Often times fame is the ultimate goal for an artist. Individuals and collaborative projects often set inevitable respect and universal recognition in higher regard than their chosen art form. As I sat down to talk to Coy Bowles of the Zac Brown Band, it became pretty clear that this was not the case for him or the band he's called home since 2005. We got to chat with Coy to get the inside scoop on Zac Brown Band's upcoming, fifth-annual event: The Southern Ground Music Festival, and hopefully discuss expectations for the upcoming year. At the first mention of the SGM fest, and the hype surrounding the preparation, Bowles had a lot to say. Coy's southern charm carries far beyond his music.
Coy Bowles: [The Southern Ground Music Fest] is one of my favorite things that we've ever done. I love that. Charleston has got a cool vibe. My band gets to play, and some of the other guys in the Zac Brown Band get to play. So, it's really cool because it's like a full, spread, creative kind of unleashing of the entire capacity of what The Zac Brown Band really does. We've always been into having bands come and sit in and see the whole experience. Everyone in the Zac Brown Band kind of has their own bands right now too. Like a side project kind of thing. So those bands get to play. So it's kind of like a playground for the band really.
The collaboration and the creative license you give each other seems to play a valuable role in your creative process. You said that Charleston has a special vibe. So what really sticks out about North Carolina? I know most of you guys are from Georgia. Does a back story exist about Charleston?
CB: I think it's just kind of the laid back vibes. I do an after-show party. So, if my band plays on Saturdays and the Zac Brown Band plays, then Saturday night, my band does an after party for the shows at this place called the Wind Jammer. A long time ago, when the Zac Brown Band had like one song on the radio and we were on our way up, we would play at the Wind Jammer like a couple times a year. It was always this Mecca, to a certain degree, because we would always end up playing the show on the beach and then we would go have a couple drinks on the pier and then go swimming at night. It was just one of those things where you're laying on your back looking up at the stars and saying "wow everything is gonna be okay." It has also kind of remained that same place to me throughout the rest of my life. And Wyatt Durrette who is a great friend of the band who writes songs with us, lives in Charleston now. So it's kind of like going to see one of my old buddies. You know?
That is very special and sounds extremely comforting. But you guys definitely bring the party there with that festival and with your music alone. So one of the things that interests me most about the Southern Ground Music and Food Festival is that food is such a huge part of the festival itself. Why do you think that is? I mean, you have the cookbook, and the song "Chicken Fried." I can tell food is so important to you all. What do you have to say about that?
CB: Food is a big deal, man. Zac is a big foodie. He is one of those kind of guys with an exceptional taste for food. He can taste a piece of meat and identify the main flavor and about five spices in the rub. He's got a great sense of taste. Our buddy, Chef Rusty, who kind of heads up most of the food operation for the band is one of our oldest friends. When we were like all sitting around at our local drinking bowl, saying that we we were gonna be on the road, and claiming that he was going to be our chef, we'd be this big famous band; we would sit around talking like it was really going to happen. And then it just kind of happened, which is pretty cool.
So, with Rusty being involved in the big picture with the food and the band has always been something that has been on Zac's radar. The whole idea of the food festival is to bring the entire concert experience to the fans, but at a very heightened level. So we just want to super serve them. Instead of having hot dogs and cheese wiz, you're getting gourmet food and a very comfortable atmosphere that's not super packed out. We make sure the ticket sales, and the price is so that everyone feels very cool and laid back. It's not like we jam as many people as we can into there. With the vendors and all that, everything is super hand selected. From the food to the beer to the merchandise, and the art that is for sale there is always hand-picked by the band and Zac, and our whole team. It's the full experience.
If you're in the Charleston area this year, it sounds like you can't miss the Southern Ground Music Festival with tickets that are on sale now here.