How Each Zac Brown Band Member Added Their Own New 'Twist' On Latest Album

By Kelly Fisher

November 23, 2021

Photo: Photo: Danny Clinch

Zac Brown Band has churned out dozens of hit songs over the decades. The band is known for combining country, rock, folk, reggae and other genres to release tracks that every fan will know and love.

For the members of the band, recording their latest album was a “comeback” in itself. Zac Brown Band released their highly-anticipated new album, The Comeback, on October 15, marking a time for “rediscovering our roots and what makes us human,” frontman Zac Brown said in a statement at the time. And, as they worked on the new album, band members rediscovered what it was like to play music with one another, too.

They “spent an enormous amount of time apart” because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they didn’t get to play around with the tunes together before heading into the studio (as they often do). Drummer Chris Fryar explained to iHeartRadio that one of the “really interesting” effects of that was seeing how each individual band member’s musical tastes had shifted, introducing new styles to the group: “…We got to really see how much we love playing with each other and appreciate that, but we also got to see how much — or, at least as far as my perspective is concerned — how much different tastes had sort of seeped into the mix. …Because we’re not hanging out all the time and listening to the same stuff, everyone’s listening preferences had sort of gone the way they were gonna go. Everyone had a new little twist to their musical personality, which was really cool to be able to try to incorporate all of that into the mix.”

Bass player Matt Mangano added that recording The Comeback was exciting “because not only were we playing new songs that we never heard before, but we were kind of reintroducing ourselves to each other musically,” he said. “It was kind of like…not seeing a family member for a long time and then you get together and it’s like you never missed a beat.” (Fryar chimed in with the comparison: “Kind of like a first date with an ex-girlfriend.”)

The Comeback is packed with 15 tracks that earned the album its title as “the best album that I’ve ever made,” Brown said during the exclusive iHeartRadio Album Release Party last month. Mangano is “a sucker for the funky reggae (songs), being a bass player, so ‘Same Boat’ is my favorite song to play from the new record.” Fryar added that because “there’s no ‘beat one’ on the verses… so, it’s really, really interesting to have a song that is so deeply unconventional on the radio right now. And it was a whole lot of fun to record because of that.” “Same Boat” was one of the first songs that fans got to hear from The Comeback. Brown previously explained that the track was written to help listeners realize similarities with one another, rather than focusing on the country’s divide. It’s also a song that easily gets an audience clapping along.

Shortly after debuting The Comeback, Zac Brown Band was nominated in the Favorite Country Duo or Group category at the American Music Awards, which aired Sunday night (November 21). The band was nominated alongside Old Dominion, Lady A, Florida Georgia Line and Dan + Shay. Mangano said it was “a huge honor,” and noted that the band doesn’t “go into the studio with the intent of getting (an) award nomination, and we don’t play shows thinking about that.”

Zac Brown Band got back to playing shows this year, playing shows that Bobby Bones said last month are “unparalleled” live. Although some band members didn’t experience the emotions they might have expected after the pandemic, Fryar recalled: “I remembered what it was that I loved about those songs and what I loved about — and still love — about all the little parts that everyone has contributed,” he said. “So, I did have that cathartic moment…every single song.” Listen to Zac Brown Band on iHeartRadio here.

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