OFFSTAGE: Worshipping — the Zac Brown Band Way

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

“I believe that I was born with a song inside of me/Never questioned why/I just keep on singing that melody.” That’s my favorite passage from the Zac Brown Band’s “Day That I Die.” I’m actually a very devout fan of the whole song, and now I think I understand why.

The song is featured in a behind-the-scenes video from the recording session . And the band’s bass player, John Driskell Hopkins, talks about how the song has “a wonderful way of making you feel like the world is on your side” and that it’s “a lot about legacy and about what I’m gonna leave behind.” But as you’re watching Hopkins, Brown, the other guys in the band and the songwriters talk about the moving tune, you can see that they are in a church.

Or what used to be a church. Brown’s Uncaged album was recorded at Echo Mountain Recording in Asheville, N.C., in what used to be the First United Methodist Church. It’s a church that, former Pastor Curtis Williams told me, used to be full of vibrant music. “Whether we had Top 40 gospel or more traditional hymns, everyone would be singing like angels every Sunday,” he said. “It had to be music that was alive. Not like someone playing an organ in a morgue.”

The church was built around 1928, at least according to its stained glass. But it had more than its fair share of struggles before the recording studio came along. There was a dwindling congregation, an unsuccessful merger between churches and an ongoing feud with the nightclub next door. So in 2002, the congregation worshiped there for the last time. Then, four years later, Echo Mountain Recording took over. And then, the Zac Brown Band came along and made some really soulful country music there. And after listening to the album religiously, I’m a big believer.