By Andy DoerschukPublished July 22, 2009
Hometown: Birmingham, AL
Previous Bands: Oteil And The Peacemakers
Sticks: Vic Firth
Playing upwards of 200 dates a year, more than 3,000 shows in their career, and selling more than 30,000 CDs independently, Zac Brown Band has only begun its ascent. The band's latest album, The Foundation was released on November 18th, 2008 on Atlantic Records and debuted at #17 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart and #3 on the Top Country Albums Chart. In late June, after 31 weeks on the charts, the RIAA gold-certified album hit a new high at #12 on The Billboard 200. The first single "Chicken Fried" peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Chart, maintained that position for two weeks, and also debuted as the second most downloaded country single on iTunes.
What do you like most about touring?
I like interacting with people and fans from different parts if the country. And I really kind of dig living out of a suitcase – it doesn't bother me. For someone having a wandering soul, it's a suitable living.
What was your worst gig like?
My first big show with Zac Brown Band was an opener for Sugarland at the Fox Theater and the single "Chicken Fried" was the last song of the set – the one everyone knows and sings along with. And I totally blew my entrance to the song. We recovered, however, it was still a pretty big mistake to make in front of 5,000 fans.
Do you wear earplugs onstage?
Generally speaking I use in-ear monitors on stage. I use Shure E-5s and we use Sennheiser belt packs and transmitters. When we rehearse or when I play smaller club gigs I always use custom molded earplugs with an ER-25 filter. It helps cut down the high end that comes off the cymbals.
I noticed that Markus Petruska played drums on The Foundation. Do you play exactly the same drum parts that he recorded on the album?
Well, yes and no. Some of the parts I try to play exactly like the record. Some of them I have a little more flexibility with. I try to do what is best for the song and still be able to insert my own creative ideas.
How much room do you have to improvise on stage?
We do a couple of songs that have drum solos incorporated into them. During those segments of the show I have total freedom to play whatever I want as long as it doesn't disrupt the groove. Apart from that, I try not to do too much improvising with the band during the show.
How do you stay healthy on the road?
Even though a nutritionist would have a field day with me, I am a connoisseur of truck stop cuisine. I really just try to eat as healthy as I can on the road, but I have a sweet tooth that makes it difficult sometimes.
Do you warm up before going on stage?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It just depends on how I feel. I try to pay attention to my body and the ergonomics of playing drums. And sometimes I know that I won't necessarily have to warm up because I got enough of a warm up during soundcheck or earlier in the day during personal practice.
Do you use matched grip or traditional grip?
I use traditional grip. It's just what I was taught as a kid in junior high band. The band director asked me if I wanted to learn traditional or matched and I replied, "Which way does Buddy Rich play?"
Do you feel perfect time is mandatory in creating a groove?
Actually, I believe that perfect time can actually hinder the process of creating a groove. If you go back and listen to the old R&B and soul records, there were no click tracks, there was no such thing as perfect time. There was a flexibility to the groove that somehow made them feel so much deeper.