Kindred spirit Jimmy Buffett and guitar virtuoso Tony Rice will join Alan Jackson as special guests on the new Zac Brown Band album, "You Get What You Give," which is due out Sept. 21.
They're all part of what bassist John Driskell Hopkins tells Billboard.com are "some more interesting musical choices on this record," the follow-up to 2008's double-platinum "The Foundation." Jackson is already being heard on the album's first single, "As She's Walking Away," while Buffett appears on "Knee Deep," which came from a chance meeting in 2009.
"We met him on a camping trip last year," Hopkins reports, "and just sat around the fire with him for awhile. That was a quick friendship. He's a real cat, really down to earth and doesn't have a whole lot of ego and just a super nice guy...We did a lot of vocals down at his place in Key West and he happened to come through, so we got him to sit in and it sounded great. It sounds like a Buffett song when he sings it. Whatever he sings sounds like a Buffett song, y'know?"
The Jackson connection, meanwhile, came from sharing a producer (Keith Stegall) and also having opened for the country star. "When it was written," Hopkins recalls, "one of the first things we thought was, 'Wouldn't it be great to have Alan Jackson come in and be a part of this tune? It's kind of an extended family hookup, and certainly a very welcome one. He's got over 50 million records [sold] himself. We just knew if we could get him involved, it would get a great, different kind of fan base for us."
"You Get What You Give's" 15 tracks -- "I've heard Zac say we're in the over-serve business," Hopkins cracks -- will also include "Colder Weather," which the group first demoed at Kid Rock's studio outside Detroit on Memorial Day weekend of 2009 and included on its recent live album, "Pass the Jar." Hopkins wrote one track, "I Play the Road," while a 10-minute version of another track, "Who Knows," appeared on the 2009 "Live From Bonnaroo" EP. "It's one we've done live for a long time," Hopkins says, "and finally we got a recording of it." He adds that it's the first group-written song in the band's catalog.
The Atlanta-based sextet, which won this year's Grammy Award for Best New Artist, is on tour through Sept. 26, including its five-day Sailing Southern Ground Cruise over Labor Day weekend. But with Brown and fiddler Jimmy De Martini both expecting babies, Hopkins says the group, which is also building a new studio in Atlanta, is planning an extended stretch off tour -- but will still aggressively promote "You Get What You Give" when it comes out.
"We are planning some TV and possibly some other shows," Hopkins says. "We hope that the original release is going to be a big splash, so I'm not sure how much touring we will get done in support of it directly, but we are planning some good stuff coming up."