Avicii, the Swedish dance producer and retired-DJ, was onto something when he released the album True in 2013. Having established himself as a powerhouse of EDM, he decided to combine his exhilarated synths with a slice of fascinatingly down-home-yet-turnt-up country and bluegrass, creating another entry in the hallowed pantheon of Europeans putting their stamp on Americana and churning out a few hits while he was at it.
In America, country and EDM might not make sense on paper but theoretically it’s a cultural union crafted in heaven. Both are considered “niche” despite audiences of millions Stateside, and both are truly USA-specific phenomena. (That is, if we speak ONLY about the kind of festival-centric, corpo pop EDM culture that exists in a contained environment adjacent to what I presume to be state college party culture). And inevitably, country and EDM will likely be conjoined by the majors to create some kind of super-genre monster, though the history of country and dance has been entwined for years, as anyone who’s listened to “Cotton Eye Joe”* on repeat in the club (what?) can attest.
Still, I’d venture to say that virtually no one was really expecting Zac Brown to emerge with a new project, Sir Rosevelt, born from his love of Skrillex and Diplo—masters of genre-mixing themselves. In a new interview with Billboard, Brown discussed Sir Rosevelt’s new song, “Sunday Finest,” and how the project has “a lot more international appeal. It’s not shoved in a bucket like country music is.” The conversation is actually really inspiring, because it sounds like a musician who’s sick of what he’s been doing and is deeply excited to switch it up and try new things, and most of all break from the constraints that come from a genre assignation. He told Billboard:
I can definitely say the more EDM style was influenced by them and Avicii, DJ Snake, Calvin Harris, people that are a little more open with sounds and borrow from different vocalists. There are three of us that sing in Sir Rosevelt, so it allows us to come from different angles on the vocals. We’ll be able to play a residency in Vegas and we’ll be able to do late-night TV, we’ll be able to play with a big band as well.
“Sunday Finest” is, sonically, closer to “Cotton Eye Joe” (or “Uptown Funk”) than anything Diplo or Skrillex or Jack Ü have really done, but a deeper look reveals influences beyond a pretty consistent 127-or-so BPM. There’s a drop, for instance, and tangible structural similarities to more rote EDM tracks, the constant driving nature of it all. It’s a surprising song, and I hope he goes deeper with it—maybe IDM? no?—but in a world of Zac Brown dance music, it is a solid start. Now I want to hear him sing “ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALLLLLLLLLLL!!!!”
*I would just like to note that “Rednex” is the most perfect name for a cyberpunk-era country band that 1995 could conjure.