How To Fix Zac Brown Band’s New Album
Written by MJ on 24 September, 2019
If there’s one thing I can’t stand its when country music media hang crap on modern music. By all means, critique, disagree, dislike but just because you can publicly air your thoughts doesn’t mean you’re entitled to have your overly opinionated biased say. We like what we like and its not always the same as you.
Zac Brown Band have just released their latest album titled ‘Owl’, much like its lead single ‘Someone I Used To Know’, the album pushes the country genre further afield. The lead single has a heavy EDM inspired beat hooks that would make quite a few old school traditional country AnD wEStERn artists turn in their grave – Because that’s where a lot of them are, dead.
Imagine if we were still pumping out music that sounded exactly the same. We’d get board quick. Sure, plenty of artists then, now and in the future will release music near-identical to their previous releases but that’s their sound… it’s not like they’re doing the same thing their grandparents favourites were doing back then.
Owl has picked up quite a lot of flack online and Zac Brown even had to have a go at those hating on the band after hearing album tracks played live ahead of Owl’s release, in his CMA Awards acceptance speech:
Haters gonna hate, we’ve known for a while now.
Before I reveal how to easily fix Zac Brown Band’s latest album, and yes its a simple fix, I want to explore some of the songs on the album and why you shouldn’t be surprised by the way they sound.
Track 1: The Woods
As I’m listening to the first track off the album, I’m reminded of one of the first experimental crossovers by ZBB – ‘Heavy Is The Head’. This ROCK song features the late Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave.
This track was intended to be a rock song rather than country and ZBB even released it to rock radio stations. This was one of the clear examples of ZBB pushing their sound and trying to reach a new audience on Jekyll + Hide, the 2015 album that experimented with a new direction for ZBB. Yeah, it was 4 years ago ZBB gave you a big hint that sounds were a changin’.
Track 4: Someone I Used To Know
The killer lead single. Sure its not country-rock or even country-pop, whilst you could probably place it in hick-hop without much complaint, it’s really country meets EDM. It’s country meets electronic dance music. Its fits comfortably alongside Thomas Rhett’s ‘Leave Right Now’ and Kelsea Ballerini’s ‘Miss Me More’. Zac Brown Band are not stranger to Country-EDM with ‘Beautiful Drug’ from Jekyll + Hide giving us our first taste … oh and there was ‘Something ‘Bout You’.
If you don’t know that last one then you can’t call yourself a die hard Zac Brown Band fan. Zac Brown (not band) formed a side project called Sir Rosevelt not long after Jekyll + Hide was released. They released Zac Brown sung EDM singles and an album. The country inspired dance track ‘Something ‘Bout You’ even made its way onto The Wolf.
Listen out to the EDM flavoured hooks around the choruses of T-Rhett and Kelsea’s country-EDM singles.
The Rest of Owl
Oddly Owl seems to jump between a ‘Heavy Is The Head’ vibe and a clear follow up to ‘Somethin ‘Bout You’. Some tracks even blend the two together. If you listen to Jekyll + Hide and then go into Owl, you’ll hear a clear progression of sound… just further away from what ZBB first started with.
Clearly ZBB have left the iconic sound that made them. This isn’t new in music… but how can we ‘fix it’ to please those who are stuck eating chicken fried with their ass in the sand… You might be surprised I have even thought of fixing it given I just spent a few paragraphs defending the thing. It’s simple really:
I’m curious as to why this side project of Zac Brown stopped dead in its tracks. One release in 2016 followed by an EP and singles in 2018… then nothing since. Was it a lack of instant-success?
The covert name might not have given Zac the attention that a ZBB release would get but like Aussie rugby league star Jarryd Hayne quitting on the NFL’s San Fransisco 49ers, I say don’t give up so easily.
Sure Sir Rosevelt only has 18,000 facebook followers to Zac Brown Band’s 6.3 million, but thats pretty decent for a new act. Like all new or “aspiring” artists, you can’t stop at one, two or three releases. You need to follow up and keep pushing to build your audience.
Sir Rosevelt consists of three members: Zac Brown himself, songwriter Niko Moon and Ben Simonetti. Whats the harm in bringing the rest of ZBB into the Sir Rosevelt lineup? Or chucking “feat. Zac Brown Band” onto the end of every song? Owl would be more comfortable as a Sir Rosevelt release when comparing it to the classic Zac Brown Band sound – ‘Chicken Fried’, ‘Toes’, ‘Homegrown’.
Rather than hurt the reputation of the band that has cemented themselves into country music royalty, grow the side project into something just as big. The project was intended to be an EDM experiment but surely no one will be disappointed if Sir Rosevelt went a little closer to country. No doubt the star power of Zac Brown and the rest of ZBB would give Owl by Sir Rosevelt enough attention without upsetting long time and purist ZBB fans. Just a thought, idea, possible fix.
I’ll finish by answering if I am a fan of Owl.
Hard to say. I rarely take to an album on first listen. Albums need to grow on me. Outside of singles that spawn from albums, few artists can have an entire album where every song can be a potential hit single… in fact Keith Urban’s RipCord and Graffiti U are the only albums I’ll unreservedly call single-worthy from start to finish.
Its no surprise to me at least that a don’t care too much for few Owl tracks. This is no different to most albums I listen to. I absolutely love Someone I Used To Know and there’s a couple more I’m digging at the moment.
Article by MJ
Matthew ‘MJ’ Brokenbrough has many roles at The Wolf Australia. In addition to being a co-director of the business, he is also the chief Music Director overseeing the curation and programming of music. MJ is also the Digital Content Manager, overseeing our website and social media accounts. You will hear him on air too as the co-host of our award winning Planet Country radio show.