Daniel de los Reyes’ father – the famous Cuban percussionist Walfredo de los Reyes Sr. – tried to teach his son from an early age, “Don’t be a student of everything, be a master of one thing,” in an effort to convince the young drummer to concentrate on one genre of music to play.
Spend a second looking over Reyes’ resume, and it’s clear the lesson didn’t take.
Reyes has drummed for a virtual who’s who of popular music over the past 40 years. Musical acts as disparate as Don Henley to Jennifer Lopez, Billy Joel to Ben Vereen, Earth, Wind & Fire to Yanni have offered Reyes gigs playing behind them.
So it shouldn’t come as a shock that perhaps Reyes’ greatest success has come as the drummer for country music’s Zac Brown Band. It’s not because it’s a perfect fit for the musician, but because it allows him to check off one more genre on his list of things to do.
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Reyes, joining ZBB in 2012, is one of the newer members of the band. He had performed as a touring musician with the band previously and had even appeared on “Uncaged,” the band’s 2012 release. Bandleader Zac Brown liked what he found in the drummer and offered him a permanent position after a number of appearances that showed Reyes’ versatility, as well as a shared affinity for cover songs.
Reyes acknowledges a “huge difference” in performing for country music fans and in front of pop music fans.
“I didn’t realize that country audiences were so receptive to (country artists covering another artist’s songs), which is one of the reasons why we do so many during our concerts,” he said in a phone interview during a stop in the band’s current tour.
“Before, if I played a three-hour show with someone like Peter Frampton (’70s rocker known for “Show Me the Way”), it’d be three hours of nothing but Peter Frampton music,” he said. “Even though we have plenty of material to fill a three-hour show with nothing but Zac Brown Band music, the audience is open to us playing other people’s music, as long as we add a little ZBB sound to it. We like to (play covers), because it helps to break up just playing the same songs every single night, although we always play our singles and the other songs that have gotten us to where we are today.”
The songs the band is bringing to Raleigh’s Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek on Oct. 6 come courtesy of the group’s latest album, “Welcome Home.” The record’s title has been taken as a nod to its musical content, as “Welcome” boasts some of the most mature lyrics to be found within a ZBB project in years. It also marks the first time Brown has worked with superstar producer Dave Cobb on a full-length project, having last worked with him on a song featured on the producer’s 2016 concept album, “Southern Family.”
Reyes said having Cobb in the recording studio helped breathe some life into the band’s recording process. Long characterized as a band whose live performances outclass their recorded material, the drummer points out that Cobb’s propensity for capturing magic on a track helped keep the material fresh.
“Anytime you get a new producer involved, especially one of Dave’s caliber, there’s always that learning curve,” Reyes said. “He was just really relaxed in the studio. He didn’t want us to really work on any of our songs too much prior to our getting in the studio to record, which turned out to be a really cool way of doing things, as I think that’s one of the things that led to the project moving forward so quickly. He just wanted to capture that feeling of when you first try something, instead of when you’ve rehearsed something again and again, working on a song for a month. That gave us the ability to just play, get those first feelings out, and that’s what ended up being recorded.”
The drummer doesn’t hesitate to make clear, however, that mature doesn’t equal boring when it comes to ZBB’s new music. After years experimenting with a style of fusion country, bringing elements of everything from electronic dance music (EDM) to Celtic influences to the band’s projects, Brown’s lyrics are content to focus on family this time around.
Reyes says “Home” isn’t a sign of the band backtracking to what put it on the musical map, though some of the band’s fans are happy just to hear their early-2000s hits “Chicken Fried” or “Toes.”
“I really enjoy the process of evolution, and always moving, the same way that any entity grows,” the drummer says. “That’s a good thing; it means that you’re not growing stale. Some things work better than others, and we’re very blessed to have fans that allow us to do that. There are always people who want the same formula in every song, but we also have a lot of fans that are open and tolerant to going in different directions, musically.”
Who: Zac Brown Band with Darrell Scott and Caroline Jones
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 6
Where: Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek, 3801 Rock Quarry Road, Raleigh
Cost: $57 and up at LiveNation.com