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Zac Brown Band -- Put 'em in, coach, they're ready to play

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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The Zac Brown Band is as down-home as you can get.

The Georgia group’s first big hit, after all, was called “Chicken Fried,” while its most recent single celebrated its Southern, and country “Roots.”

But the octet feels pretty at home in a big stadium, too, where it’s spending most of its time on its summer Down The Rabbit Hole Live tour.

“I really enjoy it,” fiddler Jimmy De Martini says by phone from his home near Atlanta. “There’s a certain energy that comes along, kind of like a multiplier effect. People are coming to a stadium where they’re used to having a good time seeing baseball” — apparently he’s not a Tigers fan — “and now there’s a concert on top of it. There’s an extra excitement, an extra buzz going in that makes it a little more fun.”

That also puts a different onus on the band, however, than it might have in even an arena or an amphitheater.

“Yeah, we have to make sure we get the setlist right so everybody’s gonna have a good time,” De Martini notes. “The sound is great in stadiums as well; I was worried the first time we played ’em that there’d be echoes and unwanted reverb, but we bring in enough P.A., and in the open-air stadiums it sounds amazing and really gets everyone into it.”

Those who come are likely into the ZBB as well — and with good reason.

Together 16 years now, the troupe has become one of country music’s most consistent hitmakers, with crossover appeal into other sectors of the music world. Its first major label album, “The Foundation” in 2009, was a triple-platinum smash, and the group has won three Grammy Awards while logging 13 No. 1 country hits. The group has collaborated with the likes of Kid Rock, Dave Grohl, Chris Cornell and Avicii, and it’s likely to break into covers of songs by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin or even AC/DC and the Beastie Boys during its shows.

“We don’t often look back,” De Martini, 41, says of the group’s accomplishments. “In the beginning I was amazed we were able to just tour and have a job playing music, and then I wondered how long this could last. Now we’re coming up to our 15th year and it really is a dream come true to continue to do this for a long time.”

There are no plans to stop soon, either. The ZBB feels a mission to “just keep writing music and try to do a different type of music every time we put out a new album,” De Martini says. That’s why the ZBB went from 2015’s experimental “Jekyll + Hyde” to the roots return of 2017’s “Welcome Home.” And that’s why De Martini says the group has even more changes planned for its next release.

“We have a bunch of songs in the bag — we actually have some halfway recorded,” he says. “I’m not sure exactly what we’re gonna do or when we’re gonna record it, but it’s kind of a surprise. I don’t think I can reveal too much, but just say it’s a different sound. We’re stretching the boundaries again, for sure.

“Sonically it may vary from some stuff we’ve done in the past, but I think people like that about us. Overall we try to just make good music.”

• If You Go: Zac Brown Band, OneRepublic and Nahnko and Medicine For The People perform at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 14, in Comerica Park, 2100 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets start at $39.50. Call 313-471-7000 or visit 313Presents.com.

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