". At the same time, Zac started an electronic side project called Sir Rosevelt, which released one album in the last quarter of 2017. Electronic influence carried over to the band's next album, 2019's The Owl, as well as Brown's solo album The Controversy that same year.

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.


Tropes present:

  • Album Title Drop: You Get What You Give is title-dropped in "Martin".
  • Animated Music Video: "The Wind" has one animated by Mike Judge.
  • 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 muting the last two words of "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 some of the arrangements are different. This is because Marcus Petruska and Joel Williams were on drums and guitar respectively instead of Chris Fryar and Coy Bowles (although session guitarist Brent Mason also contributed). Also, since Clay Cook hadn't joined yet, the keyboard parts are played by session musicians and the vocal arrangements are only three-part instead of four-part. Finally, "It's Not OK" is 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 eleven with hard rock ("Heavy Is the Head", "Junkyard"), jazz ("Mango Tree", with Sara Bareilles), EDM ("Beautiful Drug"), and more. The electronic influences got turned up to eleven on the Sir Rosevelt side project, which in turn informed The Owl.
  • 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...").
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Paradise Lost" is a fun, upbeat, tropical-sounding song...about how a tropical vacation feels empty and unenjoyable because his partner broke up with him.
  • Motor Mouth: "The Wind" is really freaking fast.
  • Once an Episode: Every album except the Grohl Sessions EP has an upbeat beach-themed song ("Toes", "Knee Deep", "Jump Right In", "Castaway"). Welcome Home had "Start Over", but unlike its predecessors, it was not released as a single.
  • 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 folktronica influence in favor of more banjo and fiddle.
    • "Castaway" was remixed for radio by dubbing in the coda under the Lyrical Cold Open and toning down the bridge slightly.
    • "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.
  • Self-Plagiarism: "Same Boat" has a very similar melody to "Chicken Fried".
  • 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 before officially taking over on bass in 2014.
  • Solo Side Project: Zac released a solo album titled The Controversy in 2019.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Hopkins sings "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
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: Occurs with the last chorus of "Loving You Easy".
  • 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.