Zac Brown Band’s Latest Single Hits Home For the Group

Here's why “The Man Who Loves You the Most” is so meaningful.

Written by Bob Paxman
Zac Brown Band’s Latest Single Hits Home For the Group
Zac Brown Band; Photo credit: Diego Pernia

The Zac Brown Band’s recent single, “The Man Who Loves You the Most,” expresses a dad’s love for his daughter in a beautiful and powerful way. One would have to possess the steeliest of hearts to not be moved by the key lines, ‘When you’re missing me, look at the stars up there/I’ll be wishing on the same ones and sing this father’s prayer,’ whether there’s a daughter in the family or not. And the sentiment is especially moving for ZBB guitarist/keyboard player Clay Cook. Cook and his wife Brooke recently welcomed their third child, and first daughter, Cecilia Ellen, this past September, joining brothers Charlie, 4, and one-year-old Theron. Cook will readily admit that the song’s message has taken on a new and more heartfelt meaning than before. “It’s amazing,” Cook acknowledges. “Our newest addition to the family is a girl, and I will definitely say that the song feels a bit different with a little girl in the house.”

Front man Brown, who has four daughters of his own, along with a son, wrote the tender tune with Ben Simonetti and Adam James. The song essentially looks ahead to the future, with the father sharing his hopes and dreams for his daughter while realizing that, one day, another man will come into her life. He tells her, ‘On your wedding night, I’ll raise a toast/Hope he understands/I’ll always be the man who loves you the most.’ In a recent Facebook Live chat, Brown discussed what he wanted to impart to his daughters as he composed “The Man Who Loves You the Most.” Noting that, “I’m [my daughters’] man first,” Brown revealed, “I want them to feel everything that the world has to offer, to love and live their lives, and have a full life. That involves not being the No. 1 man when someone else comes in. It was important to have a reminder that this will always be your home and I’m the man who loves you the most, no matter what. The first relationship my girls have had is with me.”

The song is a true product of the COVID-19 pandemic. Brown formulated the idea for the touching ballad this year while in self-isolation, and has explained that the bonus time he’s spent at home with his daughters  served as the inspiration. “He does talk about his girls all the time,” Cook says. “He had two girls before I was even in the band (Cook joined in 2009). It’s always been apparent how much they mean to him.”

Brown sent the song around to the other band members. They worked on it collaboratively, from their respective home bases. That’s how it’s being done in 2020, which seems a daunting task on the surface. But the band’s chemistry and familiarity pulled them through. “When the song was completed, Zac sent it to us with only a vocal and acoustic guitar,” Cook recalls. “We built the song around that. We added some instrumental parts and background vocals.” Even though the guys were not in the same studio, they worked up a final product with only some minor tweaks. “There were very few revisions,” Cook says. “It doesn’t take long for us, we’re so used to each other.”

All can be thankful, naturally, for technology, home studios, and modern modes of communication. Cook wistfully remembers a time when that didn’t exist. Cook’s first writing partner was his friend from college named John Mayer, who’s gone on to acclaimed pop and rock stardom, and they collaborated the truly old-fashioned way. “We wrote all the lyrics down in composition books,” Cook remembers, letting go a slight laugh. “We would take highlighters to mark certain passages or ideas. It was very low-tech. I would try writing on the typewriter for a while, but that was inconvenient. Most of the time now,” adds Cook, “I use the Notes program on my iPhone to put down ideas or lyrics.”

Like all artists, Cook eagerly looks forward to the day when live concerts will resume and the band can tour again. But for now, he’s getting in a considerable amount of dad-daughter time at home. “I am spending more time with family, and [especially] my daughter, and I’m enjoying it,” Cook says. “We’re very lucky that we are able to do this.” Brown offered a similar take on his Facebook Live chat. “I’ve been able to be really present during this time and be with my kids 24/7, when I have them,” Brown, who co-parents with ex-wife Shelly, said. “I appreciate having this quality time with my family.”

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday season, it’s becoming more apparent that the annual day of celebration will look different for most families around the country. Plans are either being scrapped altogether or at least put on hold as the pandemic continues to exact its toll. Cook notes that one of his family’s traditions will go by the wayside. “We usually go to my wife’s family in New Hampshire for Thanksgiving,” Cook says, “but that’s out for this year. We will be at home.”

But this Thanksgiving also means more chances to bond with his new baby daughter. Cook seems to embrace his at-home role, so any advice for other dads who have welcomed newborns this year? “The best advice I could give is just take care of mom and be a help,” Cook replies in earnest. “There’s only so much I can do with the baby in some ways, but I can change her diaper. I can help with the other toddlers in the house, and make food and all that stuff. Just be a strong dad and take care of your wife.”