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Zac Brown Band jumps right in to Darien Lake - INTERVIEW

Photo courtesy of Facebook.

blog by Kathryn Przybyla  • 

One of the most successful bands of our generation, Zac Brown Band will be back in town for what is sure to be an unforgettable show.

Returning for the second summer in a row, ZB and the gang will bring their southern rock stylings to the northeast, and WNY cannot wait. The concert will take place at 7 p.m. on Sunday at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center. Tickets are currently on sale through Livenation and you can purchase them here.

With a huge amount of locals looking to get “chicken fried” this weekend, we were honored to speak with Zac Brown Band bassist, John Driskell Hopkins about the group’s upcoming show.

Take a look at our interview with Hopkins below:

Western New York is always excited to have you guys back in town for a show.

John Driskell Hopkins: Our tour manager is from Buffalo so we give him a bunch of grief every time we come back. I missed a few New York shows last year when my babies were being born, but we do love it there and always have a good experience at that show across the board.

What was it that originally got you started in music?

JH: I have been singing ever since I could talk and was involved in choir growing up. I started piano lessons in 5th grade and later applied that to guitar. I played in high school band and musical theater and decided early on that I wanted to be a performer. That continued on through college when I was at Florida State University.

I went for a degree in theater and got a band going within my first three days of going there. Music always takes over. I was able to do some acting recently, but I am always drawn back in to music because it allows me to write and that appeals to me as a songwriter.

My mother was also an English teacher and appreciated all language. Writing songs is a great way to tell a story.

How did you become a part of what we know as Zac Brown Band today?

JH: We’re all from the Atlanta area and had often crossed paths in different spots. I was running an open mic night in the 90s, when Zac would come in when he was about 20. We’d done some recording together over the years. I joined the band in 2005 and was already out supporting him before I was a part of it. We were always buddies that way.

It seemed to be a good match and turned out pretty well, I’d like to think.

Would you say the success of “Chicken Fried” was what finally opened the doors for the band?

JH: We started having some really great shows right before “Chicken Fried” came out on radio. The regional stuff was doing well in the Southeast, but radio played a huge factor in putting us over the top. We see the progress of our songs and “Chicken Fried” is still selling out everything.

I don’t understand it. Even with the new singles, they’ll get ahead of it for awhile, but it always comes back on top. They say you better like your breakout song, because you’ll be playing it forever.

We’re all pretty blessed with that song being “Chicken Fried.”

What is it really like to be on the road, touring?

JH: Being away from the family is always the hardest part. But the guys in the band an I feel like we’re living two lives—the rockstar life and the daddy life. We don’t go on tour for months at a time. We’ll be gone for four or five days and then we’ll be home for four or five days.

Some bands are gone for months and they come back with the locks on the door changed. We really value family time so we make sure it’s a priority.

Tell us a little about the songwriting process you guys go through.

JH: Everyone in the band writes music and lyrics, so we have a lot of ideas to pick from for album time. I think that’s part of the reason why the records are so diverse from track to track. It’s because we’re all pitching in from different angles.

I had done a blue grass record, the other guys have projects and everyone stays real busy with writing and creativity. We bring it all together in the end.

If you weren’t doing music, where do you think your career would have taken you?

JH: Well, I joined the band when I was 33 and now I’m 42. I had a plan in the back of my mind that if I couldn’t make it by the time I was in my mid-40s, I would go back to school and maybe teach high school or college theater as a career.

That would be something that I really would enjoy, still be creative and have that performer outlook. It was my back up plan, but I haven’t needed it yet.

Of all the places you have gotten to tour and visit, what have been some of your favorite cities?

JH: Well, my favorite venue has always been Red Rocks [in Colorado]. We played it three years ago and it’s hard to beat the view and climate. It’s just got that thing. Once in awhile we’ll have our motorcycles on the road with us and we can explore the area a bit more.

When we have options like that, I enjoy everywhere we play even more. We can see everything, not just the loading dock. If we’re able to get out and see some of the town, it’s a much better experience.

We have a bit of downtime every day. There’s soundcheck and then some guys hit the gym, some practice, some are writing. But when we have our bikes out, it’s pretty cool.

Are you going to enjoy some wings while you’re in town?

JH: I’m more of a medium kind of guy when it comes to wings, but I prefer ranch with them instead of blue cheese. I don’t go chernobyl hot so it blisters your face, but I like them spicy.

And finally, what are your favorite songs to sing in the shower?

JH: “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera, some Bob Marley and probably, “Chicken Fried.”

Photo courtesy of Facebook.

TAGGED: country music, darien lake, goodbye in her eyes, john driskill hopkins, jump right in, keep me in mind, performing arts center, southern rock, zac brown band

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