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Zac Brown Band just keeps on rockin'
The band's latest album has propelled these local boys into the limelight
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The Zac Brown Band is nominated for new artist of the year from the Academy of Country Music. The awards show will air on CBS Sunday night at 8.


Listen as John Hopkins, bassist for Zac Brown Band, talks about his song, “It’s Not OK.”

When Zac Brown belts out his No. 1 hit “Chicken Fried,” he says it’s the little things in life that mean the most.

Like “a cold beer on a Friday night ... a pair of jeans that fit just right.”

But really big things are happening in Brown’s life, along with all the members of the Zac Brown Band.

Starting with the nomination from the Academy of Country Music for the new artist of the year, which will be handed out this weekend.

“I think it’s a good representation of how great our fans are and how much they believe in us, which supports all of our sacrifices that we make out on the road all of the time, out there trying to make the best music that we possibly can,” said Brown, the namesake of the band and Dahlonega native. “I think it is very symbolic of the growth of our band and I think we are the underdog for this award and I think we definitely have the fan base to win it.

“But if we didn’t win it wouldn’t change anything. I would still be doing what I’m doing.”

Added bassist and Gainesville native John Hopkins, “It makes me kind of nervous and nobody really gets into music to compete. We’re all, you know, pretty aggressive guys and we like to win.”

Hopkins did say, during a phone interview during a stop in Fayetteville, Ark., he had met the other musicians up for the award and would be happy for them if they won.

“We just hope everybody gets out there and votes for us,” said Hopkins, who now makes his home in Atlanta. “We would really love to win it and if we don’t we just will keep on rockin’.”

A year ago the Zac Brown Band was touring all around Northeast Georgia and you could see them at places like the Georgia Theatre in Athens or at an array of venues in Atlanta. But since their record “The Foundation” was released Nov. 18, 2008, their super stardom has arrived.

“The Foundation” debuted at No. 17 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart and No. 3 on the Top Country Albums Chart. The first single, “Chicken Fried,” peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Chart and stayed there for two weeks.

“I think it is a good representation of what we do live on stage,” said Brown, about “The Foundation.” “It is exactly capturing what we do, nothing more.”

This has propelled the Southern rockers to supporting and opening spots with music powerhouses like Sugarland, ZZ Top, Travis Tritt, Etta James, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers Band, Willie Nelson and BB King, to name a few.

Both Brown and Hopkins say while they weren’t too surprised that “The Foundation” was the band’s breakout hit.

“We knew we were with the right people,” Hopkins said. “We finished it a year before it came out, we had been sitting on it and waiting for a company to get behind it. Every time I hear it I, still get blown away at how good it sounds.

“I’ve done a lot of records being a producer myself, and this one is just one of those that I’m really, really proud of and proud to be a singer and a player on it, too.”

The band has appeared on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and the “Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” to name a few. Most recently the band performed with Kid Rock at a St. Patrick’s Day show in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“It’s outrageous, it really is, it’s absolutely one of the coolest things in the world to work for something for so long and have it pay off,” said Hopkins, about the band’s recent success. “It sure seems like it’s been overnight but we’ve been doing it for so long. It’s great to have so many folks finally come out to these shows and already know some of the songs ... when you get involved in music, you really hope that one day you can reach a lot of folks and we are very fortunate to have done so.”

Zac Brown Band has been together for four years and members of the band include lead vocalist and guitarist Brown, Hopkins, fiddler Jimmy De Martini, guitarist and organist Coy Bowles and drummer Chris Fryar.

In January, Clay Cook joined the band. Best known for collaborations with John Mayer, he also has played with the Marshall Tucker Band. Cook plays guitar, organ, mandolin and pedal steel.

“Clay is a Jedi musician all the way around,” Brown said. “He’s also a great guy and he just adds another great person to our project ... I think he is the final piece of the puzzle for our us a core band. Obviously we can have horn section or background singers for some special shows, but as a band we are complete now.”

But for those of you who are wishing to see the “complete” Zac Brown Band locally, there won’t be too long of a wait. The band will perform at the Zac Brown Band Memorial Day Picnic on May 25 at the Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta.

“My favorite place to play is in Atlanta at Chastain Park, it will be our first time home since Wild Bill’s in January,” Hopkins said.