Having a total of nine nominations, both with his band and on his own, guarantees Zac Brown an interesting night at the Academy of Country Music Awards.
CBS televises the 46th annual event from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Sunday, April 3. Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton serve as hosts, with country stars from Taylor Swift and Keith Urban to Miranda Lambert and Brad Paisley slated to sing. Still, Brown could have the biggest evening of any performer there, thanks to his ACM Award bids that also encompass his work as a composer and a producer.
"It's pretty amazing," Brown reflects. "I just continue to look in wonderment at my career and our accomplishments and the way we've been received. I couldn't be more blessed to have such a great group of guys and such a great team around me."
Calling such recognition -- which also includes a win for top new vocal group at the ACMs two years ago and for best new artist at the 2010 Grammys -- "the fruits of many, many years of work," Brown says success is sweet after the initial struggles of forming the band in 2002.
"I've always been able to make a living doing what I love to do, but this has exceeded my expectations tenfold ... to be able to do this on this level and impact so many people in just one night. People who sing karaoke on live television, and become super-famous from it, don't have the same perspective as somebody who's worked so hard at it for so long."
With his band joining Kenny Chesney on concert dates through the spring and summer, Brown enjoys collaborations. Many of his current ACM nominations are for a very successful one: "As She's Walking Away," which the band recorded with Alan Jackson. (The tune recently earned a Grammy Award for best country collaboration with vocals.)
"I'm a big fan of music," Brown notes. "It's been a friend to me and therapy to me, and I would wear out the records of the people I grew up listening to and singing along to. Getting to meet people like Alan Jackson, Willie Nelson and Jimmy Buffett is like a fairy tale. It's very surreal."