Zac Brown Band Feel Emotional Over New Country Music Hall of Fame Exhibit

Homegrown: Zac Brown Band Opens July 22

“It’s going to take me a minute to pull myself together.”

That’s what Zac Brown had to say at Tuesday’s (July 19) preview of the Homegrown: Zac Brown Band exhibit at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

It was an emotional night for the Grammy-winning group, with frontman Brown getting visibly bittersweet in a press conference after a private tour of the new display. “I’m moved by all of it,” he said.

The rotunda at the Hall of Fame was packed with close family, friends and industry colleagues as each member delivered heartfelt remarks. Among those in the crowd were Rory Feek and Nashville’s Clare Bowen.

Brown first thanked his wife and the mother of their five children, Shelly Brown, calling her, “small and mighty.” The set of costumes she designed for the “Goodbye in Her Eyes” music video is part of the new exhibit.

Then it was fiddle player Jimmy De Martini’s turn, and he also made sure he thanked his wife, and all the wives, for holding down the fort. “It’s amazing because I don’t know how they do it while we’re gone and taking care of the kids and the house and everything.”

Percussionist Daniel De Los Reyes kept his comments quick, thanking those who have supported the band for so many years. “We know that you’re being supportive,” he said. “We know that you’re buying our tickets. We don’t take that lightly. So, know that we’re always trying to do the right thing. And we want you guys to be proud of us.”

Coy Bowles took time to thank those closest to him for their support and thanked Brown for his unique brand of leadership. “There’s nothing better than feeling like you’re growing every day,” he said. “And I consider him a fellow soldier of growth.”

John Driskell Hopkins could have stood at the podium all night recalling his adventures with the band. “I can’t recount all the things that have happened,” he said. “And we see all these pieces of timeline, it’s kind of mind-blowing to think about where it all began and where it’s come. … It’s just an amazing thing to be part of this and to be here with you guys.”

Drummer Chris Fryar admitted he never dreamed he would be part of an exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Actually, he never thought he’d be in country music at all. “When I was in high school, I was a big fan of jazz,” he recalled. “I was a total music snob and swore up and down – out of an act of rebellion against my mom and dad’s music – I would never be caught dead playing in a country band. And then at my 20-year high school reunion, I walk in the door and somebody walked up to me and says, ‘Hey, guess what! You’re in a country band!’”

Surrounded by his brothers in music, Fryar also shared an important lesson he’s learned drumming with the group. “A very wise man told me one night, Zac I don’t even know if you remember or not,” he said, “but I asked him, ‘Hey man, what’s your secret to just keeping it all together and making everything happen?’ And he said, ‘You need make it a point to learn something from every interaction that you have through this journey of life.’ He probably said it a little more eloquently than that. … I continue to learn every day so much from you and I cannot thank you enough for allowing me to be part of your musical journey.”

Bassist Matt Mangano started his speech by wishing his baby daughter a happy first birthday and mentioned how thankful he was to play in a band that made family the No. 1 priority above all things. “We rarely go a week without seeing our families,” he said, “which is rare in the touring world. It’s a luxury to have that, and it’s just a testament to why this works so well.”

The feeling was mutual for Clay Cook, who was one of the last members to speak. “I can only assume that in the big plan of my life there’s some clerical error for me being in this band because I feel like I don’t deserve it,” he said. “Hopefully Zac won’t ever catch that.”

After the conference, guests were free to wander the exhibit on the third floor. Among the items on display are four journals with handwritten lyrics, a notebook folder of song ideas dating back to 1992, three Grammys, a tiki torch from Jimmy Buffett, an array of stage costumes and a dragon head built by Zac Brown Customs that has been used for their tour.

The exhibit opens Friday (July 22) and runs through July 18, 2017. The Black Out the Sun tour continues Thursday (July 21) in Syracuse, New York.

Lauren Tingle is a Tennessean and storyteller who eats music for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she’s not writing or rocking out, she enjoys yoga and getting lost in the great outdoors.