Zac Brown Band with the Robert Randolph and The Family Band and Oliver Wood
7:30 p.m. Thursday
2101 N.E. 50th
With the chart-topping single “Chicken Fried,” and a Grammy-winning album, “The Foundation,” the Zac Brown Band is a well-oiled machine poised to take over the world. At least that’s how guitarist Coy Bowles sees it.
“I don’t know if you saw ‘Voltron,’ but it’s like all these cool cats with their own individual styles come together to form this bigger super-monster,” he said. “That’s what happens with this band. Everybody has their strong points, but when they all throw those in there and get accepted into a song, it’s hard to beat it.”
While the six musicians seem to have emerged from nowhere, success hardly occurred overnight. The band began in 2002, shortly after its namesake graduated from the University of West Georgia. The group toured heartily, up to 300 dates annually, while releasing three albums before “The Foundation” was picked up by Atlantic Records in 2008 and went double-platinum.
Initially signed by Live Nation’s fledging record label, the group but was dropped shortly thereafter. By then, “Chicken Fried” was making inroads on radio, reaching No. 1 on Billboard’s country chart, making an album deal an easy decision for Atlantic.
However, Brown and company aren’t really country. The act got its start on the jam-band circuit, but as the musicians’ Georgia upbringing suggests, they’re also somewhat Southern rockers. They even touch on easygoing party songs reminiscent of Jimmy Buffett with tracks like “Toes,” which imagines dangling your feet in the water and planting your ass in the sand.
“I think that’s one reason why we have so much success. A lot of people will come up to us after they hear us and go, ‘That’s the best show You guys are all over the place,'” Bowles said. “We’re not one specific thing that you can really put a finger on, but it’s good music.”
While their diverse approach certainly helps, the true key to success has been their relationship with fans.
They’ve built their audience from the ground up with lots of touring and an openhearted, come-on-in attitude. The Zac Brown Band has to be the only one that actually breaks bread with its audience every night, a couple hours before the show starts. It’s just another way to connect for Brown, who used to have his own restaurant, Zac’s Place.
“(We thought) it would be awesome if we could just have dinner with our fans,” Bowles said. “(A chef friend) orchestrates cooking Zac’s recipes every day and feeding it to the fans. We sit and hang out with them and everything. It’s a really cool experience, because the food is really good. It’s not like hot dogs and hamburgers ” it’s gourmet Southern food.”
Bowles described Brown as one of the most complicated people he’s ever met ” not in the difficult sense ” but as someone who really accepts people for who they are. Through it all, Bowles said Brown maintains a Zen-like presence, and the front man’s ethos is even encapsulated in a tattoo on his arm that reads “You get what you give.” The band’s not only taken the motto to heart, but made it the title of their forthcoming album, which drops Tuesday.
“We ended coming up with an album very similar to ‘The Foundation,’ in its musical genre or field,” Bowles said. “But every song is a little bit different. The writing and sound of the band is more mature. A lot of the songs have a message that’s trying to relay to people to make the most of life while you can and try to be as true to yourself as you can. You’ll get farther and enjoy it a lot more.” “Chris Parker