J Creek Cloggers’ Lead Man Zeb Ross Talks Overnight Success and Viral Videos: Outsider Interview

by Chris Haney
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Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of sitting down to talk with viral dance sensation and J Creek Cloggers’ lead man Zeb Ross. You might not know his name, but if you’re on social media at all, there’s a good chance you’ve seen him come across your feed in the last couple of months.

Videos of the 28-year-old from a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains showing off his unique dance moves have racked up millions of views in recent weeks. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind ride for Zeb and the J Creek Cloggers as the clips of his dancing continue to make the rounds on the internet, often edited by users with different genres of music in the background.

I caught up with the country clogger on Monday as we chatted about his overnight success and what it’s like to go viral in this day and age. Zebulon Ross, or Zeb for short, lives in Canton, NC these days with his wife. The small North Carolina mountain town sits 17 miles west of Asheville and has a population of just over 4,000 residents. He’s worked the same overnight job as a machine operator for the last 10 years, and has been dancing with J Creek Cloggers since he was a teenager.

Locals in Haywood County know Zeb and the other members of the dance team from their various appearances at festivals and other events in the region. However, no one could’ve expected that people all over the world would one day recognize one of their members. If you’ve come across clips of a young man with long dark hair and a short beard who’s often wearing a blue polo shirt and jeans while dancing with a contagious smile on his face, you’ve witnessed Zeb Ross doing what he does best: buck dancing and shuffling.

J Creek Cloggers’ Zeb Ross Explains His Unique Dance Style That Went Viral

Zeb’s mother, Kim Ross, created the J Creek Cloggers around 13 years ago. The group’s traditional style of folk dancing and country clogging has deep roots in the North Carolina mountains and they run deep within the Ross family as well. The dance moves have been passed down from generation to generation. As millions of viewers have seen on TikTok and Instagram though, Zeb has created his own style within clogging.

“My dance style, it is clogging,” Zeb explained during his Outsider interview. “But it’s also comparable to Crip Walking, shuffling, it’s just a nice mixture of everything it seems like.”

That’s also why the viral videos of Zeb’s dancing have taken on a whole new life of their own on social media. Countless spinoffs of the J Creek Clogger’s dance videos featuring Zeb’s smooth dancing and infectious grin have been edited to incorporate different genres of music. No longer was Zeb’s dancing contained to traditional banjo-heavy folk and country music. Instead, his dance videos got paired with rap, soul, R&B, rock and roll, and metal songs. No matter the genre, Zeb’s fun-loving dances seemed to fit perfectly.

For example, one of the J Creek Cloggers’ most popular Instagram posts is of Zeb showing off with R&B star Usher’s 2004 hit “Yeah!” as the soundtrack. Somehow it just fits, and Zeb doesn’t mind the various spinoffs. In fact, while speaking with Zeb, he shared his thoughts on social media users editing the dance team’s original clips with their own preferred music.

“It’s like whenever you hear someone sing a song and another band does their version of it. It’s nice to see people’s different perspectives on things,” Zeb said of the overdubbed viral videos. “Cause you know the original typically is banjo, fiddle music. But it can also go with, you know, a Run-DMC or an Aerosmith song. Like I say, it goes with just about anything. It’s just nice to see people’s different perspectives on it, and to see what people gravitate towards. Some people like the original, other people like to see what else it could go with.”

Zeb Opens Up About Going Viral and How His Life Changed Overnight

It’s not that the J Creek Cloggers haven’t received any publicity in their almost 14-year existence. They’ve toured around the state and are fairly well-known in the western region of North Carolina. But the dance team, nor Zeb Ross, has dealt with anything like the onslaught of attention that has come with going viral in recent months.

“Oh, it’s been crazy. It’s been scary on one side,” Zeb admitted as we spoke. “Right now it’s just been unbelievable… Who would’ve thought that one 20-second video on TikTok would do this in a matter of two months. It’s just been absolutely insane.”

Fans from all over have viewed Zeb’s videos and the J Creek Cloggers have received more offers than ever for the group to make appearances at events, concerts, and festivals. Zeb’s mother, Kim, is the group’s manager and no matter how much money they’ve been offered, the group is standing by their preexisting performances that they already booked months ago. But Zeb and the dance team have also gotten to reap some of the benefits from his newfound fame.

Past an increased demand for them to perform, they’ve gotten to meet and perform with various country music artists. Florida Georgia Line‘s Brian Kelley collaborated with the group when the country music star set out on his first solo tour in late April. To mark the occasion, he flew Zeb and a few others out to perform alongside his band on stage during his first-ever solo shows in Florida. The group has also now been featured in two up-and-coming country musicians’ music videos, including Brandon Bing’s “Blue Collar Swaller,” which released last week.

Further, Zeb has quite the fanbase now, and he’s started to get recognized in different cities during his travels. Plus, that fanbase has been asking for Zeb t-shirts and other merchandise, so he and his team delivered. Recently, a pair of t-shirts with Zeb jumping in the air and clicking his heels together went up for sale on Shopify. The first run sold out, but they’ve been restocked on the Zeb Ross Merchandise website. The clogger thought his popularity might last a week or two, but it doesn’t seem to be slowing down for The Legend Zeb Ross, as fans on the internet call him.

The Country Clogger Is Adjusting to His Newfound Fame

Zeb’s life has become dramatically different in the last 60 days or so, but he’s not letting it go to his head. He has no plans on quitting his longtime job anytime soon and wants to keep his dancing as a hobby on the side. As he joked with me, if you start working at your favorite restaurant, you’ll start to hate the food. But he does realize things are different now. He doesn’t have the anonymity he once had just a couple months ago, but he’s adjusting to his new circumstances.

“As my friend would put it, once you’re more well-known or famous, it’s hard to become unfamous. You just have to be more aware of your surroundings I guess. You can’t just pick your nose anywhere since you never know if there might be a camera somewhere,” Zeb said as we shared a laugh.

Zeb’s interactions and experience with fame has thankfully been overwhelmingly positive so far. Fans love his cheerful and lively dancing, and it’s hard not to immediately feel happier when watching him shuffle across the dance floor. As of now, he welcomes the attention and is glad to be known by such a positive, fun activity he’s enjoyed his whole life with family and friends.

“I don’t mind the attention,” Zeb added. “If this is the worst thing I’m known for I’m perfectly okay with this for a guy who enjoys what he does.”

Outsider.com