Zac Brown Band's Jimmy De Martini Recalls First Grammy Win & Says He's 'Blown Away' by This Year's Nomination

Jimmy Fontaine
Zac Brown Band

Zac Brown Band received their first Grammy nomination in four years Tuesday morning, earning a best country duo/group performance nod for their heartfelt single "My Old Man" from this year's LP Welcome Home. Although the group already has three golden gramophones to their name, ZBB fiddlist Jimmy De Martini finds this one particularly special because of how meaningful the song is to the band -- especially frontman Brown.

"I know it’s a very personal song for him," De Martini tells Billboard. "He was inspired his whole life by a song called ‘Leader of the Band’ by Dan Fogelberg, and he’s always like, ‘I wish I could write a song as a tribute to my father.' Zac had other people take him in when he was younger -- one of the guys that raised him passed recently, and then Zac had a son recently as well, so he was just inspired to write that song. And everybody in the band is a father too. So it’s special to all of us ... We’re blown away."

Brown may have the biggest personal connection to the song, but when it comes to the Grammy nomination, there may be one member whose excitement soars above the rest. The nod marks the first for ZBB's bassist, Matt Mangano, who didn't join the band until 2014 -- which, naturally, meant he was the first to inform the group upon getting the news. "He was like, ‘Guys, this is our first nomination!,’" De Martini says. "We're excited for him." 

The group (sans Mangano) first won a Grammy in 2010, when they took home the coveted best new artist award. While that win didn't necessarily change the course for Zac Brown Band musically, De Martini says it certainly opened the doors for them beyond country, even boosting and ticket sales almost instantly. Perhaps the most memorable part of that initial Grammy experience, though, was who they accepted their award in front of.

"We got up there, and it’s Paul McCartney and JAY-Z in the front row staring at us -- we were like 'oh my god, that was insane.' We kind of blacked out we went backstage and didn’t really remember what happened," De Martini recalls with a laugh. "Things kind of just took off and ramped up [after that]. It’s kind of been a wild ride, you never really stop to think about how crazy it is or what the future’s gonna be, you just kind of roll with it."

This holiday season is the longest break Zac Brown Band has had since the group's beginning 13 years ago, as De Martini explains that they "went really hard last year" and are finally giving each other some time to wind down. Though the guys weren't together to celebrate their nomination right away, they'll be able to properly commemorate their newest achievement next week, when they all go up to the mountains of Dahlonega, Georgia, to reminisce on all the milestones from this year.

"We’re just gonna sit down and talk about everything," De Martini says. "We have all these stories, and we’re like 'we’re gonna forget these!,' so we’re just gonna sit around, drink beer and re-tell all these stories. We’re bringing up all the people that have been on the road with us, it’s gonna be a lot of fun. There’s no talk of any kind of work up there, but I guarantee a song’s gonna come out of that [Laughs]."

Aside from a few events for Brown's latest project Camp Southern Ground and their annual Castaway With Southern Ground in Riviera Maya, Mexico, early next year, Zac Brown Band will get some more down time before they hit the road again next summer. But once the guys get back to touring, De Martini promises they'll be right back in it and grateful as ever -- no matter the outcome of the Jan. 28 Grammy Awards.

"When we look out in the crowd every night, there’s 10s of thousands of people or we’re playing baseball stadiums, and you try to remember it every night. At one point, I try to look at the furthest person in the crowd and just kind of stare out there. Just kind of realize how big it is, how big it’s gotten, and how many people it affects," he says. "Because if you go up on stage every night and go through the motions, it can start turning into a job, and that’s never why we started this in the first place... It’s amazing, it’s a dream come true."

2018 Grammy Awards

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