After spending the last year as a free agent, Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Artists has found a new label home — a strategic partnership with Universal’s John Varvatos Records, Big Machine Label Group and Republic Records.
The deal will include future releases from Zac Brown Band as well, as all of Southern Ground’s affiliated artists, with the next Zac Brown Band album tentatively scheduled for a spring 2015 release. Brown and Southern Ground had previously been signed to Warner Music’s Atlantic Records.
Brown announced the deal backstage at iHeartRadio in Las Vegas exclusively to Billboard on Sept. 19, alongside new label bosses John Varvatos (president/founder of John Varvatos Records), Scott Borchetta (president/founder of Big Machine Label Group) and Monte Lipman (founder/CEO of Republic Records.)
“I think we got the dream together,” Brown says. “I sought out John because of his execution as a brand master with Varvatos — I don’t think anyone’s in his league or arena in what he does. And the horsepower [Republic and Big Machine] have in what they’ve done and to have all this together is a huge deal. It’s a big day to get it together, and an evolution of the band continuing to grow and to better ourselves.”
Borchetta, who at Big Machine works with artists like Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw and Florida Georgia Line, said he’d always wanted to work with Brown “from day one. So over the years, knowing him from a distance, I was always working the managers [ROAR’s Bernie Cahill and Will Ward] and just really admiring the musicianship and the trueness of everything Zac and his band stand for.”
Lipman announced Republic’s deal with Varvatos earlier this year, and says of the fashion designer’s early bonafides as a label boss, “What I like about him is that he doesn’t know the rules,” Lipman said. It forces us to think differently. He’ll ask us questions that sometime sound outrageous, but are sometimes short of genius.”
Though Brown and his bandmates haven’t begun recording their latest music in earnest just yet, the Varvatos relationship appeared to have already kicked off in another way — their styling. At iHeart, all eight Zac Brown Bandmates were decked out impeccably in Varvatos threads.
“What I love is that I don’t have to think about it anymore,” Brown said. “It’s executed so well, you can put that energy into other things creative. He’s got that on lockdown like nobody else.”
“He looks great, doesn’t he?” chimed Varvatos.