Below is the full interview with Zach Deputy before playing Tobacco Road on 3-2-11.
ZD: (yawns) I needed that.
GMNS: How’d the show the show go last night?
ZD: The show last night was really fun. The sets were cool, man. Second set I didn’t stick to the set list at all. I just kept playing what I felt. Just jammy funk you know? I just was in that mood and so I only played maybe the first couple songs on the set list and the rest was off in my own world. And usually we tell how good the set is from how much I stick to the set list. Although, sometimes sticking to the set list is awesome. A lot of times when I’m feeling really good I just disregard the set list altogether. That was kind of last night.
GMNS: Aside from coming to Bear Creek and Wanee and stuff you come down to Florida, South Florida a lot?
ZD: No, actually. This is our first little swing like where we’re definitely here. I mean I’ve played Jupiter twice, Boca twice, I played the keys once, so this is like really our only second time down to this region. Usually we don’t come this far south. Most musicians don’t like coming this far south because it’s a commitment. It’s like you have to turn around and go right back where you came from. But I really like Florida and I really love the warmth. You know, it’s cold right now in the rest of the country. So for me, it just makes sense and I really push my agents to get me down here and actually they can get me down here as much as I wanted to. But you know, I take what I can get, but I love being down in the heat, in the warmth. I really wanted to spend like three weeks in southern Florida this year and just play sporadically and have like a vacation-esque, ya know, giggy thing. But I love Florida. It reminds me of home.
GMNS: Yea, home is Carolina, right?
ZD: Yea. Hilton Head.
GMNS: What reminds you of home?
ZD: Well, I come from a beach resort town, you know? So the beach, the warmth of the summer, except for right now, it’s not summer. It’s kind of warm where we’re from but you probably got a good twenty degrees on us, you know. We’re not like the rest of the country, that’s for sure. A lot of seventy days, but no days where you want to go on the beach. It’s not that warm where it’s a beach day, let me go take my shirt off, ya know? It didn’t get that warm until March. Which it’s March now, but in later March. And in March you only get it a couple days.
GMNS: Nice. So it’s treating you well, I hope, down here.
ZD: Yea, totally. We’ve been having a blast ever since we got here. We got a lot of friends, so we’ve just been having a great time. Almost to good of a time.
GMNS: Really? What have you been hitting up?
ZD: Uh, what have I been hitting up?
ZD: Uh, well we went to the beach a couple days ago like all day long we spent like literally eight hours at the beach.
GMNS: Nice which one
ZD: Where were we… we were in Jupiter, I’m not sure which beach, but we were in Jupiter and we played Horseshoes like all day, almost. Like, Horseshoes and then lounge, and Horseshoes and lounge and me and my buddy, Joey, were playing on teams and we were undefeated. Never got beat once. That was fun. And that night we went and hung out with a bunch of friends. And these girls made us some great dinner. It was awesome. And we played poker and, uh, I lost.
GMNS: You a poker player?
ZD: Yea. I could have won, but my friend, Trey, was getting tired and I could tell he was getting tired and it was his first day moving to his new house and I was like, ‘okay, I just gotta end this game.” So I just started betting all-in on everything. I had the game, but I like to play poker for fun so if I don’t win I don’t care. I definitely had the game and I just didn’t care anymore. So I was like ‘I’m either gonna win this or I’m gonna lose this, but it’s gonna be quick. (snaps fingers) And I’m gonna make sure it’s quick’ and so, I did it and I lost. I was betting really stupid things. I mean, if you know anything about poker, I was going all-in on like a nine-tens offsuit. I was like, we gotta get this game over.
GMNS: Check out Frisbee golf down here?
ZD: Yea we played Frisbee golf yesterday and we got rained out. And we wanted to play today, but my buddy, Mike, was making a huge breakfast—we say breakfast but it didn’t get served until 3:15. Like 3:30 breakfast.
GMNS: Alright. Breakfast of champions.
ZD: Yea so, ya know, so we missed out on disk golf for that, but we played the other day. I gotta get my throws kickin’ it for the tournament on Saturday, so (yawns) I’m gonna try to go somewhere to throw.
GMNS: A tournament on Saturday?
ZD: Yea, at Live Oak.
GMNS: Oh yea, that’s right. I remember reading about that.
