An Interview: Zach Deputy
J-man: I talked to you after a show last July I believe it was, in Ann Arbor, MI. We talked about your van with all of your equipment being stolen. We talked about your purchase of an RV and it breaking down. We also talked about how you barely made it to that show in Ann Arbor, due to a break down. Here it is eight months later and we find you in a similar position. Having cancelled several tour dates, due to more car trouble. What’s going on with all of this? How does it effect you?
Zach: (Laughs) You know at this point, it’s like I’m so used to it. I’ve never had to cancel a show because of my car breaking down until this week, which was really a bummer. You know, to let down that many people really sucks. But I’ve almost gotten used to it because I’ve had so much car trouble. In this truck that I have now, I’ve replaced the engine, the transmission and pretty much everything else that’s in the engine body. You know? So I’m use to it. So basically, I think when most people break down they start cursing and yelling… Uh, when I break down I just kind of laugh and say “Here we go again!”
J-man: You’ve had a heavy touring schedule for the past couple of years, playing upwards of 300 shows a year. How hard is living and playing on the road and what are some of the things that you really enjoy about it?
Zach: Well, I really enjoy the shows and when I see a bunch of people smiling and having a good release from the day to day grind of life, you know? That’s the highlight of it all for me. Um, but driving an average six or seven hours a day is always a grueling task, you know? Just making sure we get there is always a grueling task… The load in, the load out… It just never stops, you know? It’s huge up and huge downs when you’re on the road, you know? It’s a rollercoaster ride… I don’t think anybody in the world tours as much as I do.
J-man: Yeah, I can’t believe how many dates you do in a year. Do you ever get a chance to slow down and do you have a place that you call home?
Zach: Um… You know, I guess I’d call home… Hiltonhead, South Carolina or Savanah, Georgia. That area is my home and always has been. But, I don’t know about having a chance to slow down. We plan to have a chance to slow down in the future at some point.
J-man: I’ve seen you play to small crowds in tiny clubs to Large festival crowds. How does that experience differ for you, and which do you find to be more satisfying?
Zach: You know, it’s not always about the quantity. A lot of times it’s about the quality. It’s like for me; it’s all about having a good show. It’s not like “Oh cool, I’m playing in front of ten thousand people right now.” If I’m playing in front of fifteen people, and we are vibing together as the artist and the audience and we’re having a great time, then that’s all that I really need. A lot of times I like the shows because you get to know the whole audience. The last small show that we played; we decided to play Super Bowl Sunday in Chicago, which is not a bright idea you know?
Zach: … There was probably only a hundred people there. So it ended up being very intimate, you know? It kind of ended up being a comedy show. We were just telling jokes and going crazy… and talking to the audience. It was kind of like a release form the machine of “Zach Deputy Dance Party”.
J-man: You play a lot of “unscheduled” sets both at music festivals and following concerts/shows. Be it in the campgrounds, or on the steps of a library; Do you consider yourself a rebel on the music scene, or more a man of the people?
Zach: (Laughs) I have almost been arrested on a number of occasions for pushing the envelope. So I guess I always considered myself a rebel. I’ve tried to set up and play illegally many times, in different places. Um… You just hope all goes well, you know? But, I think those last minute impromptu shows, that nobody even knows are going to happen; a lot of the times are the best. You know, they just have the most live feeling to it. People feel like because they stumbled across it, that it was meant to be and it was a very special, special thing. So I always love doing shows like that… But they are not always legal.
J-man: You so often play solo, but if given the chance to put together your own “super jam” set at a Festival; who would you play with and why?
Zach: … Super Jam: on drums; Adam Deitch. On Bass; Victor Wooten. On Hammond B-3; Medeski. I would need a conga player, and I would get Alex Acuna (from Weather Report). Then I’d need a rhythm guitarist (Laughs). Let me think who I’d want to make play rhythm guitar for me (Laughs). Probably someone who shouldn’t be playing rhythm guitar. So that works out for a super jam. But I’d like to have that, and I’d also get three really super hot chicks to sing Back-up.
Zach: (Laughs) They’d have to be able to sing really good and look really good. I would also need… I would probably steal Lettuce’s horn section.
J-man: Yeah, the Shady Horns.
Zach: Yeah, I need some horns to get funky.
