Since the release of "Chicken Fried" back in 2008, Zac Brown & the Zac Brown Band have made a habit of making an impression - on the critics, the fans, and their fellow musicians - with their music and their live show. As the old saying goes, "they're at it again." On October 21-23, the band will host the Southern Ground Music & Food Festival in Charleston, SC. It's going to prove to be a very memorable three days for those in attendance - unlike any concert they have ever seen.
"This is our flagship roll out of hospitality for our fans," Brown said in an interview with Billboard.com. "This is how - if I was going to a festival or a show, how I would want it to be."
From a culinary standpoint, it's going to be a lot different from your normal concert fare. "Well, we've got some of my recipes, and some of Chef Rusty's recipes - He's the chef of the Zac Brown Band and helps us pull off our eat and greets and do those sorts of things. We've also got some award-winning chefs from all over the place, and they're all coming together. The level of the quality of food that is going to be served here isn't hamburgers, hot dogs, and barbecue. It's going to be Southern Gourmet fare that will be served while watching three incredible days of music."
The music will be as well rounded as the food. Current hitmaker Eric Church, Bluegrass legend Del McCoury, and Train are just three of the acts slated to play - once again, a very varied lineup. "I've tried to be very selective about the bands that are going to play so, you get the full experience," said Brown. "This is the best of the best, and we try to put it all together in one place. If somebody chooses to invest in our ticket to come see this thing, they'll be totally blown away by it. This is our attempt to super-serve our fans, and we think that will allow us to do that for years and years to come. This is the way that, when people come to see us, we're going to present ourselves."
Brown said the plan is to give his fans a more intimate concert (and food) experience. "Absolutely. We sit down with about 100-150 of our fans at every show, and provide them with a gourmet meal. We do that at every one of our headlining shows. We work on cultivating our relationship with the fans. I don't want it to be impersonal where we just take a picture with them and then they're out the door. We actually don't allow pictures or autographs during that time. We're just sitting down for dinner and talking to them as people. I am just a normal person who plays music. I get that when I fell in love with music, that you put people on such a pedestal. I did the same thing when I was young. I remember being star-stuck. It's different when you're on the other side of that. This is just to pull everyone right up to the table where it's just 'How are you?" It's very personal and very much down to earth. It's really important that people understand that we are just normal people."
His goal for the music during the festival is that the audience 'will hear not only something that's familiar to them and that they already love, but maybe they'll stumble onto something else that they don't know about yet. I've tried to be very selective about who we put on here, and try to make it as meaningful and inspiring as possible."
Brown is also looking forward to showcasing the artists on his Southern Ground label, such as Sonia Leigh, who just released her 1978 December project on the label. "I believe in every one of the artists that are on Southern Ground. For an artist to be on Southern Ground, they have to be a very special breed of person, musician, and writer. I don't have the time to mess with things that I'm not passionate about. There's a little bit of diversity in them, but there's also a common thread. This is undeniable talent. I'm super excited for everybody who hasn't heard these artists yet. Hopefully, they will be turned on to them. I'm proud to be supporting their careers, and they're as much a part of this festival as I am."