The first time the Zac Brown Band played Greenville it was for about 20 people at The Handlebar. Now, the sextet draws crowds in the thousands and their debut album “The Foundation” has sold over a million copies.
ZBB fiddler Jimmy DeMartini credits the surge to the burly, country-crooning, toboggan-wearing Brown’s ability to connect with fans. “He’s a normal guy,” DeMartini, 33, says. “He’s not out there trying to be famous; he just loves music. People can see that when he’s onstage and it comes across on the record.”
DeMartini joined the group in December 2004. He first sat in with them at Sidelines Sports Bar in Kennesaw, Ga., after bartender Wyatt Durette, who co-wrote several ZBB tunes with Brown, including the rollicking “Chicken Fried” and beach-y “Toes,” recommended the pairing. (Durette) told me Zac had been looking for a lead instrument,” DeMartini says. “Back then it was just bass, a drummer and him sitting on a stool. What was amazing to me was the crowd was more into their original songs than the covers.”
Ever been star struck? The first time Kid Rock started hanging out with us. I wasn’t star struck but it was amazing someone like that was taking helicopters and plane rides to see us. Here we are playing 200-person rooms and he’s on our bus saying how much he liked our album.
How much did you pay for your fiddle? $8,000.
You’ve played in the Dave Matthews Cover Band for years. Have you ever seen that Aqua Teen Hunger Force “Frat Aliens” episode where… The bumper sticker? (In the episode, the frat aliens’ spaceship is emblazoned with a “Dave Matthews Cover Band Cover Band” bumper sticker.) I thought it was awesome. Cartoon Network is in Atlanta and we were from Athens, so I guess they saw our name out there.
How nuts did the Bonnaroo 2009 crowd go when you guys played “The Devil Went Down to Georgia?” They were crazy. We were used to playing for country music fans, which is great, but this was the first time we had to try and grab a crowd. I’d say only about 10 percent of them had ever heard of us.
What inspired your Celtic-like intro to the song “Free?” Zac wrote that song when he was in Australia. He’d climbed to the top of this mountain and camped out. When they woke up they were the highest thing altitude-wise in Australia. I thought it needed a drift into it.
Zac Brown Band plays the Heritage Park Amphitheater in Simpsonville at 7 p.m. Sept. 25. Tickets are $28. Call 800-745-3000 for more information.