Over the last five years, I have learned more about life than in all my other years combined. I grew up as an only child, so inherently most of my life was centered around me. My parents taught me to play well with others and to share my toys, but I was still an only child who didn’t have to share my parent’s attention with siblings. As great as my childhood was, I always wanted brothers and sisters. There was a hole in my soul that craved a connection with people on a higher level. I wanted to care deeply about people and I wanted people to care about me, but there was a wall of me standing in the way. A wall created out of fear and selfishness. As a result of joining the Zac Brown Band, by far the best thing that has ever happened to me, I began to chip away at that wall. Touring around the US in a bus with 12 people and two dogs, on a mission to prove to the world that these country boys from Georgia were here to play good music and give back, was just what the doctor ordered.
During a nine week tour with ZBB from coast to coast, I was completely ripped apart from all things familiar. I was 29 years-old and had never been away from home for more than a week. I had never lived with other people to this extent and had definitely never had this many people around me at all times with very little privacy. I soon realized that what I went through, everybody else went through and vice versa. Somewhere during those nine weeks, I came apart. Searching for familiarity, I called my parents. In a moment of distress, I told them that this is a lot harder than I thought it would be and I’m not sure if I can do this. My mother said, “You can’t give up on these guys because you are having a hard time. They need you and you need them.” My dad said, “Well son, I’ve been on top of a roof doing construction work in 90 degree weather for the last week. If you wanna come home and help me, then come on, it’s here”. The idea of going back to doing construction work in my small hometown in excessive heat seemed to really put things in perspective. God Bless my mother and father for all the hard work they’ve done for our family. Needless to say, I dried up my tears and picked myself up by the bootstraps. The end of that nine week tour marked the beginning of a new man. I had forever changed. I had spent enough time around the guys in the band to really be a part of something. I now would forever have these brothers and sisters. I finally felt whole. It was the first time I felt like I had something to give back.
I’ve really learned a lot from Zac Brown over the years. He is someone that I consider to be one of my best friends, and besides my parents, he has taught me more than anyone else. Zac is, by nature, a giving and understanding person. While traveling, you meet all kinds of people. During our meet and greets we would be in direct contact with all walks of life. We met the healthy, unhealthy, rich and poor, and everyone in between. I watched Zac give attention to all of these people. He has a way of making people feel important no matter how different they are. At first, I had a hard time with this for some reason… Sometimes I have a little social anxiety and meeting people can be a challenge for me. But I quickly learned that these experiences are not about me. They are about our fans who pay money and travel hours sometimes to come and see us play and give us our life in music.
Zac might be the most giving person I have ever met. The last album’s title, “You Get What You Give”, is something that Zac lives by and is his personal mantra. Going back to my explanation of being an only child, giving and sharing can be a little unusual for me. If there is anything I have learned from Zac that I am most thankful for, it is the power of giving back. Zac has really gone out of his way to take his friends and family along with him on this crazy journey. He is taking on the biggest project of giving back of anyone I’ve personally ever known. Camp Southern Ground is his life’s work. It is his way of taking all the blessings he has received and making a facility that brings all walks of life together for good. I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in on some of the camp meetings, and I’m here to tell you that this camp is going to be one of the coolest, loving and most amazing facilities for kids on the entire planet.
It is hard to express in words what Zac has taught me, but learning and experiencing the power of giving back has forever changed my life. Without this knowledge, I know that I would have never started going to schools and talking to kids about their dreams. I would have never had the courage to write Amy Giggles “Laugh Out Loud”. I would have never started “Coy Cares”, a charitable organization, and I wouldn’t spend my downtime raising money for the less fortunate. But more importantly, I definitely would not feel as good about my life as I do now. I really owe all of this to Zac Brown.
I get emails and Facebook messages on a weekly basis from people who have read Amy Giggles “Laugh Out Loud”. People send the coolest messages about how their kids have a new confidence after reading the book. People send messages about how they read a blog I wrote and how they feel that they connected with it somehow and it made things seem more in focus. This drives me now to keep doing good and giving back. The reward of getting a message is by far the coolest thing ever. I also get messages with people asking if I can come to this event, call this person, or get something signed for this cause. It weighs on me a lot to know that I can’t do all the things requested, but that’s a weight I’m willing to carry knowing that every once in a while I am able to do something to give back with our crazy schedule. I can’t do them all, but doing what I can makes the world a better place.
I’ll be performing a benefit with my band, Coy Bowles and The Fellowship, at Vinyl in Atlanta, GA, on Sunday, August 26, for the Atlanta Community Food Bank. All proceeds will go to help fight hunger in Atlanta. The mission of the food bank is to help in the fight against hunger. The Atlanta Community Food Bank distributes food to over 700 charitable agencies, helping senior citizens who struggle to support themselves, delivering bags of food to families in need, and providing food to shelters that provide aid throughout Atlanta. The Food Bank helps supply over 1.5 million meals monthly – more than 50% of those served are children. Your ticket purchase will provide a donation that can help towards ending hunger. Thank you for supporting this cause and helping the Food Bank ensure that the children, elderly, and less fortunate of Atlanta don’t go hungry.
If you ever feel like you have it bad or you’re feeling down, just know that it there is always someone out there who has it worse than you do and that there is always someone out there that you can help. I encourage you to take time to join a cause. It has changed my life. Find someone or something to give your time and heart to. Not only will you make someone’s life a little better, but you will learn more about yourself that you ever imagined and feel great doing it!
“If you step outside yourself and into someone else’s shoes, you will see that the view is so oddly strange and yet familiar. Take it in and let it build you strong. We will carry on.” – lyrics from a song I wrote called “We Will Carry On”.
Details on the Benefit for Atlanta Community Food Bank:
Who: Coy Bowles and The Fellowship
Where: The Vinyl in Atlanta GA
For: Atlanta Community Food Bank
When: Sunday, August 26th
Time: doors at 7:00 pm perform at 9:00
Cost: $10 all proceeds go to Atlanta Community Food Bank