Country strong

Country strong

Zac Brown Band heads to Dayton

 By Sarah Sidlow

 

Zac Brown Band is coming to Wright State University’s Nutter Center on Thursday, Dec. 12. The three-time Grammy-winning southern septet is hauling out their entire repertoire, including cuts off their latest album Uncaged, which debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in 2012.

Uncaged is the result of a band retreat to the Appalachian foothills near Dahlonega, Ga., where the Georgia natives began exploring the variety of musical styles they wanted to produce. It was that creative boundary-bending that inspired the album’s name.

“Zac came to everybody and sort of suggested it; he came up with the idea,” drummer Chris Fryar said. “He said, ‘I feel like we’ve finally let loose and we can start taking more chances. I feel like we’ve been set free. We’ve been uncaged, so to speak.’ And we all said, ‘Dude, that’s awesome.’”

Uncaged is the band’s fifth studio release and features songs that run the gamut from country and bluegrass to gospel, R&B and breezy island music.

“When we got to Uncaged all bets were off,” Fryar said. “Whatever comes out, that’s what it is. We really in our hearts thought we had been emancipated from the confines of having to do the same thing over and over and over again. We didn’t want to take a formulaic approach to making records.”

With an impressively deep and widely diverse catalogue of hits to choose from, including nine Billboard Country #1 singles and three #2’s, the set list changes nightly. But there are still some standards that Brown and the band know folks are coming to see.

“Lately, we have a couple of songs that we’re almost always likely to open with, and then we have a couple of tunes that we’re always likely to close the show with,” Fryar said. “Depending on how things are, what our mood is, how kooky we’re feeling, the set list can change completely.”

They’ve even been known to throw in some popular, if unconventional, covers – a recent show in San Jose, Calif. included renditions of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely?” and Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” as well as an encore performance of Charlie Daniels Band’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

“We have a handful of covers that we like to do with regularity,” Fryar said. “But we don’t play them every single night, so it just depends on what night it falls on.”

The band, which began as a songwriting duo of lead singer/guitarist Zac Brown and Wyatt Durette, is accustomed to doing things in unconventional ways. It’s been a homegrown effort from the beginning, when in 2003, Brown started his own label, Home Grown, now called Southern Ground. Since then, the group has grown substantially, adding new members every few years.

The most recent addition to the band is percussionist Daniel de los Reyes, who performed with artists and groups like Earth, Wind and Fire, Jennifer Lopez, Lionel Richie and Sting (a more complete list can be found at zacbrownband.com), before contributing to Uncaged and becoming a permanent fixture in ZBB. The group’s personnel expansion and continued musical exploration indicates that this group of artists will continue to think outside the country music box.

“We all come from a different musical perspective with different influences,” Fryar said. “You bring somebody new into the fold, that’s part of growing as collective artists, we want to continue to push the envelope and grow [musically].”

The band’s extensive touring schedule, which often averages about 200 shows a year, means Zac and the guys have plenty of opportunities to switch up the set list.

“We’re really kind of always on tour, which is awesome,” Fryar said. “Basically, we try to work as much as possible, and play as many shows as we can squeeze in while still maintaining time with our families.”

That means playing shows almost every weekend, and taking time off for holidays and family birthdays. It’s a schedule, according to Fryar, that keeps both their families and their musical souls content.

“We love to play,” Fryar said. “I don’t think we’re qualified to do much else other than play music.”

If that’s truly the case, it’s lucky the band is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, Zac Brown Band has even found time to get back in the recording studio to begin work on their next project.

“We’re just having a great time making more new music,” Fryar said. “It’s a process and sometimes it goes very quickly and sometimes it can be very slow and elongated, but right now we’re working on some new stuff and having a blast doing it.”

 

Zac Brown Band will perform at Wright State University’s Nutter Center Thursday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. For ticket and seating information, please visit nuttercenter.com. For more information on the Zac Brown Band, please visit zacbrownband.com.

 

Reach DCP freelance writer Sarah Sidlow at SarahSidlow@DaytonCityPaper.com.

 

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