FEATURE: Zach Deputy
Zach Deputy’s sound is indeed his own. He didn’t set off to study or play a style of music, didn’t form a band, and didn’t listen to naysayers - he merely made shit up. That may sound oversimplified, but this fact is truly the least common denominator in Deputy’s story. As a child, when Deputy was teaching himself to play guitar and sing, his repertoire was improvisational from the start. When a family member would ask Deputy to “play something,” he didn’t whip out a basic version of a Beatles tune he learned from a songbook, but instead, he made up an original song on the spot. Over a decade after releasing his first solo album, Deputy has stayed true form. He still makes shit up.
As a child, Deputy spent a lot of time at his Grandmothers house, which was filled with the calypso and soca sounds of her island heritage. Deputy immediately fell in love with the music he was surrounded by, his grandmother took notice, and she started educating him. “My grandma used to make me calypso mixtapes,” shared Deputy in a recent interview with GrassRoots Gazette. “That was our connection”. Deputy also stated that these mixtapes influenced him more than any album made by another musician. According to Deputy, he fell in love with calypso because “There was so much more joy in that music than what was going on on the radio”. That joy is present in Deputy’s sound as well.
Those mixtapes Deputy’s grandmother made laid a solid foundation for Deputy’s musical path. So did hip-hop from the 1990s. “Growing up in the 90s in a trailer park in South Carolina, everybody could beatbox and rap,” explained Deputy. “So we always did freestyle rapping growing up. I just adopted techniques of hip hop into all these other styles of music”. So, when Deputy was asked to play a song, and he just made something up on the spot, he was using the language of rap freestyling, but applying it to whatever styles of music he wanted to. “If the song had a chorus I could adlib everything else,” said Deputy.
Deputy’s island vibe, freestyle lyrics, live looping, and multi-instrumental one-man-band kind of approach has allowed Deputy to do whatever he has wanted and produced albums that often have a multitude of musical styles and approaches. “When I started making albums like I did, that were all over the place; it wasn't a thing,” Deputy shared. “I was told I couldn't do that, but it’s what I did”. At the time, there weren’t many artists putting that much diversity within single songs or on the same album. Now it is commonplace and encouraged. Deputy started off doing something no one else did and laid the groundwork for other artists to build on. Although his albums are mostly “all over the place” according to Deputy, his 2011 release Another Day was an album filled with soul music, proving that Deputy can have a singular focus, create an entire album of one genre of music, and write “traditional” songs as well as freestyle and adlib.
Now, Deputy is working on a new approach, which essentially are mixtapes of his own. “I really like approaching different styles and have made albums that were kind of all over the place,” explained Deputy. “I decided I am going to start making EP’s instead of albums, and focusing on a specific style or genre, that way I can have my cake and eat it too. When I get on a kick, I can sperate out songs that gel together. I am working on a series of EP’s called Z Dep’s (Zach Deputy EP’S). That way I can go in any direction I want, and the final product is more listenable,” Deputy said.
Deputy’s approach hasn’t changed when he records a single song, but it has when releasing the final product. If he feels like writing a song or two in a particular style, he does so and may move on to something that sounds different. He records songs separately, with no specific goal or album set for each song, and then extracts tunes that fit together and gives us a mixtape of his creations - which come off as if he sat down and wrote an entire album in a particular style. “It feels way more artistic,” divulged Deputy. “I just set out to record whatever I want. I record for fun and put the pieces together”.
Deputy is tackling all corners of the music world with his new ZDEPS. “I am finishing an island EP; it has some West African tones, some reggae songs, and some calypso songs on it,” said Deputy. “I am sending that off to the mastering house today. It should be coming out this summer. Then I have a country/soul album coming out at the end of the year. I didn’t set out to do either of those albums; I just let the music happen”. According to Deputy, it sounds like his EP project will run deep, “I plan on doing a bunch of these and going all over the place with it. Soul, funk, straight up Americana, whatever”.
Deputy has achieved what most artists desire - real creative freedom. Since Deputy’s sound was forged on its own, and he didn’t mimic or stick to a particular genre of music, he left every door open for himself. He also can tackle any musical style. His frivolous, carefree and wildly creative approach has brought joy to listeners for over a decade - and obviously provided a mountain of happiness for Deputy - which is highly visible anytime he steps on stage. - By Brian Turk
Zach Deputy will be performing at Spring 2019 Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance Friday, May 3rd at 11pm on the Meadow Stage. Buy Tickets Here.