It looks like Zac Brown is saying goodbye to country.
Which makes me a little melancholy, because I fell in love with his music the literal minute I first heard “Chicken Fried” in 2008. But I get it.
And I respect Brown for his decision to say that he’s not just a country artist. Because if his creativity is leading him down a new path, why would we want him to fake it and just play along? If his heart’s not in it, I’m guessing the songs would reflect that.
In a new interview with CBS News, Brown talked about his band’s latest album, The Owl, and how frustrating it was to be forced to pick a category.
“When I put out a record, I have to pick a category to put it in. You have to. You release a record on iTunes, you have to pick a category. One category. You can’t say country, rock, reggae, soul and whatever,” Brown explained. “No, you get one bucket to coin yourself in.”
So he did have to label the album country, which may be why listeners are surprised to hear how country it isn’t.
“I am not just a country artist. I’m not,” he said. “I have to create what moves me and what connects with my fans. And I don’t really care about their buckets. But I don’t like being coined as a ’country artist.’ I like just being an ’artist.’”
Brown does understand the purists, he said, and hopes that they’ll still go back and listen to the songs of his that they do like. And then leave him alone. “’Cause I don’t really care what they have to say about (the new songs).”
While he may no longer be just country, but I am thoroughly grateful for all the country music he did share with us in the past decade. I remember talking with Brown in 2011, and he told me how his older brother played him some Garth Brooks on the way to the beach one day, and he’d had an epiphany about how important lyrics can (and should) be in music.
Here is a playlist for those purists who only want to hear the countriest songs from Brown’s catalog of singles and deep cuts:
“Goodbye in Her Eyes”
“Highway 20 Ride”
“I Play the Road”
“As She’s Walking Away”
“Last But Not Least”
“Day That I Die”