NYCS First Impression: Zac Brown Band ‘The Owl’
Grammy winning country group, Zac Brown Band released their 6th studio album, The Owl this past Friday. This eleven-song record is one of the band’s most personal and experimental albums to date, blending all types of sounds from a variety of genres. Skrillex, Max Martin, Poo Bear, Ryan Tedder, Caroline Jones, and other songwriters contributed to the album, mashing up and blending each of their unique talents.
“Our music has always been a melting pot and lived outside of anyone single category, The Owl is no exception,” frontman Zac Brown said of the new album. “The collaborators we worked with on this album have been on my wish list for a long time and when everyone brings something new and different to the table, something special comes out of it.”
Fans got a hint of the direction Zac Brown Band was headed with The Owl when they released the lead single, “Someone I Used to Know”. Co-written by pop-star Shawn Mendes, the track has much more of a modern country sound than their previous singles. The group uses synthetic sounds after the final line of the chorus; creating a country-styled bass drop, something the group has never experimented with before. After the first listen, one might think it is another song about a lost love. When you dig deeper into the lyrics, you realize that “someone” is actually the narrator of the story and he is trying re-find himself. The music video tells the story of a high school football star who enlists in the military and comes back with PTSD. “’Someone I Used to Know’ is a touchpoint to remind people that they don’t have to be alone in what they feel,” Brown says at the end of the video. “Pain and depression doesn’t discriminate; this song is me facing that part of myself of where I want to go and not where I’ve been.”
“The Woods” starts the record off with the positive message of “just because you do something differently doesn’t mean you’re wrong” with lyrics: What floats your boat might sink mine / And what makes me smile might make you cry / You might get low, I might stay high / To each their own, ain’t that right?” Instrumentally, this is completely different from what we’ve heard from Zac Brown Band in the past. They will perform this song tonight on NBC’s Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
“OMW” is another pop-infused song on the album. The verses have that snapping noise you hear on pop radio and now in many country song as well. For the post-chorus, they bring in the electric guitar to get the rock n’ roll sound they love so much back involved.
“God Given” has to be the most diverse song on the album, in terms of blending genres; it’s honky-tonk meets funk. Brown surprises listeners when he breaks out into rap during the verses. The song’s message is self-explanatory, the men in the song are all fawning over this particular woman because of her looks and swagger.
“I don’t know if you notice that you’re fine as you are / I don’t understand how you keep raisin’ the bar / You know everybody wants to know who you are / I can’t wait to get you into my car”
“Warrior” was another song released before the whole album and is another dedication to the US military. Brown says the lyrics were inspired by a speech written by his friend who was part of the special operations branch of the military. It sounds like the type of track you would hear over sports highlights, hyping up a big, upcoming game. Brown sings: “No one’s born to be a warrior / No one born an average man / We made one or the other / And we try to understand”
Zac Brown Band is heavily influenced on rock n’ roll as any fan who has been to one of their live shows would know. They are known to cover a lot of songs, many of which are rock n’ roll and heavy metal. Between their two shows at Jones Beach Theater this summer, they covered songs by Rage Against The Machine, Def Leopard, Van Halen, Beastie Boys, White Stripes, Kings of Leon, Metallica and more. They have also collaborated with Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden on songs in the past. They display country-rock on The Owl in songs such as “Me and the Boys in the Band” and “Already on Fire”.
More traditional sounding country songs included “Shoofly Pie” and “Finished What We Started”, which features Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and member of The Highwomen, Brandi Carlile. “Shoofly Pie”, recorded originally by The Wood Brothers, is an upbeat song about a man’s craving of his woman’s shoofly pie. Whether the listener wants to interpret “shoofly pie” literally or metaphorically is up to them. “Finished What We Started” is much slower and describes a mutual breakup between a man and a woman. They both agree that living their unhappy lives together isn’t fair to either of them and they should finally put an end to things.
Closing out the record is “Leaving Love Behind” which serves as the album’s heart wrenching, breakup song. Although the music video features an adorable mash-up of animals in order to raise awareness and encourage fans to make a donation to Best Friends Animal Society’s Disaster Relief Fund which supports efforts helping animals displaced by disasters like Hurricane Dorian, the lyrics indicate that it’s about a love lost and the woman has found a new man to call her own. He knows that it’s probably for the best, but the “moving on” part has been very hard on him.
“I believe, yes I do / Oh, that everything we lose will be a gift in time / I believe, yes I do / The hardest part is leaving love behind”
Zac Brown Band is currently on its 2019 The Owl Tour. Recently, the group extended their Fenway Park sellout venue record with back-to-back sold-out shows during the tour’s stop in Boston, marking their eleventh consecutive sold-out show at the famed venue.
The Owl is available everywhere you buy or stream music. Check out more new recently released music here on our ‘New Country Music’ playlist. Be sure to give the playlist a follow for your weekly new country music fix.
To keep up with Zac Brown Band, follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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