J-man: Often times I hear people draw comparisons between you and Keller Williams. I can only assume it’s because of the looping. How do you view Keller Williams and what he’s doing? Also, how does your music differ from his?
Zach: Well, our music is a completely different genre, in general. It’s a completely different approach. You know, I think people in general… They scramble for ways to describe things, you know? Especially things that they can’t describe. What I do is very hard to describe, you know? To put it in words is tough. Pretty much every single night at the end of the show I have ten people say “How do you explain what you do to people?” The only reason they ask is because they can’t explain it… and you know Keller Williams, in the circle of what we’re doing was the first person to get known for doing the looping. He wasn’t the first person to do the looping, but he was the first person to get known for doing it in the jamband circle. Since I do the looping and people are trying to explain what I do to other people, the name Keller Williams always comes up. But Keller Williams… He plays like jammy, fun, happy music, which is really cool stuff, I dig it. I play kind of more rootsy… roots music with a loop machine. You know, roots and world music and more soul than he does. So I just think, the loop machine is basically an instrument and whoever plays it brings it to life. I’m sure the first time the guitar was invented, somebody was like “Whoa that instrument is awesome!” and there is one guy playing it and everybody knows his name… Say his name is “Keller Williams.” Then this other guy comes along playing the guitar and plays it completely different, but nobody knows any reference to what it is other than “Keller Williams”. So, they’re like “What does that guy do?” “Well he does that thing like Keller Williams, but way different.” Because they don’t have words to describe what they’re seeing, because the guitar hasn’t been around long enough. I think in about five years or so the loop machine will be pretty much common knowledge in every household. So people will just look at it as music, instead of like, you know; kind of like slobbering over the loop machine.
J-man: Is it tough to make a name for yourself, being the second man on the scene?
Zach: No, not at all. I mean; I’m growing as fast as you can possibly grow, you know? Pretty much everywhere I have been, the numbers are definitely getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger, very fast. So I haven’t had any trouble developing. I mean, I have only been touring for about two years and three months. So basically in the last two years it’s been like going from zero to sixty.
J-man: How did you get involved with Bear Creek and how does someone like yourself obtain so many sets at a festival like that?
Zach: Well, you know, like Bear Creek was the second festival that I ever did. Nobody knew who I was the first time that I played Bear Creek. The whole reason I played Bear Creek was because Lyle Williams, who throws Bear Creek, personally knows me. He use to live out in Hiltonhead and use to see me play. So, Lyle’s known and seen me play, and kind of grown and blossom since, you know, I started doing my thing. And he gave me the chance to play Bear Creek. So it was kind of like Bear Creek was more of a fate thing. I just kind of like knew the right people. At the time I couldn’t go to any festival and say “Hey, I’m Zach Deputy, I want to play.” They’d be like “Zach who?” So it was pretty cool, and I’m pretty much signed on to play Bear Creek for the rest of my life. Because of the people who throw it, I am personally invested in their success as well.
J-man: Yeah, I love the spirit of Suwannee Music Park.
Zach: It’s the greatest!
J-man: What festivals will you being playing this spring/summer?
Zach: (Laughs) I know a lot of them, but I’m not allowed to say (Laughs). Not until they make the official release, you know, for the spring and summer…
J-man: Well, it was worth a try…
Zach: Yea, (Laughs) Let’s put it this way… I’m playing every single festival that I really wanted to play… other than Bonnaroo. We’re playing a ridiculous amount of festivals this year. But I am not at liberty to say.
J-man: Fair enough.
Zach: But the dates will be announced pretty soon!
J-man: When I say favorite musician of all time; what pops into your head?
Zach: Um… Ray Charles, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Bobby McFerrin. Those are the ones that really… You know, have been in my life the most out of all other artists.
J-man: Thanks for your time Zach.
Zach: Awesome, awesome. Good talk J. Take care, bud.
Zach will be releasing live tracks on his website every Thursday. Every third Thursday of the month he will be releasing a studio single. So be sure to check that out and sign up for his newsletter!
Special Thanks to Rex Thomson for taking the time to do a free photo shoot With Zach Deputy. The rest of the shoot can be seen here: Zach Deputy Photo Shoot By Rex Thomson.
Check out all of Rex's photos here: Rex Thomson's Gallery on FestivalFamily.com