The past year has been dizzying for the hardworking act. The band's first major label release, 'The Foundation' was one of Billboard's Top 20 albums of 2009, and was the first major label debut album in 18 years to yield five No. 1s including "Chicken Fried" and "Free." Released on November 18, 2008 on Atlantic Records, 'The Foundation' debuted at Number 17 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart and Number 3 on the Top Country Albums Chart. It's now certified double platinum by the RIAA, which Brown said, "solidifies an achievement that has been more than a decade in the making."
"There's no way to predict how fast everything is going to come together," added Brown. "Or that it took 13 years to get to the beginning of it."
In 2009 and 2010, Zac Brown Band successfully headlined the Breaking Ground Tour. "For us to come into our own, we had to make it happen as a headliner," he said. There's no question that the road-tested band had the chops to pull it off. In addition to bassist John Hopkins, violinist Jimmy De Martini, guitarist/organist Coy Bowles and drummer Chris Fryar, this year the band has added multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Clay Cook, well respected as a musician's musician and an MVP-caliber performer on the Georgia music scene. Cook, perhaps best known for his co-writes with Grammy-winner (and former Lo-Fi Masters bandmate) John Mayer, rounds out the ZBB sound on guitar, vocals, organ, mandolin and pedal steel.
"We've got a great following," Brown affirms. And while the band strongly identifies with country music and country radio and, of course, continues to have great success there, it's not an easily pigeonholed crowd; while loyal country fans show up in droves, the band also appeals to lovers of bluegrass, jam bands, reggae and seemingly everyone in between. It's no wonder that another famous genre-hopper, Michigan's Kid Rock, has performed with the band and given them his strong endorsement. Zac Brown Band also shared the bill for several Dave Matthews Band dates on their summer 2010 stadium tour, including NYC's Citi Field and will make their Meadowlands debut as well as several stadium stops across the country in 2011 as part of Kenny Chesney's "Goin' Coastal Tour" starring Kenny Chesney and Zac Brown Band.
Brown launched his Southern Ground Artists, Inc. record label in 2009 and signed Atlanta-based artists Sonia Leigh, Levi Lowrey and Nic Cowan. In addition to the music, Brown has also launched a line of steak rubs and barbecue sauces under the Southern Ground label, and in collaboration with photographer Jeffrey Skillings and writer/bandmate Coy Bowles, released his first cookbook 'Southern Ground' in 2010. As Brown notes, these projects have their roots in Zac's Place, a lakeside restaurant he used to co-own and run. "For me it's about creating something that's really excellent," he says. "People are going to be blown away by how good the products are."
Brown is developing a charitable foundation to run a children's camp, which recently began clearing land for its planned site. Despite all the irons in the fire, Brown nonetheless calls his foundation and camp plans his "life's work." "Having the camp and giving back is important for me," he says. "I'm very blessed to have what I have, and I know a lot of that's on credit for what I do down the road. It's very important for me to keep that in mind. I want to leave something behind that does some good after I'm gone."
And while audiences party, they'll be doing well to keep up with the musicians onstage. "We laugh all the time," Brown notes. "You're either sleeping or up laughing and having a good time. Or we're playing music. It's better than I could have dreamed of."
Tickets for the show go on sale March 16 at 10 a.m. For more information visit www.WaterfrontConcerts.com.