Zac Brown Band is an American country music, southern rock, and folk band based in Atlanta, Georgia. The lineup consists of Zac Brown (vocals, guitar, bass guitar, percussion), Jimmy De Martini (fiddle, vocals), John Driskell Hopkins (bass guitar, guitar, vocals), Coy Bowles (guitar, keyboards), Chris Fryar (drums) and Clay Cook (guitar, keyboards, mandolin, steel guitar, vocals).
The band has toured throughout the United States, including a slot on the 2009 and 2010 Bonnaroo Music Festival. They have also recorded four studio albums, and charted seven Number One singles on the Billboard country charts: "Chicken Fried", "Toes", "Highway 20 Ride", "Free", "As She's Walking Away", "Colder Weather", and "Knee Deep" in addition to the single "Whatever It Is," which peaked at number 2 on the same chart.Zac Brown was born July 31, 1978 in Cumming, Georgia.
He was raised by his mom and step-dad, a dentist on Lake Lanier. The 11th of 12 children, Brown attended Mashburn Elementary School in Cumming, Georgia, Lakeview Academy in Gainesville, Georgia, and South Forsyth High School in Cumming. He later moved to Dahlonega, Georgia, where he graduated from Lumpkin County High School. He learned to play classical guitar at the age of 7. As a teenager, he played solo gigs in local venues, performing country and pop cover songs.
In 2002, the Zac Brown Band was formed and they began traveling with a heavy tour schedule of approximately 200 dates a year. The initial Zac Brown Band lineup consisted of Brown, on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, backed by a drummer and a bass guitarist. In 2003, Brown started his own label, called Home Grown (today, it is called Southern Ground for legal reasons).
In 2004, Brown opened a music club and restaurant with his father in the Lake Oconee area of Georgia called "Zac's Place" where the fare was southern-style cooking. A developer bought the restaurant and, in turn, the Zac Brown Band bought a tour bus and began touring full-time, playing rock and country clubs as well as folk and jam band festivals. 2004 also saw the release of the Zac Brown Band's first independent album, Far from Einstyne.
It was also in 2004 when Brown added violin/fiddle player and harmony singer Jimmy De Martini to the Zac Brown Band, thus beginning a five-year development of the band's current lineup. According to an interview with De Martini, he explained that Wyatt Durette, Brown's frequent songwriting collaborator, was working as a bartender at Sidelines Sports Bar in Kennesaw, Georgia at the time, where the Zac Brown Band frequently performed.
Durette suggested De Martini to Brown, who was wanting a "lead instrument" in his band, as well as a harmony singer. After doing several performances with the band at the club, Brown asked De Martini to become a full-time member, to which he gladly obliged.
In 2005, the Zac Brown Band released its second independent album, Home Grown. That same year, John Driskell Hopkins joined the band as its bass guitarist and low harmony singer. Hopkins, who was well-known in the Atlanta area as the leader of the band Brighter Shade, first met Brown in 1998 at an open mic event hosted by Hopkins and they remained friends since. Additionally, Hopkins also co-produced the Zac Brown Band's Home Grown album.
In 2006, the Zac Brown Band recorded The Foundation with producer Keith Stegall. It was also in 2006 when Coy Bowles joined the band alternating on guitar and keyboards. Bowles and Brown first met in the late 1990s when they were both students at the University of West Georgia, where Bowles was studying biology. Bowles also vividly remembers seeing Brown perform for the first time. He explains, "I walked into a restaurant and Zac was singing and playing guitar. I heard a couple tunes and turned to my buddy and said, 'That dude might have the richest and loudest voice I ever heard!' I don’t even think Zac had a microphone and you could hear him all across the bar.”
Bowles then transferred to Atlanta's Georgia State University to study music. He subsequently became involved in Atlanta's various music scenes, and eventually formed Coy Bowles and the Fellowship in 2004. Two years later, Bowles decided to reconnect with his old friend, Zac Brown. Through mutual friends, he learned that the Zac Brown Band was scheduled to perform in Atlanta one evening.
Bowles and Brown spent the afternoon prior the performance reacquanting with each other, which ended with Brown inviting Bowles to sit in with the Zac Brown at that night's performance, which Bowles gladly accepted. To return the favor, Bowles invited the band to attend his own gig with the Fellowship a couple of months later, which, in turn, ended up with Brown and his band sitting in at that gig.
This trend continued for eight months until Bowles concluded that it was too overwhelming to balance his time with Brown's band and his own band and other activities, thus making a difficult decision to put the Fellowship on hiatus and become a full-time member of the Zac Brown Band, as that was what he enjoyed the most.
In 2008, the Zac Brown Band signed to Live Nation Artists Records (in association with Brown's own Home Grown label), but not before Brown asked Chris Fryar to join the band as its drummer. An Alabama native, Fryar attended North Texas State University and the Mississippi University for Women and made a name for himself in the Birmingham music scene.
The Zac Brown Band's debut single, "Chicken Fried", was originally recorded in 2003 and included on the Home Grown album, but later re-recorded and released to country radio in 2008. This song was also recorded by The Lost Trailers, whose 2006 recording was released as a single but withdrawn after Brown decided that he wanted to release it himself. Brown also co-wrote "Simple Life", a song recorded by The Lost Trailers on their 2006 self-titled album.
In October 2008, Atlantic Records took over distribution of "Chicken Fried" after Live Nation Artists closed. The band's album The Foundation was released under Atlantic Records' newly re-established country division in association with the Home Grown/Big Picture label on November 18, 2008. "Chicken Fried" reached #1 on the country charts in November 2008, making them the first country band to reach #1 with a debut single since Heartland did so in 2006 with "I Loved Her First."
Zac Brown Band received four nominations for the 2009 CMA Awards: New Artist of the Year, Song of the Year, Single of the Year, and Music Video of the Year for their #1 single, "Chicken Fried". that same year, they received three Grammy nominations for Best Country Album, Best Country Performance By a Duo or Group With Vocals and Best New Artist. On January 31, 2010, the band won the Grammy award for Best New Artist.
The group was also nominated in 2009 for three ACM awards, "Album of the Year", "Top Vocal Group", and was one of eight contenders for "Entertainer of the Year".
The Zac Brown Band lead the nominees for the 46th annual Academy of Country Music Awards 2011, with a total of nine nominations including: Top Vocal Group of the Year, Album of the Year, Single Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Vocal Event of the Year.