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Atlanta's Zac Brown Band climbs charts, tops scale with sales



Although its been creating a buzz in the Southern states for nearly 10 years, the Zac Brown Band is a relative newcomer to the deeply entrenched country music scene, but this year, the Atlanta outfit has become the best-selling new artist behind Lady Gaga. 

In November 2008, the band released "The Foundation," which spawned a pair of No. 1 singles in "Chicken Fried" and "Whatever It Is." The group's latest single, "Toes," continues to climb the charts and is currently in Billboard's Top 20. 

"It's crazy. You kind of have dreams and say, 'Man, we're going to be big someday,' and people tell you all the time 'You're going to be huge,'" said the band's violin player, Jimmy De Martini. "It's not like we're enormously huge, but compared to what we had been through with traveling around in a little church bus or an airline shuttle bus being cramped up and sleeping in there night after night, it's pretty cool."

Last month, "The Foundation" was certified platinum, which left the musicians humbled by the acceptance they have received by country music fans worldwide. To show their appreciation, the members says they're "pulling out all the stops this fall" on their "Breaking Southern Ground" tour, which hits some of the largest markets in the country including Austin and New York, as well as Oklahoma City for a Sunday show at the Zoo Amphitheatre with the Eli Young Band. 

The tour provides concertgoers with the full Zac Brown Band experience: an "eat and greet," featuring Brown cooking up some of his signature Southern dishes. and performances by Norman's Mama Sweet and Sonia Leigh, Levi Lowrey and Nic Cowan, three up-and-coming Atlanta-based artists who have signed to Brown's indie label, Southern Ground Records.

"After sound check, Zac cooks and about 60 fans and radio winners get to come," De Martini said. "We're all going to sit down and hang out with the fans. We've done it a couple of times already, and it's gone over great." 

"Obviously, we're always working on our music, but with this tour, we're building an experience that involves all senses," Brown said. "When people come to our show, we want them to smell the food cooking, taste a few of our recipes, watch the light show, listen to some great new artists, and feel our excitement."

Besides playing the hit songs that have put them over the top as country music's hottest new band, De Martini said metro audiences can expect some new songs at Sunday's show.

"We're going to play all of the favorites off of 'The Foundation,' of course, and all of the singles, because that's what everybody loves to get down to," he said. "We will play a handful of exciting cover songs, and we've got a bunch of new songs that we're doing that will be on the upcoming record that we're trying to get together at the beginning of 2010. This will be the first time that we've gone on tour with video screens and lights. We're pretty excited. 

"To have all of this come together and still be hanging out with the same friends and touring with the same guys that you did from when you started is great. It's definitely a band of brothers with us."

Zac Brown Band with Eli Young Band, Nic Cowan and more perform at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Zoo Amphitheatre, 2101 N.E. 50th. "Alanna Conaway

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