Zac Brown Band’s Clay Cook Dishes On Attending Berklee College With John Mayer And Playing At Fenway Park

Fenway Park is preparing to transform Red Sox Nation into Zac Brown Nation as the Atlanta-based band returns to America’s most beloved ballpark for two shows this weekend. Boston is welcoming back the Grammy award winning band’s summer tour Down the Rabbit Hole Live: Zac Brown Band 2018. This year’s tour will feature 11 stadium dates (the most in the band’s history), including stops in Atlanta, Washington, DC and Cincinnati before finishing off in San Diego with The Eagles.

Fenway Park’s Friday night show will be the band’s eighth consecutive sold out concert at Fenway Park marking a venue record for most consecutive sell outs. (Zac Brown Band also holds the record for most tickets sold by any act to ever perform at Fenway Park with their 2015 three-show run exceeding 104,000 tickets sold).

Zac Brown BandPhoto Credit: JONESWORKS

We caught up recently with ZBB’s multi-instrumentalist Clay Cook to talk about his days in Boston studying at Berklee with John Mayer, playing with Zac Brown Band at Fenway Park and how he balances touring with being a dad.

Take us back to the days before Zac Brown Band when you attended Berklee College of Music here in Boston and formed Lo-Fi Master with John Mayer. What would you say you learned most from each other back then?

Well, the one major thing we learned is that neither of us had been interested in writing songs. We just got together and traded ideas. We learned how to take those ideas and make them into songs.

Why do you think the northeast, and Boston in particular, has become such a fan of Americana, southern rock and country music in general?

I have no idea to be honest with you, and it is something I have been thinking about for the last 10 years. The northeast and New England have really been a crazy market for us by three times the level of attendance. I tell this to people and they are so confused. When we play in Atlanta where we are from, the fans aren’t nearly as rabid as they are up north. My wife is from New Hampshire, so we know a lot of people from up there. Maybe it’s just that they look at southerners as so different, but I can’t put my finger on it.

How has your uncle (Doug Gray, lead vocalist for The Marshall Tucker Band) inspired you as a musician?

It’s the most special thing. Not only did I know someone who could do that, but I got to look at my uncle and see that he gets to be a musician for a living.

Can you tell us how you first became involved with the Zac Brown Band?

After Berklee, Zac saw me play with The Marshall Tucker Band and was trying to figure out how he could get me in as the band. We knew of each other at the time. Zac could afford a sixth member and I felt like it would be a good fit. Right after “Chicken Fried” came out, I joined the band. That was a time of some serious partying. It’s quite a chance of pace now that we are all dads 10 years later.

Just a few years ago, the band won a Grammy for Best Country Album and you’re preparing for what will surely be another sold-out performance at America’s most beloved ballpark. How does that feel?

Yeah, it’s pretty special. Not to say that Wrigley is on par with Fenway, but it’s as exciting. We skipped Fenway last year and it felt like we were missing a birthday. There is something special about Fenway Park and that color green. You have to experience it and walk around it. It’s pretty interesting. Since I was in college at Berklee, I have been a Red Sox fan. There is something charming about the whole stadium even walking around the concessions is amazing. Being a Berklee kid, Supreme’s Pizza on Mass Ave had the best pizza. I love going back and checking it out. I also hit the Berklee book store. It’s great to have a moment of nostalgia when we are back in town. I spent two years in Boston and I loved it.

In addition to Zac Brown Band, some fans may not realize you have a solo album that came out last fall.  Tell us a little bit about that.

Most of the guys have solo things on the side. Playing with Zac is really fulfilling, but in our solo careers, we get to do things that don’t go in the Zac Brown book.

How do you balance being a touring musician alongside being a dad?

I am still learning that part. Thank God for Facetime. Our son is a year and a half and we have another one on the way, so I better learn how to do this daddy thing real quick. The good thing is that when I’m home, I’m really home. I get to cook for my wife and kids and really enjoy them.