Please don't ask Coy Bowles to classify the Zac Brown Band's music.
"I've yet to come up with something," said Bowles, a guitarist and keyboardist for the Atlanta-based group. "I wouldn't necessarily say country music or Southern rock. I guess Southern music is a good term for us.
"We pull from things we grew up with. If we play rock and roll, there's a Southern vibe to it. We're just as likely to put out rock as much as country; it's just that the format our music is played on is country. Hopefully, when it's all finished, we'll be unclassifiable."
The Zac Brown Band consists of (from left) Chris Fryar, Jimmy De Martini, Clay Cook, Zac Brown, Coy Bowles and John Driskell Hopkins.
Whether country, Southern rock or unclassifiable, the Zac Brown Band will perform at 8 p.m. tonight at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park. Tickets cost $60.50, $51.50 and $37.
The band is comprised of Brown on lead vocals and guitar, Bowles, Jimmy De Martini on violin and vocals, John Driskell Hopkins on bass and vocals, Clay Cook on guitar, keyboards, mandolin, pedal steel and vocals and Chris Fryar on drums.
Bowles, who cites Ray Charles and Sly Stone as two of his greatest musical influences, grew up listening to his parents' records of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and the Eagles. He was heavily influenced by blues and R&B and also studied jazz in college, further adding to the "unclassifiable" nature of the group after joining when both he and Brown were playing local venues in Atlanta.
If you go
What: The Zac Brown Band, with Sonia Leigh and Nic Cowan
When: 8 p.m. today
Where: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park
Tickets: $60.50, $51.50 and $37
"I had my own group playing around Atlanta, and I knew Zac from West Georgia College, as a musical acquaintance," said the 32-year-old, Thomaston, Ga., native. "We really wanted to open for Zac. After we opened for him once, he called us to open for him full-time, and then he asked me to leave my keys onstage and play with them. His group were real-deal musicians, so I decided to put my efforts into that force."
The band first broke through in 2008 with its arguably most famous song "Chicken-Fried." Bowles, however, most enjoys performing two songs off of the band's latest album, 2010's "You Get What You Give."
"[I love playing] 'Colder Weather' or 'Let It Go,'" Bowles said. "We don't play 'Let It Go' that often, but when we do, it always reminds me that Zac has this crazy ability to surround himself with positive energy. When we play it, I always like to think of something not worth being in my life, and by the end of the song, I push it out.
"'Colder Weather' is a beautiful song to me. After we play it, I sort of wake up and say, 'Whoa, I just did that.' I just get really into it."
Even if fans have seen the band before, Bowles said the chances of the show being the same are small.
"We are constantly trying to up the game, trying to push something in a different direction," he said. "There is not a musician in the band who hasn't spent 99 percent of his life on his instrument, and no one ever mails it in. No matter what we're doing, we are full out ready to stomp some dirt during our shows."
Bowles just released his first solo album, "Love Takes Flight" last week on Brown's label, Southern Ground.
"I'm really excited to see what people think," he said. "I think it will be cool for Zac Brown's fans to listen to. It's very different from anything going on at the record label."
Another member of the Southern Ground label, Sonia Leigh, will be opening for the group tonight at the Jordan Center. The 32-year-old Lakeland, Fla., native was recently named CMT's "Listen Up" Artist of the Month, something she calls a "dream come true."
"It's insane to me," she said. "I've been watching CMT my whole life. It's pretty amazing."
Leigh's latest single, "My Name is Money," off of her album, "1978 December," gives a distinct personality to cold, hard cash.
"It's really capturing a character, bringing money to life, if it could talk, its cockiness, the power it knows it has," she said. "But I didn't want to portray it as good or bad. Money can be good and evil, I think."
She is excited about being on tour with the Zac Brown Band.
"These boys, I've known them for so long," Leigh said. "They are like my big brothers; they pick on me all of the time. It's a blast.
"When you are a kid, you dream about going on the road, but when you can do that with people who are your friends, that's a big bonus."
Mirror Staff Writer Cory Dobrowolsky can be reached at 946-7428.