ZD: Yea. The Spring Fling. It kind of tanked on the promoter and he backed out of the event and we just didn’t want to let anybody down, so were just throwing the tournament ourself now. I’d rather not just say no altogether and show people a good time. We probably won’t make any money. Probably lose money, but you know I’d rather show people a good time. There was a lot of people I knew that had their hearts set on it and I don’t wanna let anybody down.
GMNS: That’s real good of you. All right, well switching gears here, how did you get into music in general?
ZD: I just had songs in my head, man. You know? I just had music in my head and I had to get it out.
GMNS: How old were you?
ZD: When I started having music in my head? I was young, like 9. Nine where I can remember having music in my head and wanting to get it out. I was singing before then. I was singing since I can remember. But it was 9 when I started imagining bands in my head. Like I would imagine an orchestra and I would close my eyes and I would imagine all the instruments and I would jam out. When I was little I’d be jamming out in my head. And I thought everybody did that. Turns out, not everybody does that, you know? But I would create songs in my head and create all the parts in my mind and I really wanted to make it happen with an instrument. And I didn’t end up getting an instrument ‘til I was 14, but I started asking rigorously when I was about 9. And I finally got a guitar when I was 14.
ZD: Yea. So, my parents got exhausted from me asking year after year after year.
GMNS: What kind of guitar was it?
ZD: My first guitar was a piece of crap. I wanna say it was like an LA or something?
GMNS: An LA? Is that an acoustic?
ZD: Yea, it’s like a hundred dollar guitar, you know? It was a piece of crap. I played it into the ground. I played it so much, the neck broke off.
GMNS: No way.
ZD: Yea. And I went back into the store, when my dad took me to the music store after I broke the neck off, and we were going to get it fixed. And then there was this other guitar, it’s like a Spanish guitar, and we bought that instead for like forty bucks. So we got an even worse guitar. But this guitar was cool because the action was so bad that it made my fingers bleed. And I’d just keep playing and my fingers would be bleeding and I’d go to my mom and be like, “Mom, my fingers are bleeding,” and made her feel really sorry for me. So they bought me this three hundred dollar guitar. An Oscar-Schmidt. And that was the first guitar I could really start practicing on and really start getting down.
GMNS: And you were writing songs by then, right?
ZD: Yea. I wrote songs the day I got a guitar. So I instantly started writing songs. They weren’t good, but I started writing songs, you know? The first song was just retarded the lyrics were like, “I went to the store to get some green beans and some S’mores / I went to the market ‘cause my dog shit on the carpet.” That was the whole song.
GMNS: That was the whole song?
ZD: So it shows the level of mind state that a 14-year-old writes, but it was funny. It was a funny song. If you heard it you’d be like, “Okay, in context it’s kind of cool.” I’ll end up playing it one day, for sure.
ZD: With a band. Yea.
GMNS: Speaking of playing with bands, you played with bands before, right?
ZD: Yea. That’s how I started, you know? I started my own band when I was really young. Country Fried Funk was like my first band. It was old school. Then I started touring around with a Motown/R&B dance band, I guess you would say. All way older black guys and I was the younger white kid with a beard. ‘Cause I was like 16 at the time, 17, and they were all like 40’s plus. So it was a cool contrast. And yea, I toured with them for a little while. Played in the area. That was a great learning experience. They were called Deas Guys.
GMNS: These guys? Like, T-H-E-S-E?
ZD: Well, Reggie was the guy that ran the band and his last name was Deas, like D-E-A-S, so it was called Deas Guys.
GMNS: Oh, okay.
ZD: Which is funny because later on I had this trio. It was me, my buddy, Eric and my other buddy, Matt. So, Z-E-M. We called it Zem Boys.
GMNS: Zem Boys? It’s like a running theme.
ZD: (laughs) I was in a band called Deas Guys and I was in a band called Zem Boys.
(both laugh again)
ZD: And, you know, I’ve played in so many other bands. I had a band called The Woam, which is an abbreviation for the Word Of Mouth Experience, and then I had a band called Hamster, cause it was just hilarious to have a band called Hamster, and then I had a band called The Funky Hayride. And that was probably my last band. I did that for awhile. And the loop machine was just, like, a side thing. But it ended up taking off, you know? Big time.
GMNS: You would just mess around and play, like, wherever by yourself?
ZD: I would mess around and I had off days. I’d play, like, Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, loop machine show. Band would be Thursday, Friday, Saturday. And my loop machine shows started getting way more numbers, on the off days, than my band did on the on days. So it just kind of took over.
