It's that age-old adage -- be free, know who you are -- that Zac Brown firmly believes is what pointed him and his band in the right direction to land the success that they have.

"I turned down record deals six years ago, because they were telling me what to be and how to sound and act, and that's hell to me," Zac tells Acoustic Guitar magazine. "I'd rather be hustling gigs on my own, and being free and playing the music I want to play, and dressing like I want."

Trusting in his own instincts, even in the face of judgmental opinions of music industry execs when he was first trying to break into the Nashville music scene, is what Zac says led his band all the way through to the award-winning success they are reaping today.

"Once you get past the suits who are running around scared, saying, 'You can't do that,' and the music gets to the people ... the way the people react is the key," the 2010 Grammy's Best New Artist winner points out. "We've held out long enough. We've had some business people believe in us and help us. And once the suits in the building realized that the people were reacting and that was going to sell records, (we were fine)."

Know who you are and embrace what makes you unique, and work hard to define that, is what Zac would advise any aspiring artist trying to break into country music today.

"There's been a loss of individualism in country music. If you don't know who you are when you go to Nashville, you'll be pumped out the other side with crazy frosted hair, trying to be part of the herd. It's OK to be yourself if you dedicate your life to the music and you can entertain people and get people to sing along, and get them to be involved. We've pulled it off with a lot of hard work. It was a blue-collar approach."

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