OFFSTAGE: Zac Brown Paid Dues With Soggy Dollar Bills

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

Zac Brown Band paid his dues the old-school way. And he told me that he had the soggy cargo pants to prove it.

Looking back on this year, on all the music I’ve heard, shows I’ve seen and singers I’ve interviewed, what always stands out to me more than anything are the stories that artists have told me. And here’s one of my favorites from 2011.

I had asked Brown about his first few years of playing the road, before he was playing the arenas he is now, and he told me, “It was all just trial and error. I think my entire life has been trial and error. Like playing in a bar, and then wringing the beer outta my tip money from the tip bucket. At the end of the night, people would be spilling beer and stuff into that bucket but I didn’t care. I’d reach down and grab the one dollar bills from the bottom and shove ’em in the cargo pants I used to wear,” he said.

“I mean, I had soggy wads of one dollar bills on me for years. And that was my gas money, and what it took to get to the next place,” he continued. “Looking back, I forget about those days. But then when I get back out on the road, and I see what we do now, it never fails to astound me how far we’ve come.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.