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Zac Brown Band keeps on rockin
Latest album has propelled local boys into the limelight
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Zac Brown, center, and The Zac Brown Band are nominated for new artist of the year from the Academy of Country Music. The awards show will air at 8 p.m. Sunday on CBS. - photo by Submitted
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, as well as the lives of 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 tonight.

Brown, the namesake of the band, spent much of his youth in Forsyth County, where he attended Mashburn Elementary and South Forsyth Middle. He went to South Forsyth High his freshman year, before moving to Lumpkin County.

“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,” Brown said.

“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.”

The award nomination makes bassist and Gainesville native John Hopkins “kind of nervous.”

“Nobody really gets into music to compete,” he said. “We’re all, you know, pretty aggressive guys and we like to win.”

Hopkins did say, during a phone interview from a tour stop in Fayetteville, Ark., that 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 Northeast Georgia, performing at places like the Georgia Theatre in Athens or at an array of venues in Atlanta.

But since the band’s record “The Foundation” was released on Nov. 18, their star has risen.

“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, where it stayed for two weeks.

“I think it is a good representation of what we do live on stage,” said Brown of the album. “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 said they weren’t too surprised that “The Foundation” was the band’s breakout hit.

The band has appeared on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and the “Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson.”

Most recently, it performed with Kid Rock at a St. Patrick’s Day show in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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.

But for those 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,” Hopkins said. “It will be our first time home since Wild Bill’s in January.”