Zac Brown Band Promise Return to Their Roots on New Album


On their latest album Jekyll + Hyde, Zac Brown Band certainly caught a lot of people off-guard with the new sounds and stylings presented on it. While there were some songs that stayed true to their usual sound, they also experimented with rock and EDM music. In my review of it, I had mixed feelings at best. At worst I was furious over there choice to make “Beautiful Drug” a single and to renege on their promise to not release this type of music to country radio. Well now the band is essentially saying that Jekyll + Hyde was a one-off. And they promise to go back to their roots.

Announced via Twitter and press release, Zac Brown Band first announced that Jekyll + Hyde has now been certified platinum and their debut album The Foundation has now been certified platinum five times by the RIAA. This segues right into the announcement by Brown himself that they’re getting set to make a new album. His exact words:

“We’re going in this winter to make a brand new ZBB record, straight back to our roots, Foundation style. It’s going to be an amazing album and we’re very excited to announce to you that we’re making the new one.”

You can see the video yourselves below. First snap reaction to this is this is great news on many levels. I was personally worried that Jekyll + Hyde would be the start of a new sound for Zac Brown Band. Luckily they’re going back to what made them big and so beloved in the first place. Brown going so far to say “Foundation style” is very encouraging and it should be a clear sign they’re not doing anymore EDM music, at least on their albums. While The Foundation wasn’t their best record, it was firmly grounded in a country and roots rock sound. It also put them on the map and on the path to becoming household names in music.

This isn’t just good move though from a critical and sound point of view. This is also pretty smart from a business point of view, as I think it’s safe to say the singles in the Jekyll + Hyde era have been the worst performing in the entirety of the band’s career (ironic considering how business-minded this album came off as). It got off to an excellent start with “Homegrown,” without a doubt the biggest hit off Jekyll + Hyde. It dominated both radio and sales, sitting at #1 on the airplay charts for multiple weeks and has nearly double the sales of the next closest single off the album. This was also the single closest to the band’s roots. The sophomore single “Loving You Easy” did pretty well at radio too, despite sales not being as strong. The third and most polarizing single “Beautiful Drug” took forever to climb the airplay charts to achieve a hollow-feeling #1 status. Surprisingly, this is the second best selling single from the album. Now the current single “Castaway” is struggling at radio and will be lucky to reach top ten, depending on how much the label wants to push it.

So no matter how you slice it, this is a great move for all parties involved. With the recording of this new album taking place this winter, it’s safe to say that it will be released sometime in 2017. If I had to guess it would be sometime in mid to late summer, with the lead single coming out sometime early in the spring. It’s highly possible there will be one more single released from Jekyll + Hyde (I’m predicting “I’ll Be Your Man”). When new details emerge on this album, we’ll let you know. In the meantime, what do you think of this news from the Zac Brown Band?

13 thoughts on “Zac Brown Band Promise Return to Their Roots on New Album

  1. Nadia Lockheart September 7, 2016 / 3:43 pm

    Called it!

    I said “JEKYLL + HYDE” would be akin to the “Everyday” era for the Dave Matthews Band and that, given Zac Brown thinks like a CEO above all else, he had to have seen the diminished returns of this era as a disappointment and thus, much like Dave Matthews wisely did when he realized his fans wanted “The Lilywhite Sessions” more than his solo album packaged under the Dave Matthews Band name, Zac Brown would swallow his pride and follow suit.


    At the same time, there’s a danger with trying too hard to Xerox the crowning achievement of one’s career. When they say they’re going back to their roots, I hope they mean more of a re-focusing on their chemistry as a band without any sort of hierarchy, and songs with a bit more intimacy, storytelling and that would translate well if strummed on a front porch.

    But I do hope they raise the bar with the songwriting. Because, oddly enough, the best-written original songs on “JEKYLL + HYDE” were the hard rockers “Heavy Is The Head” and “Junkyard” (and the latter’s origin well pre-dated even their major label debut). Aside from “Bittersweet”, pretty much the entire rest of the album’s originals were shallow in the lyrical department. And I don’t really want them to ape “The Foundation” when it comes to lyrics because that album had its share of disposable filler too. Tracks like “Different Kind of Fine” and “Where The Boat Leaves From” never did anything for me and, obviously, “Chicken Fried”.

    I hope, rather, the lyricism is much more ambitious and closer to that of “The Grohl Sessions: Volume I” or most of “Uncaged”. Essentially a back-to-basics approach, maybe gently flexing some of that “Grohl Sessions” texture………………..with a centralized emphasis on lyrical depth as opposed to genre-exploration.


    • Josh Schott September 7, 2016 / 4:11 pm

      Indeed you did, although if he didn’t see “diminished returns” I think the Jekyll + Hyde shift would have been permanent. Remember Brown said he thought “Beautiful Drug” had great crossover potential and it never came close to this lofty goal. “Toes” will probably be the one crossover hit of their career.

      I doubt they xerox The Foundation, but rather go back to the familiar sounds and themes of that album. If they’re wise they’ll build around “Homegrown.” One thing this band does do is not copy their previous material (the exceptions being their insistence to record beach songs and “Sweet Annie” sounding a lot like “Colder Weather”). I’m pretty optimistic in light of this news, but I’m still not fully trusting again after the bait and switch pulled with Jekyll + Hyde.


      • Scotty J September 7, 2016 / 4:51 pm

        ‘I’m pretty optimistic in light of this news, but I’m still not fully trusting again’

        This is the big gamble that any performer takes when they venture too far from what earned them fans in the first place. In an ill advised effort to expand their fan base they almost certainly permanently alienated a certain portion of their original supporters or at the very least will have diminished the fervor of those supporters.


