Interview: Zach Deputy

Interview By: Jordan Kirkland - Live & Listen

Just last week, we had the opportunity to sit down with one of the most entertaining and unique musicians on the road, Zach Deputy, before his show at Smith's Olde Bar in Atlanta, GA.  Zach's concept of the "one man band" always brings new twists and turns for his loyal fan base, which showed up in the masses on Friday night.  Check out the full interview below for some of Zach's latest news, the story behind Zach Deputy's Disc Jam, and even a few thoughts on "boiled peanuts."

Since you began touring full-time in 2005, you have toured every corner of the country, and much of the world.  You have been a regular at festivals such as High Sierra, Mountain Jam, Gathering of the Vibes, and even on JamCruise.   How has your show progressed since 2005?  

ZACH: It's progressed in a lot of ways.  A lot of ways that I wouldn't even realize or recognize unless I went back and listened to the older stuff.  Things change within a month, and then other changes happen within a year.  A lot of the technical things have changed.  I think the sound has gotten way tighter over the years.  A bunch of new songs, and old songs phase in and out.  So I would say I've changed a lot, but my motto is to always change a lot.  So, I try to stay consistent with always being different.

With the amount of artists you have shared the stage with, both on tour and at festivals, there must be some amazing memories and stories.  Are there any stories from early on which fans might not be aware of? 

ZACH: There are so many stories that happen that let you know, "Ok, I'm supposed to play music for a living."  I was really shy when I was younger, and I didn't really play music in front of people.  I was a closet singer.  I wouldn't want to show anyone.  I guess I was a little embarrassed.  Until one day, I was on a cruise ship with my mom, and there was a talent show.  So I entered the talent show, and I had to drink a bunch of shots.  Of course, I wasn't allowed to drink because I was only 17, but I did it anyways.  So I took a bunch of shots and finally sang in front of people and got a standing ovation.  Not that it matters, because it was a cruise ship, but it was a really big crowd, probably 500-600 people.  So it was a huge confidence boost.  Before then, all I ever did was play guitar and back up other people.  I was too afraid to sing in front of other people, and that was the first time.   It was pretty cool.

(Zach Deputy - "Twisty Twisty" - Jam in the Van - 2012)

The positive, uplifting vibe of your music has always lured me in and given that “warm, fuzzy feeling” that you look for in music.  I have read that you best describe your music as "island-infused drum n' bass gospel ninja soul."  What artists have inspired your style the most over the years?  Where do you look for inspiration when writing new material?

ZACH: Well you know, I've been inspired by everything, good or bad, whether I like it or don't like it.  I've been exposed to a lot of things that I think most Americans aren't, especially when it comes to island music.  My grandma is from Puerto Rico and my mom is from Saint Croix, so I grew up to a lot of Soca, Calypso, and Afro-Cuban music.  But I really didn't find my sound until I quit listening to music.  I actually quit listening to anyone else's music period, for over two years, to try to find what I was hearing in my head.  When I would go write a song and try to work on something back then, I would try to go to the most quiet place ever.  I would try to not get inspired by another musician.  I wanted to be myself and find my song that was in my heart. 

So, it was a little bit of a different journey than most musicians when it came to finding my sound and deciding what I wanted to do.  I want to make everybody happy when I play, but I want to tickle my own fancy.  If I don't truly love it myself, I don't want to do it.  I don't want to be the puppet on the stage.  I would rather not be on the stage at all.  

Let’s talk about Disc Jam.  It’s no secret that you have a passion for disc golf, so much that you have developed your own festival surrounding it at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL.  When did you pick up the game, and how did this ultimately lead to the formation of full-fledged music festival?

