After spending nearly all of 2017 on the road, Zac Brown is finishing his tour this weekend in California, then getting some much-needed rest.
The 39-year-old Georgia native and frontman for the Zac Brown Band says he is planning a nine-day getaway with friends after selling more than one million tickets on his Welcome Home Tour this year — with dozens of sellouts, including double nights in Philly, Toronto and Los Angeles, and stadium shows at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Aug 26 and July 27 at Coors Field in Denver.
“We’ve been doing baseball stadiums for the last several years, starting with Fenway Park in Boston,” says Zac Brown Band’s agent Scott Clayton at CAA. “We didn’t play Fenway this year, but we’ve now sold it out seven times in the past. There’s something about the intimacy of the ballpark experience that Zac really loves, much more so than the vibe of a football stadium.”
Coors Field had always been on Brown’s bucket list, Clayton explains, telling Billboard that “We had tried for several years to get in there and the team [baseball’s Colorado Rockies] had just not ever done a show before. Finally our friends at AEG were able to help us get the date [in 2015], and the team loved the experience so much that we were invited back. He’s still the only act who has played in that ballpark, because they’re very picky about what they’ll allow in the stadium.”
Brown is close to finishing out his 2017 touring run with two huge weekend concerts at the Hollywood Bowl this weekend (Oct. 28-29). Billboard recently caught up with Brown to talk about the 2017 tour and get his thoughts on the current state of live music, in the wake of the deadly attacks at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas that killed 58 and left hundreds of country music fans wounded.
What was your reaction to the deadly shooting in Las Vegas and are you concerned that fans could be too afraid to come out to events in the future?
What happened in Vegas was a really evil, terrible thing and we’re grieving for the families that are out there and thinking about everyone. The thing that makes this country great is the way other people lift each other up. It’s not time to point that blame and hate at other things and other people right now; it’s time to go out and love each other and spend your energy helping other people. Living your life out of fear is no way to be, and I encourage everyone to get out even more and help other people and try to spread love.
You’re close to finishing out your 2017 tour with back-to-back nights at the Hollywood Bowl. How did this tour compare to past tours?
It’s been amazing and touring-wise, it has been one of the best tours we’ve ever done. We’ve had mainly sold-out shows everywhere we’ve gone, so that’s all we can hope for. I feel like we delivered all but one time, when I had the flu in Jackson Hole — that’s the only show that I wish I could do over again. But that was out of my control.
You play all kinds of different venues on this tour — amphitheaters, stadiums, arenas and festivals. What was it like for you to go to different venue types?
That’s pretty normal for us to mix it up. The baseball stadiums are always super fun. There’s kind of a nostalgia that comes along with those places where it just feels everybody is in a good mindset. They’re in a place where people have been having fun for a long time and they’re intimate. We’re the only band they’ve let play at Coors Field, so that’s pretty cool. We have some ownership there.
Are you performing songs from your new album Welcome Home on this tour?
Yeah, we usually play four or five of them each show. We change the setlist every night and we have a bunch of new covers in there which are always fun. We added a guitar duel at the end of the show between Coy Bowles and Clay Cook. They go back and forth and play solos and the crowd reacts, then they start playing old classic rock tunes and the band joins in and plays a minute of a bunch of tunes and everybody just goes nuts. We’ve been finishing off the show with a classic rock cover. Last night we performed “Panama” by Van Halen. We also do “Whipping Post” by the Allman Brothers in tribute to Gregg Allman [following his death in May]. We’ve been doing some Tom Petty as well — we had some major losses this year with music, it’s been crazy.
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You have your two big Hollywood Bowl shows coming up this weekend to end the tour. Do you have any plans after the tour concludes?
I’m actually going on a trip with some friends and have a little break, and then jump back in. I’ve also got a lot of stuff going on in Camp Southern Ground right now. We’ve got some vision development workshops that we’re doing there and we’re building the first sleep-away lodge. The dining hall is finished and the organic farm, shade pavilion and ropes course are ready. But once this lodge gets done, it’ll sleep 140 people and there will be people there staying and doing stuff year-round, so it’s time to really get to work on camp and all the other businesses.
What else are you working on?
I’m opening a distillery in Dahlonega, Georgia. We’ll be doing tastings starting in November. My wine brand Z. Alexander Brown Uncaged is doing amazing and I’ve got incredible partners in Napa who are growing amazing grapes there and slinging a lot of really good wine. That keeps me busy when I’m not on the tour bus.
You’ve been doing significant work to raise awareness about nutritional issues for America’s youth. What propelled you to tackle this issue?
The well-being of our kids is often overlooked and we need to figure out how to supplement our children’s nutrition. And not just for kids, but everyone. If you go to the hospital and you have to stay in the hospital for two weeks, the food you eat at the hospital will kill you. It’s terrible. We have to be longsighted about things and figure out how we can be better as a nation, taking care of our people. I’m dedicated to helping bring people together.
How do you stay healthy when you’re on the road?
We have a catering company that works with us on the road and they do an incredible job. They have a lot of healthy options as well as what I call ‘truck driver options.’ You can get a corn dog or a quinoa fish salad — they do a good job of covering all of the ground that you need, but I try to carry my own supplements and stuff with me on the road. On my bus, I got good stuff. I’m trying to protect my voice.
Is there like one supplement that helps you with maintaining your vocal longevity?
You gotta drink more water than you really want to. You gotta try to keep the acidity of your body down. Lower sugar, no dairy, no red meat. No caffeine. It’s not a fun diet to do, but it definitely makes a huge difference. There’s no way I could have gotten through the tour if I’d have just eaten whatever I wanted.