      • Nadia Lockheart September 7, 2016 / 5:54 pm

        I don’t recall “Toes” ever crossing over. Did I miss something? =/


        Honestly, “JEKYLL + HYDE” itself just didn’t bother me nearly as much as it has to many others. It was just more of a frustratingly uneven and inconsistent album than anything. It had a few great moments that stand up well with their best overall songs, but it also had a few of their absolute worst songs to date. It didn’t feel like an album but more a messy hodge-podge of songs that largely smacked as genre-exploring for the sake of genre-exploring.

        It was more the arrogant attitude of Zac Brown that annoyed me most of all, not so much the songs (okay, besides “Beautiful Drug”). It was the first time Zac Brown the Tycoon had eclipsed Zac Brown the Homegrown Gentleman. I don’t know if you have noticed but, on sporadic Saving Country Music threads and their respective comments sections, I have satirically depicted Zac Brown as a decent man who was abducted by Scott Borchetta and Varvatos, given a lobotomy, drilled a Varvatos tophat upon his head to replace his former beanie to hide the Music Row malfeasance evidence, and there is a nanotechnology chip attached to his cortex that has brainwashed him and has made him the patron saint of the latest assault against artistic identity on country radio: using an arsenal of weapons including the Auto-Tuba and the Tomato Force Field.

        I think getting awkward scrutiny for the drug bust he was on the cusp of was a wake-up call for him that perhaps has convinced him to re-evaluate the present state of things (as well as commercial returns, obviously). In all seriousness, I don’t even see the need to “forgive” him as long as the kind of music he’s making has heart to it. Some of the experimentations from “JEKYLL + HYDE” DID have heart to them: namely the pair of heavy rockers. Others, especially “Beautiful Drug”, just didn’t. On the other hand, I thought most of the weakest songs on the album were actually the ones that sounded closest to country radio persuasions like “Young & Wild”, “Wildfire” and to a lesser extent “One Day”. They didn’t try nearly as hard to be “out there”, but they were bereft of heart to my ears.

        I actually hope it’s not long before we get Volume II of “The Grohl Sessions”. I still think the material from the first EP provides a great roadmap for where the band can go from here and still sound as though like they’re growing and moving forward rather than settling into a comfort zone.


        • Scotty J September 7, 2016 / 6:05 pm

          ‘Toes’ peaked at #25 on the Hot 100 based almost entirely on country airplay and sales. ‘Chicken Fried’ reached #20 on the same mix and ‘Knee Deep’ is actually there highest charting Hot 100 song at #18.

          So if airplay is the definition then I don’t think they have ever had a multi genre hit.


          • Nadia Lockheart September 7, 2016 / 6:19 pm

            “Heavy Is The Head” technically can’t be called a crossover hit because it was specifically marketed to a certain format. But it definitely stands out as their only decisive non-country hit to date (well, “Beautiful Drug” isn’t country, but…………………….oh, never mind! -__- )

            I will say that I’ve never understood how their singles have never been hits at Triple A/Adult Alternative radio. “Colder Weather” just sounded like something that should have been a Top Five hit alongside staple acts of the format like Ray LaMontagne (who the band has covered before), Amos Lee (again: an act they’ve invited to feature on one of their albums) and Wilco among others.


  2. Scotty J September 7, 2016 / 6:39 pm

    Yeah, ‘Heavy Is The Head’ was the reason I said multi genre hit as that was a hit at heritage rock or whatever that sub-sub-sub genre is called nowadays but not at country radio.

    I would imagine that their label never went for any Triple A airplay with any of their singles and if the label doesn’t push it in most cases nothing happens.

    The crossover multi genre airplay hits have kind of taken a hiatus the last couple of years for whatever reason. The attempts by Hunt and Niemann and a couple of others have failed miserably and the females like Ballerini haven’t even tried for any crossover airplay I guess.


    • Nadia Lockheart September 10, 2016 / 12:41 am

      Even “H.O.L.Y.” has fallen short of the Top Twenty at Hot Adult Contemporary radio: peaking at #21 last week.

      There hasn’t been any hit bigger than “H.O.L.Y.” initially marketed to country radio in 2016, so that’s really saying something about country radio’s lack of crossover clout right now.


  3. Derek Hudgin September 7, 2016 / 9:13 pm

    I hope they walk the walk that they’ve talked. Foundation-style roots could definitely be good. I really hope that this return to roots really just brings the band together in a cohesive musical arrangement. “Goodbye in Her Eyes” on UNCAGED is far and away one of their best songs, with the way their instruments layer and build and the vocal harmonies are fantastic.

    I’m looking forward to hearing what this means to them and what they produce as a result.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nadia Lockheart September 10, 2016 / 12:53 am

      As much as I like “Goodbye In Her Eyes”, which really hits home beginning with the second verse, I’ll never understand why “Day That I Die” didn’t see the light of day at radio as that and “Lance’s Song” are the main standouts of the album.


  4. Zackary Kephart September 7, 2016 / 9:30 pm

    It’s not even like drifting away *slightly* from the roots is a bad thing. But for God’s sake, do it in a way that feels like a natural evolution or at least cohesive!!! (Which I’d argue they did wonderfully on “Uncaged”)

    I’ll believe their words when I hear the music. I hope it’s true though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nadia Lockheart September 10, 2016 / 12:55 am

      They also delivered it in spades with the first “Grohl Sessions” EP. That felt like a genuine stride forward without compromising their integrity and chemistry as a band. I think even they know that given they frequently played “Day For The Dead” on their “Black Out The Sun” tour.


  5. OlaR September 8, 2016 / 5:47 am

    I believe it when i hear it. The album will not be a blind-buy.


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