GMNS: What venue was that?
ZD: The venue that started getting really crazy at was a place called Rider’s Lounge in Hilton Head. I did hundreds and hundreds of people there before I started playing with national artists. So many people there every week. Every Thursday and Sunday. My band was playing Thursdays and I was playing Sundays as a solo act, but I was bringing in, at the time, three hundred fifty, four hundred people every Sunday, and on Thursday, we were doing like fifty, sixty people. And so, my brother was like, “Hey, let’s switch the band to Sunday and you play the loop machine.” And I said, “Na, people are coming to see me do my loop machine thing.” And he got ticked off and he quit the band.
GMNS: What’s your brother’s name?
ZD: Whitley. Like Whitney, but with an L
GMNS: Oh, Whitley.
ZD: Yea. So, he didn’t want to play anymore, and so I took over Thursdays at Rider’s. So Thurdays turned into a huge weekly thing too. And there ended up being like four hundred, five hundred people a week every Thursday and Sunday. And that was, I guess you could say, the gig that catapult me to the next level, and get the hell out of my market. But when I left town, that venue didn’t make as much money anymore and they went under. They went out of business ‘cause I was just bringing so many people over Thursday and Sunday, it was literally keeping that place afloat. So when I left town, two months later, it went under really quick. They went from making a lot of money to not.
ZD: Yea. It was crazy. It’s weird to imagine that you are literally creating a big difference in your local economy playing music. But that’s what you do. You make people come out, you make them spend money, you circulate the economy. It’s crazy.
GMNS: What’s your favorite part about doing what you do, going around and playing music for everybody?
ZD: I don’t know. Knowing that it helps and it improves peoples’ minds and hearts and lives, you know? And I think that’s the only reason I keep doing it, you know? There’s purpose in that. I love playing music, that’s obviously what I play on stage and you see it, but it’s very draining, traveling across the country playing music every day. In and out. It’s exhausting, you know, and being at home with family, my friends, it’s relaxing. So I think the thing that really keeps me going is knowing that it actually helps people. So I guess that’d be my favorite thing.
GMNS: Hmm, what else to I wonder… Oh, is your last name “Deputy?”
ZD: Deputy, yeah. Like the sheriff.
GMNS: That’s a cool name, man.
ZD: Yea, I have to pull out my ID. Many times, people don’t believe me. But yea, it really is my name. I was born with that one. And I almost named my act, “Zach-in-a-Box.”
ZD: Yea, ‘cause I had all my pedals in one box and I would just flip it up. And I was going to draw this big logo, Zach-in-the-Box, and then I was like, “You know what, my name’s Zach Deputy… I should use my name.” So I did.
GMSN: That’s a cool name, man. And I always wondered.
ZD: Yea, it’s a strange one, but I didn’t come up with that. Most people think it’s a stage name. I think, offhand they’re like, “Oh, it has to be a stage name.”
GMNS: Yea, it’s like, “No one has a name that cool.”
ZD: Yea. I was born with a stage name. It’s kind of funny.
GMNS: Nice, man. Nice. How long have you been growing your beard?
ZD: Everybody asks me that. I don’t remember the last time I cut it. It literally just grows to this length and chills, though. I think I trimmed it a couple months ago, but I just let it rock. It would look a lot longer if I trimmed my hair. Those are the craziest days. If I trim my hair, the beard grows. But yea, I just rock it out, you know? It’s fun. I like the beard. You grow fond of it and then you can’t really imagine it being gone.
GMNS: Yea, man. I can’t imagine having such an awesome beard. And I had one for awhile.
ZD: It’s a commitment.
GMNS: It is, man. It is.
ZD: Yea, it’s a commitment. It’s never been shaven, so it is what it is.
GMNS: What about your CD?
ZD: The new one coming out?
ZD: I think they’re saying it’ll be out in June, which is great, but it’s hard to describe. It’s a different sound. All my albums are a different sound. My first album’s got its own thing, second album’s got its own thing, and this one’s got its own sound, you know?
GMNS: What’s the sound, if you could describe it?
ZD: It’s kind of just organic soul you know? It’s really soulful, there’s more ballads on this album I ever did. I don’t think there ever was a ballad on an album before, and there’s probably like four ballads on this one, or five. And a lot of songwriter-esque songs, you know? Different songs that I wrote that I don’t even do live. It’s got a completely different… I would guess or say more mature feel to it.
