How Zac Brown Band Stay ‘Amazed’ By Life on the Road, Even After Months of Touring
On Feb. 28, the Zac Brown Band resumed touring after a four-month break: In between legs of their The Owl Tour, the band took time off and enjoyed the holiday season with family. While that might sound pretty normal for a lot of bands, for ZBB, it was a remarkable amount of time to spend away from the road.
"We just had our biggest break [from the road] that we've ever had as a band," the group's Jimmy De Martini told The Boot recently. "It's been a nice break for us, getting to visit with family and stuff like that."
It's not that the band doesn't like their vigorous touring schedule -- quite the opposite, in fact -- but De Martini admits that the group is still learning the right ratio of time spent on the road versus time spent off of it. "It's good to have a good balance, and we're just now figuring out what the right balance is," he explains.
"We've always toured so hard in the past that we always miss home -- and never miss the road too much," De Martini adds. "Now, we're actually at a point where we miss playing. It's good to miss playing."
That's why the group's time off was intentionally planned to be longer than usual, he continues. "We don't ever want it to feel like work. It never felt to us like work before, but sometimes, if you get out here too long, you can lose a little inspiration, being onstage," De Martini points out.
"You wanna get out there and look at the crowd and be amazed every night that we are able to do this, and how blessed we are to do this. You don't ever wanna take it for granted," he continues. "If you tour too much, you can start to get to that point."
Staying "amazed" -- even after weeks and months of nonstop touring -- is critical to ZBB's live show. The crowd feeds off the band's energy, and if they're feeling uninspired, well, so are their fans.
Fortunately, as anyone who's been to one of the band's mesmerizing live shows can attest, ZBB are experts at staying inspired. The group works hard to ensure that every tour they build is packed with fresh themes and ideas, not only to keep themselves excited about the music, but in order to surprise even the die-hard fans who've already seen them live dozens of times.
"We want people to be able to come see us every time we're in their city and it's gonna be a different show," De Martini explains.
Case in point: Even though the group has another leg of their The Owl Tour to go, they're already making plans for the next trek, their Summer 2020 Roar With the Lions Tour. For their next go-around, De Martini hints, the band is planning to lean heavily into lion imagery, and all the themes they associate with that animal.
"I just think it's gonna be more of an aggressive pride," he muses. "It's a big, aggressive family."
Astrologically speaking, ZBB frontman Zac Brown is a Leo -- but the rest of the bandmates embody the spirit of a lion in other ways, too, De Martini goes on to say. "Each of us are leaders in our own way. When we started this band, we all came from projects where we were leading our own band. So we're all kind of lions, in the way that we got together and made this MVP band," he notes.
The band works closely with an art department when they're planning a tour, mapping out every last detail from musical arrangements to stage design. "We have some artists that work with us and we collaborate with them on the theme of the tour," De Martini says of the visual elements of mounting their shows.
While he hasn't yet seen the finished version of the Roar With the Lions set design, he says that the group's art department always manages to expertly braid an album's themes with a visual component. "All of these video effects that are going on behind us draw a storyline that has to do with what the tour is speaking to," he explains.
"The first thing that happens is the art department will get direction from Zac on what he's thinking about, because The Owl was a very personal album for him," DeMartini shares. "Then the first thing we do when we get to an arena where we're rehearsing, is we sit down and play all the video content through the sound system. And the band sits there with Zac and we watch everything. We give our point of view on what we could do differently, what we could do better."
Of course, amid all that planning, there's a healthy dose of improvisation that goes into a ZBB show. "We also have a little bit of jam band in us, so we'll expand a song, a big solo section, and kind of play off each other instrumentally," he points out. "Sometimes Zac will do some improv singing.
"We like to keep it fresh for the audience, but it also keeps it fresh for us," De Martini adds. "When we're having a good time, everybody's having a good time."
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