The motto is: Do what you love, love what you do. That certainly seems to be the way the members of Grammy-Award winning Zac Brown Band look at life. The band’s debut album, The Foundation, is platinum certified, and played a big role in landing the boys with a Best New Artist award in 2009. Their hit singles “Chicken Fried,” “Whatever It Is” and “Toes,” all peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Chart, and “Highway 20 Ride” is still all over the airwaves. On Sept. 21, the band will release its sophomore album, You Get What You Give, featuring “Colder Weather,” “Who Knows” and “As She’s Walking Away.” Country Music Pride snagged some of guitar/organ player Coy Bowles’ time while on the road, and chatted about touring, summertime fun and what fans can expect at the band’s upcoming Sailing Southern Ground cruise.
CMP: What’s your favorite summertime activity when you’re not on the road?
CB: Floating the Flint River in my hometown. I float it almost every time I come home.
CMP: Any cool vacation plans? And who throws the best backyard barbecues?
CB: I plan to go out to San Diego this October to hang with my pro surfer friend Peter King. When I was a kid I was huge into skateboards. I met Peter through making music videos with ZBB and he hangs out with all my skateboard heroes from when I was a kid. Bob Taylor, from Taylor guitars, is also out in San Diego, and he’s invited me out to tour his factory and maybe go on a desert safari ride. Bob went to Iraq with us and has since become very close friends with the band.
I’d say Mr Zac Brown throws the best BBQ I know. Zac knows food and knows how to do it up right.
CMP: You guys seem to play a lot of festival-type shows. Do you enjoy that more than a regular concert that you headline?
CB: I personally enjoy them all. Each one has its own advantage. For example: we usually play 90-minute to two-hour sets at festivals. We go out and hit it hard. But on our shows, we play three to four hours, so we have time to let loose and relax a little and do different songs and whatnot. But I enjoy each one. You know moderation and balance are the key to life.
CMP: Around Labor Day you’re hosting the first-ever Sailing Southern Ground cruise. Who came up with that, and who chose Grand Cayman as the destination?
CB: I’m pretty sure Zac had in the back of his mind, “one day I’ll do my own boat,” as soon as he step foot on the first Rock Boat that ZBB ever did. Zac’s just like that if he sees someone do something then he’s gonna wanna do it, but do it his way. I have that in me, too. If someone else can do it, then I usually think I can do it, too. I’m not exactly sure who chose Grand Cayman.
CMP: How will you prepare for the five-day festival?
CB: We’ve had multiple sit-downs with everyone in the band and been passing around e-mails for months about what would be cool. It ultimately boiled down into a list of things that were cool and possible. Each band member threw out things that they were good at and interested in doing. Like, for example, I taught guitar for years, so I’m doing that on the boat. Jimmy D. is big into working out, so he’s doing workout classes. Basically, everybody in the band is doing something that they like and enjoy, and giving that experience with the fans. I’m stoked about it. ZBB is a good group of guys.
CMP: What are five things you MUST bring with you on the ship?
CB: 1) Money for booze. 2) Suntan lotion. 3) Advil for waking up from having too much fun. 4) Sunglasses 5) Swimsuit.
CMP: Who gets the worst sunburn?
CB: I think I have got the worst sunburn of anyone in the band. We had a gig in Hawaii one time. I started snorkeling at like 10 a.m. and didn’t come out of the water till almost dark. I was out there swimming with sea turtles, which by the way, might be on my top 10 list of coolest things I’ve done. I was so burnt that I put Aloe on my back every 10 minutes. I think I used about four bottles of Aloe before bed. And it hurt so bad to lie on the bed to sleep that I finally woke up in the middle of the night and squirted the Aloe all over the top sheet of the bed to form a film of Aloe to lie in. It was nasty, but it worked.
CMP: Are there any surprises in store for fans aboard the ship? And will you be testing out any new music while you’re there?
CB: There are definitely surprises on the ship. If I say then they won’t be surprises. But you can expect us to pull out all the stops. Zac can play music longer than anyone I know, so you can expect to see a lot of Zac brown sitting in and jamming with other people. ZBB has invites to all of our closest and best musical friends on the boat, so you can expect to see every member playing with other bands all the time.
CMP: You’re not a “no-name” band with fewer than 200 fans. Why on earth would you want to lock yourselves away on a cruise ship full of 2,000 crazy fans for five days?
CB: I think the one thing that separates us from a lot of other bands is that we want to be accessible. The bigger things get the harder that is to do. So this is a perfect chance for us to have a controlled environment where we get to be close and hands-on with the fans. We didn’t start doing this to be famous. We play music because we are artists and it’s in our hearts to express ourselves via music. It just so happens to be that we are all country as hell and a bunch of nuts, too.
CMP: You’ve previously performed on the Rock Boat. What’s your best/worst memory from that? And has a fan ever stalked you on the ship?
CB: This is gonna be good. I tore my ACL one year before the cruise. I think it was the Skynyrd cruise. I was on crutches and on a cruise — not a winning combination by the way; it was horrible. Everyone kept leaving me and walking up steps, and by the time I’d get there, they would be getting ready to go somewhere else. About a year later, we went on the Rock Boat. I walked on the boat crutch-free and thankful for my recovery. I saw a guy in crutches and walked up to him and said, “Man, it sucks to be on a cruise on crutches.” He said, “Tell me about it.” I replied, “Yeah, I was on the Skynyrd boat last year on crutches.” I said, “I was on crutches for eight weeks.” I then asked how long he had been in crutches for … you know … I was trying to make small talk. He said, “I’ve been on crutches for 17 years now.” Without thinking I said, “Man, you really must have messed yourself up.” This is where I opened up my mouth and stuck my foot all the way in. It didn’t occur to me in that moment that you can be on crutches for multiple reasons. It finally hit me that the guy had a physical ailment that had caused him to be on crutches. I then started backpedaling and trying to over explain myself and whatnot. He said, “Man, I don’t care, I’m just happy to be on this boat.” I said, “Me too, brother man.” He asked if he could buy me a beer, and I said there’s no way, I owe you one. He said, “I won’t drink it unless I buy.” I said, “Well I guess you’re buying me a beer. Life is good today.”