South­ern man ready for New Zealand

Lynyrd Skynyrd set to rock the coun­try in their first ever tour dow­nun­der

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

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.

Photo: SUP­PLIED.

Sweet home: Lynyrd Skynyrd singer Johnny Van Zant front row, sec­ond from right.

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