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Zac Brown on Stars, Guitars and Mason Jars

Not many bands can make the leap from playing the hippie-centric Bonnaroo music festival one day to the CMA Music Festival the next. But for Zac Brown and company, such journeys are par for the course. As at home sharing a stage with Keith Urban as they are with ZZ Top, the Zac Brown Band has been in some good company this year. They’ve also staked their claim at country-music stardom, with two Top 10 hits, ‘Whatever It Is‘ and ‘Chicken Fried,’ the latter also earning the group a CMT Music Award for Breakthrough Video of the Year.

But it isn’t all about hit records and award-winning videos for 30-year-old Zac Brown.

“I’m obsessed with cooking, knives and guitars,” he recently told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

And when it comes to guitars, “obsessed” might be an understatement. Since ‘Chicken Fried’ topped the country charts, Zac has purchased 15 vintage guitars. During a visit to Willie’s American Guitars, a shop in St. Paul, he bought a Dobro for one of his band members, but according to shop owner Nate Westgor, Zac also had his eye on three other vintage guitars, including one with a $13,000 price tag.

Growing up the 11th of 12 kids in Dahlonega, Ga., an hour north of Atlanta, Zac played football, wore out three cassette tapes of ‘James Taylor’s Greatest Hits’ and began performing in coffeehouses while still in high school. Of all his siblings, Zac says he was the artistic one.

“I was the only one coming home with dreadlocks and tattoos and piercings,” he says. “Everyone else is pretty conservative. Most of them are in the business world — khaki pants and polo shirts.”

In spite of his fun-loving side, Zac is also heavily involved in assisting Brain Balance centers, which use physical therapy and nutrition to treat children with autism and ADHD. He’s currently helping to build a camp in Georgia for children with these and other severe disorders.

“I grew up working at camps similar to this,” says the married father of two daughters, with another on the way. “You can see in one week the difference you can make in a child’s life. When you integrate these mentally challenged kids with regular kids, they’ll have a compassion for those people for the rest of their lives.”

The ever-enterprising Zac is also looking into mass-producing what has become the band’s trademark — a Mason jar embossed with their name.

“We can stuff in them, and my family uses them for drinking out of at home,” he says.

And musically, fans can look forward to a live album with new tunes, set for release possibly by the end of the year. In addition, three acts have been signed to Zac’s Home Grown label, and they’ll tour with the group in the fall.

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