Zac Brown Band Talk ‘Keep Me in Mind,’ Touring and the Future of the ZBB Cruise
The Zac Brown Band's career has rocketed to the top of the country music charts in the short few years since the release of their album, 'The Foundation.' The band has charted eight No. 1 singles ('Chicken Fried,' 'Whatever It Is,' 'Toes,' 'Highway 20 Ride,' 'Free,' 'As She's Walking Away,' 'Colder Weather' and 'Knee Deep'), and both of their two albums have reached platinum certification.
The Georgia boys will now be heading to South Carolina, where they'll host their three-day Southern Ground Music and Food Festival, which will also feature the likes of Eric Church. Other highly-anticipated acts on the bill will include Sonia Leigh, Levi Lowrey and Nic Cowen, all of whom are artists signed to Brown's self-run Southern Ground Artists record label.
Taste of Country recently chatted with ZBB's bassist, John Driskell Hopkins, to discuss the past, present and future of the band -- which includes overseas tours, cruises and various side projects in the works.
You guys have just come off having your eighth career No. 1 single with 'Knee Deep.' That is an amazing accomplishment ... describe that feeling!
I don't even know how to start. The funny part is that we're trying desperately to continue the trend, but also trying not to get spoiled either. That's the kind of thing you can't really spoil yourself on because as hard as you work, you can't really control how many people are going to hear it. So it's exciting. It's crazy. I don't know how else to describe it.
Did you have any idea when releasing 'Chicken Fried' that your career would snowball the way it has with winning awards, having platinum-selling albums, and of course, No. 1 singles?
No, and you know, we've always had high hopes and positive attitudes and wanted everything to go as well as it can possibly go, but you can't guarantee anything like that. We're just very excited. How can you predict that this many No. 1's in a row are going to happen? It's just so wonderful for us.
Your latest single is 'Keep Me in Mind,' which is well on its way to following the trend.
We're knocking on wood and fingers are crossed. People are singing along to it already at the shows, and it broke Top 40 pretty quickly, so we're hoping that everyone keeps enjoying it and keeps requesting it, and it keeps climbing.
Will you be releasing a video for 'Keep Me in Mind'?
The last I heard, the video is going to be live footage. I'm not sure exactly if it's from just one show, but I thought we were going take footage from [the] Red Rocks [show]. It could be footage from other shows too, but I think it's a live video ... but of course, that could change in a heartbeat!
You guys have a dynamic show and give the fans the complete experience when they come out, including with your eat and greets.
Well, it's wonderful. It's like you get to the point where it seems like [the fans are our] family. Everyone is with you in mass and big numbers, and it's really exciting. Whenever I get a chance to go do a solo show in Atlanta, I'm always more nervous because I'm not able to draw that kind of crowd by myself [laughs]. I always have a lot of really supportive, loving people come watch me, but it doesn't compare to the thousands that come see us. We're just so very blessed to have such a supportive and dedicated fan base.
As a songwriter, it must be a pretty surreal feeling to stand onstage in front of thousands of fans each night and have them singing your words back to you.
Yeah, it's totally surreal, and sometimes they know them better than we do! We get so wrapped up in a lot of busyness and crazy things that keep coming our way, and we'll get out to the show and be watching them sing. I'd rather watch them sing them [laughs]! I enjoy watching what they're doing more than strumming the chords [laughs]. It really, really brings us up.
Last year you guys released a cookbook with some of Zac's amazing recipes. Will there be more cookbooks to come?
Yeah, I believe Zac will probably want to do many cookbooks.
Does Zac sell his spice rubs and sauce used on the meals you guys serve during the eat and greets before your shows?
He's got his rub and his pork sauce, and they're both bottled up at the merchandise so you can take it home and roughly duplicate what we do during our eat and greets. A lot of what makes our food so great is that he doesn't skimp on the quality of the meat. He goes super high quality, and whenever we get the steaks or pork tenderloins off the grill, it's just the best.
This month, you've got the big Southern Ground Music and Food Festival in Charleston, S.C. Can you talk a little about that and what fans can expect this year?
Well, it's the second festival. We did one in Crimson [S.C.], and that one was more considered a dry run. It was a smaller field and not as widely publicized. We wanted to make sure everything worked. We had a lot of mechanical things in place. There's a lot of logistics involved with the ramps that go out into the crowd. We are playing onstage with a lot of the fans that bought the VIP cooking, dining, beer and wine passes, so those have to be secured. At one point, we had to go wider cause we felt like we were going to fall off [the stage], so you know ... a lot of things went into that, so we've had a couple of these dry runs.
This is a big kick off though in a big market. Charleston is a big market for us. It's three days with big name bands. It's going to be awesome. A lot of planning has gone into it, for many, many months. If you wanted to consider this the first "real" one I guess you could because it's got a lot of bands that we don't really play with on a regular basis and a lot of different vibes going on [between] two stages.
Last year you guys held a cruise around this time. Is that something you will be doing again at some point?
I think we learned a lot about doing our own cruise, and I think if we do another cruise anytime in the near future, it's gonna have to be on a much larger boat. And one that has more privacy ... more secret compartments. Like, how do I get to the stage from here without walking through the [entire boat]? It was crazy [at times], and a little overwhelming to have everybody there to see us. You want to stop and talk to as many people as you can. I think the logistics of a boat, when you are all together like that, is a big hurdle. So if we ever get a chance to do one again, we'd probably make sure that hurdle is easier to jump.
Obviously Zac has a big hand in writing songs for the band, along with Wyatt Durrette. You have been a co-writer on a handful of ZBB songs, including 'Toes.' Is that something you enjoy getting involved with, or do you rather leave that stuff up to Zac and Wyatt?
I enjoy it very much, and I continue to write on my own. My kind of perspective is I will always write, and I always do. Whenever I get something that I think the band might be able to use, I send it to everybody and say, "I just finished this one ... let me know what you think." Sometimes those pop up in rehearsal, and everybody says, "We really need to go for that one." So that's exciting when that happens. That was the case with 'It's Not Okay' and again later on with 'Nothing,' [which] was a bonus track on 'You Get What You Give.' You'll find that on iTunes. So I've been very lucky to get a couple tunes on both records and co-write on some other stuff. I just keep doing it. If you stop then you get creatively stifled I think, so you have to continually work on your craft.
What kind of plans do you have in the works for 2012 tourwise?
I don't know of any that is groundbreaking. We always talk about going back to the U.K. and Australia ... see more of Europe. I just don't know if that's going to happen [next] spring or this year. We want to keep stretching out. Our genre is starting to do really well. Like in Germany, there's a whole big country music fan base in that part of the world, so who knows ... maybe soon we can get over there and enjoy that.
Watch Zac Brown Band Perform 'Keep Me in Mind' Live