By Susan Thurston
Times Staff Writer
He's got two Grammy awards under his belt.
On his head, he's always got a hat.
Zac Brown comes to Tampa's Raymond James Stadium on Saturday as part of Kenny Chesney's Goin' Coastal Tour.
The Georgia native is fresh off a Grammy win for his song with Alan Jackson, As She's Walking Away. His band, Zac Brown Band, won Best New Artist in 2010 and topped the charts with Chicken Fried, Highway 60 Ride and other hits.
In an interview from his Atlanta office, Brown, 32, talked about eating with fans, growing up in a big family and his famous beanie hats.
What have you been doing to rest up for the tour?
We just had our fourth little girl. (The others are ages 1, 3 and 4.) I've been home more than I've ever been home in a few month stretch. All that's been amazing, but I'm super excited to get back on the road again. I feel like a part of me has been missing.
So you've been changing a lot of diapers during the break?
Yes, ma'am. A lot of it, but I love it. It's just part of being a dad.
Aren't you the 11th of 12 children?
That's it, and a lot of those are step- and half-brothers and sisters, as well, but it's been that way since I was 3 years old. I grew up with all of them and there's a lot of influences there music-wise. It's pretty amazing when we all get together. Everybody in my family cooks and they are all really good at it. On Thanksgiving, it's pretty amazing to see the spread that comes together. There's usually three turkeys and a ton of everything else.
You're obviously following in your family's footsteps by having a big family yourself.
Yeah, it's just kind of ended up that way. I didn't really know what my destiny was in that area, but I'm definitely not going to have any more kids right now. (Laughs)
Tell me about the cook trailer and the Eat and Greets.
We can feed about 1,200 meals a day out of our cook trailer. It's a full tractor trailer, 55-foot, totally enclosed commercial kitchen. It's on wheels and it's got its own generators and water — everything so that we can park it in a field and sling food out of it. When we do an Eat and Greet, instead of just shuffling people through and saying hey, take a picture and kick them out, we sit down and eat with our fans an hour before the show. That's our way of networking with our fans and getting to know them.
Will you be doing that in Tampa?
Yes, ma'am. We're doing the Eat and Greet, and the cook trailer will be set up there. The name of the cook trailer is Cookie. There's a big lady on the side of it, like an old pinup girl. She's kind of our mascot.
You've got more than 2 million fans on Facebook. Do you read the posts or write them?
I honestly never get on Facebook, but I know that it's a valuable tool for us to get the word out. If something comes up that needs my attention, my people will always bring it to me.
So what's the story about your hat? Do you ever perform without it, even in Florida?
I wear a baseball cap in the hot months. I can't stand to have cold air in my ears. I wear a beanie hat around home. You get sick that way, and, as a singer, you have to constantly make sure you don't get sick and lose your voice. Anytime there's a big draft or a cold wind, I've got my ears covered.
What will you be wearing in Tampa?
Ahh, you'll just have to come and find out.
Susan Thurston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.