Southern man ready for New Zealand
Lynyrd Skynyrd set to rock the country in their first ever tour downunder
Lynyrd Skynyrd frontman Johnny Van Zant is amped for the classic rock group’s first New Zealand tour and says the band love breaking new ground. Van Zant, Skynyrd’s vocalist since the band reformed in 1987 and the brother of co-founder Ronnie van Zant, said the group was proud of its affinity with fans. With his thick Southern accent the 54-year-old said he hoped the group was still playing the hits Freebird and Sweet Home Alabama in years to come. ‘‘We have been looking forward to coming over for quite a while, for us as Skynyrd we like breaking new ground. ‘‘I call myself the head cheerleader. Most of our fans are hard working people and Godfearing people and believe in the music.’’ Their set for the New Zealand tour was being revamped to include classic hits and more recent material, including tracks from the 2012 album Last of a Dyin’ Breed. Repeatedly playing the hits, Freebird with its oft-cited guitar solo and Southern ode Sweet Home Alabama, was no chore as ‘‘what band wouldn’t want to have that in their set, especially coming over doing New Zealand for the first time, that’s a great opportunity. It should be a lot of fun.’’ Van Zant, a family man, says a vocalist need rest, so he tries not to do too many interviews – this is his only South Island interview – before and during a tour and he maintains a normal life off stage. ‘‘We do the same things as all our fans, pay bills, talk to teachers. If you want to make God laugh tell him your plans.’’ His children play a big part in keeping him abreast of new music while his southern upbringing – the van Zants hail from Jacksonville in Florida – shaped his tastes. ‘‘People will probably be amazed [my daughter] turns me on to music. My parents raised me on county music, we were raised on Motown and country and we grew up loving the British invasion.’’ The band is about to play another seven shows as part of a US tour before a break then the New Zealand tour.
Sweet home: Lynyrd Skynyrd singer Johnny Van Zant front row, second from right.