GMNS: Is it less “jammy-groovy?”
ZD: Yea, it’s less jammy, for sure. It’s more focused on the songs. I mean, it still grooves. It still grooves. Even slow songs, to me, have to have some sort of groove to ‘em. But, yea. It’s more focused on the songs than, you know, everything else. And the way I record albums, I do ‘em so fast. You know, I book this time, I wanna do it with these guys, we’re going in and we’re gonna do it in ten days.
GMNS: Just like that?
ZD: Yea. Well, we recorded everything in three days. Then we did overdubs and extra vocals in one day. So everything was recorded in four days, and we did the mixing and mastering after that. So the whole process took I think nine days. Nine, maybe ten, but I’m pretty sure nine. Same thing with my last album. I recorded everything in four days, mixed everything in three days.
GMNS: So you just bang ‘em out then.
ZD: Yea. So I go in there, I don’t really over-think it, I don’t have the money to over-think it, you know? So I go in, I sing the songs, I never sing a song more than three times, you know? It’s very raw. I would love to spend time on an album, but I can’t so I just bang it out, you know? They’re always quickies for me. In and out. But this one’s really good, man. This is the most professional sounding record I’ve ever done, for sure.
GMNS: Yea, I’m looking forward to it, man.
ZD: Yea, me too. I’m excited about it. You know, it’s been in the can for like four months, so it’s cool. It’s been away from my ears so I don’t even know. I really anticipate seeing the reaction, cause every album has a reaction. It’s so funny. Like, there’s a lot of people that say, like, “Oh, the second album’s so great, so much better than the first one.” And there’s a lot of people, like, “I like your first album so much better than your second one,” you know? And, “Oh, I like them both.” You know everyone says they like ‘em both, but it’s so funny to see the reaction off different albums, you know? Different people really loving one more than the other, so I’m excited to see what happens with this one. Because I don’t really pick a sound and stick with it. The only gel to my music is the soul voice. Everything else is always interchangeable.
GMNS: So speaking of your music and your voice and everything, who would you cite as your big musical or vocal influences?
ZD: Um… Ray Charles, Bobby McFerrin, you know? I have to say Michael Jackson, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, stuff like that. Old soul stuff really speaks to me. I say that because that’s the stuff I listen to. Old country music, too. Like Hank Williams, stuff like that. I really get into that. The old stuff. I like old stuff. When music still had soul, you know? I don’t wanna dog out our generation, but music doesn’t have soul anymore.
GMNS: I’m with you on that one.
ZD: It lost what it once had, you know? It used to have just dry soul. Everything was just way more raw, you know? And we need that more. And that’s kind of how I make my albums, er, this album. There wasn’t, like, overdubs. We recorded everything as a band. And we created a sound as a band.
GMNS: This one was done with a band? It wasn’t a loop machine?
ZD: Uh huh. It’s done with a band, yea. Some great musicians, too.
GMNS: Anybody we would know?
ZD: I can’t remember anybody’s last name. Graham was my drummer and he plays with David Byrne, Al Cardy, the bass player, plays with Alicia Keys and Rob Thomas, Miles, my keyboard player, he’s awesome but he doesn’t play with any big names. Yea, so I just put together some really, really good New York cats. I recorded it in Brooklyn. It was good. I really liked my producer, Scott Jacoby. Really easy guy to work with. A lot of fun. It was an easy album. There was no stress involved, it was just easy-breezy. Walk in, walk out. My voice was gone the whole time. I had a sinus infection. So I sang the whole thing with a sinus infection. So, you know, it is what it is. But that;s why I like it, you know? It freezes moments in time. The songs are what’s important. That’s why you come to live shows. You hear songs and it’s like, wow that’s way different than the album, then you come to the next show and I don’t play anything that I played the night before, then you come to the next show and I play some of the songs you really wanted to hear again, and then they’re different than the version they heard that was different than the album. And they’re like “wow, this is crazy.” I think when people realize that, that’s when they start following me a lot. When they start realizing how different the shows go. How they can go in this direction, really deep in this direction, and how they can go really deep in that direction.
GMNS: That’s why you record your shows and put ‘em on your site, right?
ZD: Yea, just to show where they go. And to remember. I can flip myself out sometimes. I won’t remember songs sometimes and I’ll be like, “Whoa, when did this happen? This is crazy!” you know? So it’s cool to remember those moments and bring them back. Revisit them. Some weird things happen.