INTERVIEW: Caroline Jones on being an honorary Zac Brown Band member, nabbing TikTok support

Caroline Jones, a Nashville country solo artist, has become an "honorary" part of Zac Brown Band this tour after opening for the band many times going back to 2017. PUBLICITY PHOTO

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Caroline Jones, a Nashville country solo artist, has become an "honorary" part of Zac Brown Band this tour after opening for the band many times going back to 2017. PUBLICITY PHOTO

Caroline Jones has been a Nashville solo artist for many years, just bubbling under stardom but receiving plenty of respect and acclaim within the industry. Now she has joined Atlanta’s Zac Brown Band as an “honorary” member, touring with the band this summer in stadiums across the country, including Truist Park June 17.

“I am like the utility player,” Jones said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They have eight amazing musicians. Any parts that needs to be covered that aren’t being covered, I play; acoustic, secondary rhythm guitar, electric, slide, whatever is needed. I sing high harmonies. That’s something the guys don’t have: a couple of extra octaves!”

She is the first female instrumentalist to regularly play with the band though it regularly uses female backup singers.

Back in 2017, she said Zac Brown had heard some of her music through a mutual friend and contacted her directly.

“I was totally star struck,” she said, “totally shocked. He said he liked my music and asked if I’d open two of their shows in 2017. I did a weekend. Soon, I was doing the entire tour with them. I opened for them on and off in 2018 and 2019.”

They asked her yet again for this tour to actually be part of the band itself. “I couldn’t be more honored,” she said. “I’m so proud and grateful to Zac. I owe the career I have thus far to him. He’s the first person to take me under his wing and opened the doors to me working with Jimmy Buffett, Faith Hill, the Eagles and Kenny Chesney.”

She said being on stage with them each night is like a “master class” in musicianship. And performing on those huge stages is still an immense thrill for her. “I’m like a kid in a candy store,” she said. “It’s a real energetic adjustment to learn how to perform in venues that large. ZBB are old pros at it. For me, it’s still surreal every night staring out at that sea of people and thinking of where I was a few years ago. It’s literally a dream come true.”

And she said she feels she’s become a better musician just being around the band. “It’s a lot like osmosis,” she said. “I take more risks on stage. I’ve learned how to fit in the mix more. When I first started, I was kind of thrown in the mix. They don’t rehearse or anything. They’ve been a band for 15-plus years.”

At the same time, she said the band has been nothing but patient and respectful of her and she has done her best to return the favor. “I am coming into their sacred space,” she said. “It’s like a marriage or a family.”

Among her favorites to play on this tour is ZBB’s sweet ballad “Sweet Annie.” “You can tell they love playing that live. They aren’t sick of it.” And she provides major vocals for a deeper cut called “Day That I Die.”

The band has also been performing a medley that includes Jones’ song “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable),” which recently found TikTok viral line-dance love.

“It has a catchy back beat,” she said. “It has clever, surprising lyrics. I was very pleasantly surprised how successful it became on TikTok.”

Even when Jones does her solo shows, she said her ZBB experience has helped her be more fearless and raw. “I’ve been too much of a perfectionist in the past,” she said.

Jones said success in the country music biz in 2022 can mean many things, not just No. 1 hits on country radio. But country is slower to evolve than other genres.

“It’s a blessing and a curse,” she said. “There’s a great thing about keeping to roots and values. The Nashville community is really tight. But I’ve been having an open conversation with other artists and people in the music industry and radio programmers about how radio can evolve to meet the needs of the next generation of listeners. How do you keep your roots in a genre diversifying so fast?”

While Jones as a child focused on vocals, she became fascinated by production and learning different instruments when she moved to Nashville in her early 20s. Now she feels her brand is very much as a musician and a multi-instrumentalist and that sets her apart from many solo female artists. What she said Nashville needs is more female studio musicians and producers.

And while she loves live instruments, she admires producers who can produce music on machines, which is becoming more the norm in the pop world. She is not a purist.

“If it’s a great music, who cares? As long as you can resonate with it,” Jones said, “There are infinite channels for creativity. If someone can make amazing production on a laptop, I don’t think that’s any less creative than doing it with live instruments. Zac loves electronic production. He’s dabbled in it himself.”


IF YOU GO

Zac Brown Band

7 p.m. June 17. $29.50-$129.50. Truist Park, 55 Battery Ave. SE, Atlanta. ticketmaster.com.