Photo by Diego Pernia
Surely you’re familiar with the smooth sounds of the Zac Brown Band. While ZBB has been dominating the country music scene for quite some time now, its lead singer – Zac Brown himself – has started a new project that has people talking. Sir Rosevelt, Brown’s latest venture, is comprised of Brown, Niko Moon and Ben Simonetti, and the group released their self-titled debut album via Elektra Records in December of 2017.
Each of the three members bring their own individual strengths to the table, and when combined, the result is a very different yet cohesive sound. Moon, a collaborator on the ZBB album Jekyll & Hyde, and Brown have been working together for over 10 years. Simonetti, who has a background in engineering, worked on Jekyll & Hyde on the engineering side, helping to move some of the songs in a more progressive direction. He created the beats and programming, which form the backbone of Sir Rosevelt, and also co-wrote each of the eleven tracks on the group’s full-length debut.
ZBB fans shouldn’t worry – Sir Rosevelt has no plans to replace the Zac Brown Band. This project is purely a creative outlet, and provides Brown with an opportunity to explore other musical interests and sounds, allowing him to step out of the country box in which Zac Brown Band usually resides.
The experience the three shared working on Jekyll & Hyde spawned the idea for Sir Rosevelt. Moon says they’d been discussing the group for months, in hopes of creating a new and separate sound that mixed southern elements with heavier pop and electronic production. When Moon and Brown met Simonetti, “we knew he was the guy we’d been looking for,” Moon says. “We all get along really well, so it was the right situation and the right person.” While Brown was touring, Moon and Simonetti joined him on the road, and the tour bus essentially became their studio. They would start on Sir Rosevelt songs around midnight, and continue working until sometimes 5 or 6 in the morning.
“We all kind of resonated in our love of pop music and electronic music and country music,” Moon says, noting that the unusual mix of genres has recently become more acceptable and mainstream. “The lines are really blurred nowadays in terms of peoples tastes – they don’t tend to stick to one genre anymore, and we don’t either, so I think we wanted to put them all together.” Simonetti explained that the end result was certainly different from the original idea: “Honestly it changed over time … and it sort of organically led us to another direction, which has been great.”
Throughout the album you’ll hear a diverse collection of genres including pop, dance, EDM, jazz, disco, big band, R&B and, yes, even country. “If you were to mute the vocals and just listen to some of the songs, just to the music, you would never think that it’s country,” Simonetti says. “But you can’t take the country out of Zac’s voice especially, so no matter what it was, if it was playing over Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony it would still sound like country.” Brown’s country vocals are especially prominent on the track “It Goes On,” which appears on both their album and the soundtrack to the movie 12 Strong.
The songs seem to illustrate an eclectic, wild, sensory stimulating after-party. “Our goal was to make it hard to explain – you’ve gotta hear it, it is its own thing, it’s a reflection of our taste,” Moon says. While they’ve only played a handful of shows so far, the group noted that their latest single, “Something ‘Bout You,” has been a blast to play live – even though many of the fans simply come out of curiosity, they win them over. With a full band, a large video screen complete with visual artwork, and dancers on stage with them, they describe their shows as “a non-stop party,” formatted similarly to a DJ set.
The band’s promo look, like their sound, is a bit mysterious and unexpected. “We thought the whole aesthetic, the dressy three piece suit, the ‘classic man look’ would be interesting, fun and kind of makes it hard to categorize what the music is going to sound like when you first see it,” Moon says. “Typically when you see that look it might be associated with jazz – to see that visual aesthetic with modern music, with the kind of music that we’re doing, we think creates a cool look.”
Their music videos are visually stimulating, combining a colorful backdrop infused with a touch of mystery, high-energy dancing and an element of sexiness. Their debut single, “Sunday Finest,” was co-written with 10-time Grammy winner Pharrell Williams, who co-wrote two tracks on the album. (The song was featured on both the TNT and TBS networks during coverage of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game.) The collaborations with both Williams and Timbaland, also an award winning producer and songwriter, enhances the unique sound of the group.
They have some surprises in store for fans in the near future. “Something ‘Bout You” hits FM radio on February 12th, and their album is available for download here. Stay up to date with all things Sir Rosevelt by following them on their socials: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and their website.