The North Jefferson News
GARDENDALE — While some watched the Grammy Awards at home last Sunday night, a Gardendale native was at the show receiving an award.
Drummer Chris Fryar and the rest of his band — the Zac Brown Band — took home the Best New Artist Grammy. The band also had the chance to perform in front of the music industry elite before attending a few post-show Grammy parties.
Fryar said by phone this week it was an experience he and his family will never forget.
“They’ve watched me play and put up with me practicing for years and years,” he said. “After we won, my mom called me immediately and she was in tears. She was so emotional that I was getting emotional. I had to tell her, ‘There’s no crying at the Grammys.’”
Fryar has come a long way since he was was on the drumline at Gardendale High School. He graduated in 1989 and went on to attend college at North Texas State and the co-ed Mississippi College for Women.
Through the years, Fryar has also played with a host of renowned artists, including The Allman Brothers Band, Victor Wooten (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones), John Popper (Blues Traveler) and Birmingham favorites Oteil and the Peacemakers.
Joining the band
For the last two years, Fryar has provided the beat for the Atlanta-based Zac Brown Band, even though the band had been around several years before Fryar was asked to audition.
Fryar and singer Zac Brown shared a mutual friend, who told Brown to consider Fryar as a possible replacement when the band parted ways with its previous drummer. Fryar landed the job in short order.
“Zac called me up and said they were going to be auditioning drummers. I auditioned and they liked the way I played,” he said. “We just all took to each other like we were immediate family. They dug hanging out with me and I dug hanging out with them.”
Last year, the band received regular airplay on country radio and country music television, thanks to hit singles like “Chicken Fried” and “Whatever It Is.” However, Fryar said the band can’t be easily pigeon-holed into any genre.
“It’s just an amalgam of different styles and we try to bring all of that into the music,” he said. “We want to be slaves to the song. If it happens to be country, we play country. We just consider ourselves a band of musicians that loves to play music.”
He said some fans may associate their sound with the easygoing beach music of Jimmy Buffet and Kenny Chesney. “There’s a lot of island and music and reggae that filters in,” he said. “People compare us to them [Buffet and Chesney] because of that influence.”
While the band’s music may seem laid-back, the pace for Fryar and the rest of the Zac Brown Band will soon hit full tilt.
The band is currently recording a new album and will start a west coast tour in March. Also in March, a CMT Crossroads episode featuring Jimmy Buffet will air. In April, the band will head to Afghanistan as part of a USO tour. A national tour will kick off in May, which will include opening spots for Buffet and the Dave Matthews Band.
“We talked to Dave at the Grammys and he was excited to meet us and hear us play,” Fryar said. “We’ll be opening up for him in New York at the new Mets stadium.”
The Zac Brown Band were one of five acts nominated in the Best New Artist category. The other nominees included Keri Hilson, MGMT, Silversun Pickups and The Ting Tings.
Fryar said despite the win, he is aware of a mythical “Best New Artist Curse.” Relatively recent winners include John Legend, Carrie Underwood, Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera. Previous winners, including Arrested Development, Men at Work, A Taste of Honey and Starland Vocal Band have not fared as well.
“There really is no middle ground. You either do exceptionally well like Carrie Underwood, or you fall off the face of the earth completely,” Fryar said. “We’re interested to see what effect it has on us, if any. We’ve got three huge hits under our belts right now and a fourth that’s zooming up the charts. No matter what happens, it’s a wonderful accolade to receive.”
Small town boy
The drummer insists he’s still a small town boy at heart, despite his recent Grammy win. He’s even marrying hometown sweetheart Holly Travis on May 22.
Fryar said achieving any kind of dream is possible, no matter what size town a person is from. He said the key is determination.
“Regardless of what your goal in life is, whether it’s a musician, actor or the CEO of a company, you have to hold firm and stay the course,” he said. “If you set yourself a goal, stick to it and go after it. All things happen over time.”
For more information, visit the Zac Brown Band Web site at www.zacbrownband.com or www.chrisfryar.com.