Zac Brown Band are one of the most successful bands in country music history. The level of musicianship they show night after night and the evolution of their music since they first began has been a joy to witness. Following the release of their latest album ‘The Comeback (Deluxe)’ and ahead of their return to the UK to headline C2C once more, Zac, Coy and Jimmy took time out of their busy schedule to reflect upon their journey together.
Zac began the band over two decades ago in 2002 and even as an independent artist, plugging away on the circuit, he was creating a buzz that was hard to ignore. Jimmy and Coy joined Zac at different times, “I definitely knew something was up with Zac,” Jimmy says, a wry smile creeping across his face. “That this dude has some talent and, really, the sky’s the limit. I remember the first time I heard him, watching the crowd, captivated. Back then you had to play a lot of cover songs, when you play your original songs, that’s when people go get a drink. For him, that’s when everybody got excited was when he played the original songs.”
Jimmy joined Zac in 2004 after picking up the violin at 12 years old and taking up guitar later on in his teens, “When the orchestra director played the violin, I just fell in love with the sound immediately. I told my parents, I want to do that. So they rented me a little violin for like, $5 a month and I played all the way through middle school and high school.” He’s gone on to steal the show on several occasions I have watched the band, particularly in their rendition of ‘Devil Went Down To Georgia’.
Another two years would pass before Coy left his own band, Coy Bowles and the Fellowship, to join Zac Brown Band. Coy was almost put off music at an early age; after he failed to pick a summer activity like his mum had asked, she chose guitar lessons for him. “The guy that I was taking guitar lessons from was making us learn ‘Coming Round the Mountain’, which is like a really old traditional song. I was really into skateboarding and was listening to like, hardcore punk rock. So I was not into learning coming around the mountain at all. I looked at my mom and I was like, I’m not learning this. I’m not going. But by this point, I already had an acoustic guitar. I was the only child, living way out in the country so there wasn’t much for me to do to entertain myself. I would pick up the guitar and what would seem like 30 minutes would end up being like three or four hours.”
Two years later and they would stamp their authority with the release of ‘Chicken Fried’, their debut, chart topping song, written by Zac and long-time collaborator Wyatt Durette. Coy can’t speak highly enough of Wyatt’s ability as a songwriter, “Wyatt just has this innate ability to have songs come to him. It’s really magical to be around. I remember when he wrote ‘Colder Weather’, we were in Memphis, Tennessee, and he came up to me, he was like, I’ve been working on this thing. He sang the melody to me and I was like, you just wrote that? And he was like, Yeah, I was like, that’s like a forever song, dude. That’s like something that’s been around in the universe for hundreds of years or something that sounds like it already exists. He doesn’t even play an instrument either. That was the craziest part, he just hums in his head and then he’s like, I think I’ve got it, and he blurts it out.”
Since then Zac and Wyatt have gone on to pen several of the band’s hits including ‘Sweet Annie’. ‘Sweet Annie’ was one of my favourite songs that really made me sit up and pay attention to Zac Brown Band, a song Coy had a hand in writing alongside Zac, Wyatt Durette, John Pierce and Sonia Leigh. Zac and Wyatt have a history of writing hit songs so this was always going to be a special song for the group.
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW IN THE NEXT ISSUE OF MAVERICK MAGAZINE. AVAILABLE AT C2C!