Mic Check: John Driskell Hopkins finishing solo album

The Zac Brown Band multi-instrumentalist is also staying busy with quarantined band projects.
John Driskell Hopkins is a key component of the Zac Brown Band. Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

John Driskell Hopkins is a key component of the Zac Brown Band. Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Editor’s note: With live music and concert reviews on hold due to COVID-19, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is focusing on how Georgia musicians are spending their time in our feature, Mic Check.

Usually this time of year, John Driskell Hopkins would be hanging out on a tour bus as the Zac Brown Band crisscrossed the country on another summer tour of stadiums and amphitheaters.

But a few weeks ago, the multi-instrumentalist was instead packed in his car with wife Jen and daughters Faith, Hope and Grace for a family road trip to St. Augustine, Florida.

Even without a tour to play, Hopkins has stayed busy with ZBB. The band released a pair of songs during quarantine (“The Man Who Loves You the Most” and “You and Islands”) and during the Fourth of July weekend raised more than $1.4 million for Brown’s Camp Southern Ground during its “With the Family” livestream concert.

He’s also putting the final touches on his long-in-the-works solo album, “Lonesome High,” with a fall release planned and, with his John Driskell Hopkins Band, will play a drive-in, socially distanced show for From the Earth Brewing Company on Saturday (8 p.m. at the Connexion Shopping Center Lot in Roswell).

Here is what else Hopkins has been up to these past few months.

Q: What have you been doing with this rare summer off?

A: A lot of “honey-do” lists! Even though Florida is a corona hotbed, we’ve driven there more this summer than any other since I’ve been busy most of the others (laughs). We’re finding these opportunities to go down there and not go to restaurants or bars and sit down on the beach by ourselves with our mask regimen and hand sanitizer and stay away from people. There’s not a (vacation) budget without touring, but we’ve had so much fun just sitting. I joined Zac Brown Band 15 years ago, and we’ve never had a summer off. We’ll often have little breaks with a beach gig or something, but that’s still work, and you still have to be on, but we’re managing pretty well. (Wife) Jen’s garden has really taken off. Some friends of ours are really skilled at gardening, so they guided us through our raised bed garden. And I’m in the mixing stages of my record, which has been three years running. We’ve tracked everything on all 12 songs, and we’re really close to being finished. We’re just trying to figure out how to make videos when you can’t be next to people, so we’re talking about some animation and distant camera shots.

The Zac Brown Band rocked SunTrust Park on Saturday, June 30, 2018, on their Down the Rabbit Hole Tour. John Driskell Hopkins supplies the band with his multi-instrumental talents and vocal work.
Robb Cohen Photography & Video /RobbsPhotos.com

Credit: Robb Cohen Photography & Video/

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Credit: Robb Cohen Photography & Video/

Q: What have you been listening to?

A: I tend to inadvertently listen to a lot of TikTok. It’s always playing in the background since we have a tween (Grace). I listen to what the girls want to hear. When I’m in the car, they all moan and groan, but I turn on SiriusXM’s Bluegrass Junction (channel), and the girls say, “Daddy, no more banjo!” Before it got hot, I was splitting wood, and I had a metal station on, and the girls were headbanging to the Octane and Liquid Metal channels. Guns N’ Roses was a gateway to all things metal for me, and I love Queensryche, that technical rock opera stuff.

Q: What do you miss about life these days?

A: The only reason that I still go out and play is for an audience, and I miss that. The band is on a few text threads, and we keep up weekly and keep throwing off-topic jokes at each other, and we stay connected that way. The Zoom gigs that I’ve done and Facetime performances, they’re fine, but just don’t resonate the same. It’s hard. The (John Driskell Hopkins band) has played a couple of private shows in big parking lots where people have brought golf carts, and that’s kinda nice. The toughest part is not being able to hug people and high-five people. My gigs, it’s a much smaller crowd, but at the Zac Brown Band shows, it’s taking selfies with people and having kids come up and say how some of these songs have changed their lives. All of that I really miss.

Q: What are your thoughts about playing any time this year?

A: Well, we’ve done our Christmas shows at Old Town Athletic Club the past two years, but how am I going to do that? What if it rains? What if it’s 20 degrees? These orchestral instruments can’t be out in the cold. I’m hoping to have my album release party at my studio and stream it live. It’s not the same, but I can get to the whole country that way.

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