Ever since the Sept. 20 release of The Zac Brown Band's new album The Owl, critics and social media users have had a field day at Brown's expense over his latest attempt to disregard genre boundaries and record all kinds of music.
As Brown explains it to CBS This Morning, collaborations with EDM star Skrillex, Justin Beiber collaborator Jason "Poo Bear" Boyd, producer Benny Blanco (Ed Sheeran, Katy Perry), pop star Shawn Mendes, hit songwriter Max Martin and One Republic's Ryan Tedder purposefully take the ZBB's new music several zip codes from "Chicken Fried" and other country music standards.
"When I put out a record, I have to pick a category to put it in," Brown explains. "You have to. You release a record on iTunes, you have to pick a category. One category. You can't say country, rock, reggae, soul and whatever. No, you get one bucket to coin yourself in."
"I am not just a country artist. I'm not," adds the ZBB frontman. "I have to create what moves me and what connects with my fans. And I don't really care about their buckets. But I don't like being coined as a 'country artist.' I like just being an 'artist.'"
Brown didn't completely abandon his country and Southern rock roots to create whatever we're supposed to call "Warrior," "OMW," The Woods" and other polarizing new songs. For instance, Brown began the album promotion process with "Leaving Love Behind," a gorgeous, piano-driven confessional about his recent divorce. Brandi Carlile collaboration "Let's Finish What We Started" is also a very good song buried by claims that Brown must be trolling us by not releasing the album under his Sir Roosevelt moniker.
Brown suggests that naysayers enjoy his country radio hits and earlier studio albums and kindly ignore the creative changes he's explored over the past couple years.
"So, purists, I get 'em. They should just listen to the songs of mine that are more country, and leave me alone about all the other ones," Brown says. "'Cause I don't really care what they have to say about 'em."