CMT Insider Interview: The Zac Brown Band Talk About Jimmy Buffett

CMT Crossroads Gave Band an Opportunity to Perform With One of Their Heroes

Editor’s note: The CMT Crossroads episode featuring Jimmy Buffett and the Zac Brown Band premieres Friday (March 19) at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CMT. Immediately following the telecast, the entire episode will be available for free video streaming at

When first approached to perform on CMT Crossroads, the Zac Brown Band knew immediately that Jimmy Buffett would be the perfect match when it comes to sharing stories and music.

In an interview with CMT Insider’s Allison DeMarcus, Brown and his bandmates — bassist John Hopkins, fiddler Jimmy De Martini, guitarist-organist Coy Bowles, drummer Chris Fryar and multi-instrumentalist Clay Cook — talked about working with one of their musical heroes.

CMT Insider: How did you first meet Jimmy Buffett?

Brown: I was at a gentleman’s club that’s up in the redwoods in California, and the camp next to mine, Jimmy was there. They ended up having this big play down at camp, and everyone was at the play except me and Jimmy and John. We walked over next door, and there was Jimmy Buffet and a friend eating a piece of pie. I was like, “Well, hey, man, do you wanna hear a tune?” You know, “We wanna play a song.” So he sat down next to the fire and ate his pie, and we traded songs for two hours. That’s how we ended up meeting, and we stayed in touch with him after that and he ended up coming out to see us do a show. He’s just been a hero forever, so it was really cool. I knew that the right person for Crossroads would come along if we were just patient and made sure that we didn’t try to force anything. We kinda made sure that it was right — and this is definitely the right one.

You guys have so many great hits already, and he has a huge catalog of songs. How did you decide which songs you would actually play at the Crossroads taping?

Brown: He decided the songs that he was going to do. He got a couple off of his new record … two of the ones I didn’t know. He’s like, “Hey, man, we’ve gotta sell this record.” So he’s a smart guy and knows what he’s doing. And then with our songs, we tried to pick the ones that his fan base would like the most and were a lot of fun and a couple of our singles, as well.

Were there any songs you all knew you had to do together?

Cook: Well, originally we weren’t going to do “Where the Boat Leaves From,” one of our songs. But just because it felt right, we felt like that song belonged in the set. I mean, Jimmy Buffett’s onstage, and the crazy part is he sings a couple of the lines in rehearsal, and it sounds like he wrote that line and sang that song on the record. He just makes it his own. It’s awesome.

Were there any of his songs that you felt like you couldn’t leave out?

Brown: Yeah. “A Pirate Looks at 40,” we had to do that song. I’ve been covering that forever. And we knew “Margaritaville” was going to be in there, and I kinda thought maybe “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Volcano” or things like that, but it’s kinda cool the ones that ended up being on there.

Were there any songs that caused him to say, “Absolutely not. I don’t sing that anymore”?

Brown: No. You know, he didn’t say that about anything. He has really good perspective. I mean, he really does. I have to say that about him. He said people ask him if he gets tired of playing “Margaritaville,” and he’s like, “No, I don’t get tired of playing it. It’s paid my bills for years.” So he’s got no issues with playing any of his hits and the things he wrote. And that’s great. I mean, a lot of people can get tired of their stuff fast.