For the newest installment of Ernie Ball’s String Theory web series, premiering exclusively on The Boot, Zac Brown Band guitarist Clay Cook digs into his musical history and playing style.

Cook plays lead guitar in the Zac Brown Band, lending his signature Georgia-inspired style with plenty of killer picking to the country group. His chosen career path was a natural fit for Cook, who grew up in a musical family.

“My stepfather owned a music store, so in the household that I grew up in, there was always music going on,” he says. “From the second I learned how to drop a needle on a record -- he taught me, trust me, you didn’t want to do it the wrong way -- I fell in love with guitar playing.”

Cook got his start playing a three-quarter size classical guitar as a kid; that's how he first learned “Born Yesterday,” an old Everly Brothers song. From there, the future ZBB member was attending local bluegrass jams to learn the musicians’ distinctive style of picking.

“I wouldn’t go home and listen to bluegrass, but I loved sitting there and watching guys play, and then eventually, they would let me play,” recalls Cook, who later attended the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston, Mass., to study his instrument.

It makes sense that Cook’s distinctive style would land him on String Theory: The series, produced by legendary purveyor of guitar strings Ernie Ball, “explores the sonic origins of some of music’s most innovative players.” In addition to Cook, Joe Bonamassa, Courtney Barnett and Butch Walker, among others, have appeared on the series.

For more of Cook’s philosophy on guitar playing -- and to hear some excellent picking -- press play on the video above.

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