ZACH:  I think I started playing about four to four-and-a-half years ago.  I was instantly hooked.  Once I played my second round, I knew this was what I wanted to do.  Ever since then, I've played rounds every week.  This week already, I've played six rounds of disc golf.  So I love it.  It's such a great balance being trapped in a car all of the time touring, or in a bus or plane, or wherever I might be, I always feel like a hamster in a cage.  I just want to get out, run, and do something.  Disc golf allows me to get out, run around like a kid for a few hours, and expel my energy so I can come back and feel good about sitting a bus again.  Through fantasizing I was like, "What if I could get paid to play disc golf and play music?"  Those are my two favorite things.  So Zach Deputy's Disc Jam is just a fantasy in real life.  One of those things where you think, "What if I could actually make this happen? Wouldn't that be awesome?"  So you say "what if" enough, and you just go for it.  This will be our 3rd Annual.  May 29th-31st at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL. 

(Zach Deputy covering The Police's  "Walkin' On The Moon" - Jam in the Van - Telluride Blues & Brews Festival -  2014)

It’s been three and a half years since the release of your third studio album, Another Day.  This album had more of a bluesy, rhythm and blues feel than your previous two (Out of the Water and Sunshine).  How much material have you written since Another Day?  Are there any current plans in place for your next album?

ZACH:  Yeah the next album should come out towards the year's end.  I've probably written six or seven albums worth a music since Another Day though.  But you know, I'm a live artist first and a recording artist second.  I prefer my heart to be experienced hand-on-hand.  I want people to get out of the comfort of their normal, every day life and come experience something first hand.  I do love to record albums and do it the traditional way, but I prefer people come out and see it in person.  But with that being said, I'm releasing an album later this year and have quite a few other things in the works.  It's gonna be with me and side project of mine called The Hashtags. 

We didn't even mean to make this album though.  It started as a 3-piece: me, Billy Carbone (drums), and Matt Zeiner (keys/left hand bass).  My buddy Matt has a studio and he invited us to come out for a couple days and see what happens.  And I did, and we made an album in two days, without even trying.  All of us really fell in love with it and decided to bring in a horn section.  It happened really naturally and organically.  I'm excited to release it.  It's another different side of me (Zach Deputy & The Hashtags).  Everything is always a different side of me.  In 2016, I'm going all gangster.  I'm gonna play nothing but shoot 'em up, bust 'em up, hip-hop.

(Photo by Live & Listen - Smith's Olde Bar - Atlanta, GA - 04.24.15)

The abundance of young talent and variety amongst the world of improve/jam rock continues to amaze me.  What is your opinion on the current state and future of this music scene?

ZACH:  I feel like any way that I put it, it's going to sound pessimistic on paper.  I mean, the music scene is right where it always was, except for now it's just way over saturated.  You know?  We're in a different place.  Hundreds of thousands of albums are released every year now, whereas there used to be more like a thousand albums released each year.  There's so much stuff out there right now, and I believe a lot of people have lost faith in live music, simply because they tried it once and didn't like it.  

It's kind of like boiled peanuts, since we're from the South.  If you're from the South, you like boiled peanuts, because you've been around boiled peanuts long enough to know that there are great boiled peanuts, and there are really freakin' horrible boiled peanuts.  When someone hasn't seen enough boiled peanuts, and they come in and get a soggy, moist, mushy, stinky boiled peanut in their mouth, for their first boiled peanut, they are probably going to say they don't like boiled peanuts.  You know...boiled peanuts being live music.  And I think there are a lot of soggy boiled peanuts out there....wink wink, hunch hunch.  I think that one wrong experience can rub people the wrong way.  

I feel like people were trained in the 90's to idolize musicians, instead of treating them like human beings with a great talent.  As a result, people almost don't want great musicians as much as they want idols, and I don't believe in idols.  I believe if you have any idols in your life, that's stupid.  Cut that shit down.  I don't care who it is.  If you're putting them larger than life, or larger than a man or a woman, then stop it.  It should be about the music and not about the illusion.

(Photo by Live & Listen - Smith's Olde Bar - Atlanta, GA - 04.24.15)

For More Information on Zach Deputy:

Zach Deputy: Official Website

Zach Deputy Facebook

Zach Deputy: Instagram