For those who are counting down the days, we are less than a month away from Resonance Music and Arts Festival. Resonance will take place September 19 -22 at Coopers Lake Campground in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. Once again, this is one we are going to be doing some in depth coverage for – so stay tuned for more interviews and coverage coming up. In the meantime, for more info on the festival check out their webpage and our prior coverage.
Earlier today, we had the opportunity to chat with Zach Deputy who will be performing at Resonance in just a couple weeks. When I was hanging with Mara at Railbird (in between our attempts to craft ridiculous hashtags and misread signs) we started bouncing bands and artists back in forth that we were really enjoying. Zach Deputy was one of the artists she brought up and I checked out his music straight away. According to Wikipedia, he has described his music style as “island-infused drum n’ bass gospel ninja soul.” He joins a growing group of genre bending musicians that border between rock and everything else. Israel Nash who we talked to earlier this year is another example, though with a bit more twang. Zach has a lot going on this summer. He just finished up his Flamingo Bingo Summer Tour, has some fun festivals coming up, and we hear that there might be new music coming soon!
Zach Deputy came highly recommended from friends and our conversation was a ton of fun and also definitely made me want to think about some things a lot more. After introducing myself and our fan centric coverage, I jumped right into questions.
I think I read somewhere that you are known to do 300+ shows a year. You just finished your Flamingo Bingo Summer Tour, have a ton of festivals coming up and we hear you have some new music coming this way. It sounds like you have a lot going on?
In response, Zach explains that he usually only looks at things about a week in advance and likes to play it by ear. I responded that I wish I could be that way – and he said that it is really important to him to have someone who is, but it sounds like he is more focused on staying in the moment. That’s a good lesson to follow. Especially for high strung people like me.
As far as all of his shows, Zach says: I used to be the most touring artist in the country in terms of how many shows I was playing. I used to play hundreds a year and 4 shows each Thursday. At some point, he reduced his shows down, but was still at around 300 hundred a year. He explained that when you are doing 300 shows and are touring, with travel and getting place to place you are really working every day – not just the 300 when you have shows. People always say they want to go on the tour, that they will go for free. I am so weird about bringing people along because it’s really hard. I don’t want them to get out there and two weeks in they are looking at me and they are miserable and want to go home. When you are on tour, he explains, things are very black and white – you go from feeling “really epically and can’t get any better to I can’t move my body for 12 hours. Your body eventually says hey buddy you need sleep.” One of the things Zach expressed during this part of the conversation was how it is such a “strange mental thing to make your passion, what you love, into your job“…because it can get to a point where it takes the fun out of it. One of the biggest things he advises people getting into the industry is about this feeling – for him, if it isn’t fun, if he isn’t enjoying it then he isn’t going to keep doing it.
Here Zach and I had a little side conversation – the gist of which was that when you take something you are passionate about and turn it into your job you sometimes burn out or things get weird because now it is work and not that fun. I explained that is something I have definitely confronted in taking my passion for festivals and turning it into work. I have to remind myself all the time at festivals that I am there, that I started doing this because it is supposed to be fun and to not forget that. I didn’t take a lot of notes at this point of the conversation because I was enjoying it – but still wanted to share a little bit of it with the readers. It is important not to lose your passion or to let things stop being fun, but to still take the work part seriously.
So…you are from South Carolina, but are now based out of Savannah. It is one of my favorite places and such a culturally rich city, do you feel like Savannah has shaped or shows through in your music?
I think so. Totally. Savannah is such an original city. There is really nothing like Savannah. It’s gone now, but I still remember – breaks out his best Southern Belle Voice – the Southern Belles. Just in my generation that is almost completely gone. Here Zach describes the deep Savannah drawl many of us southerners are so familiar with and how you hardly hear it anymore, and when you do it is only when someone is goofing around. The history he says, helps breed culture. Savannah is the only southern city not completely destroyed in the civil war. It still has an historic look.
It looks like you have a ton of experience playing festivals, what do you think the biggest difference is from the artist perspective of playing a festival vs. playing a standalone show?
I am at a level now where when I have a standalone show you have to pay maybe 20, 25 dollars to get in. So, if you know who I am…or if you aren’t sold on me you are going to show up. He explains that festivals provide the opportunity for people who are new to his music to get a chance to check it out, going on to explain that he “likes festivals because you can listen to all kinds of music. You can test music – music is meant to be tested, criticized so it can change based on the response of society. He also went on to explain his concerns about some parts of the festival industry that make him uncomfortable – the politics and in different words how it is less about art and enjoyment and more about money.
Have you had the opportunity to attend festivals as a fan, or after you are done playing and how has that experience been a part of your music or what has that been like?
I am not like most artists. As soon as I’m done with my show, I’m on the other side of the stage checking things out. He explains how he likes to find new or different artists and sounds he might not have heard before.
The whole reason I do this is I love people and love to interface with them, if there were no people I wouldn’t be playing music. When I was 13 it came to me, if I can get what is in my head out to the world that would be the coolest…to me, it is all about elevating talent and to fight the separation between fans and the artists.
When you get to a certain level, people want to see you as a mythical unicorn creature and if you destroy that you destroy part of your world view. I find it really uncomfortable to have someone elevating you…as people we just long to be understood on a real, genuine level, and you can’t have that” Zach says when you are just being held up in this different way, separate from the fans.
It’s very disappointing (the separation). I don’t really dress up like an artist. I am chilling on the Jam Cruise in sweat pants. Here he explains how disappointing it is when you are talking with someone and they treat you one way, and then “when they find out who you are they treat your differently” meaning when they realize you are in a band or a touring musician.
You mentioned what kind of came to you as a kid, at 13. On that same kind of theme, on your website, some of the information talked about when you were in your 20s and you had kind of a turning point, musically and creatively…can you talk to us a little about that decision and how it has impacted your music and creative process going forward?
In my 20s, I was with a band. I wasn’t the lead songwriter and to me all of the songs followed the same jam . . . the beat. . . looped and they were really long songs that I felt kind of followed the same…like I said before, if you aren’t having fun why are you doing it. I was trying to make everyone else happy and had a really different idea of where I thought the music was going. There wasn’t a fight or anything . . . I just decided I was going to go home and start over. I actually quit playing for at least a year because it wasn’t fun. I went back to remodeling houses and construction for over a year, but then I started going home every night as soon as I was done with work and playing music.
Zach describes getting a motivational speech from his dad – “If you are doing this (meaning construction and remodeling) in 10 years I’m going to punch you in the face.” That talk helped him realize it was time for a change, time to get back to what he loved.
Then Zach explains that for two weeks he was selling time shares and “fate kicked in” he had been trained to lie and he was talking with this old guy and realized that the company was having them lie. So he “literally walked to a bar . . . walked to the Brick Oven next door” where he heard a friend slam down the phone. She told him that the band she had booked cancelled last minute. He said “well I have my guitar in the car.” She let him play that night, gave him $200 bucks and told him he could come back the next week. At the time, explains his rent was only $300 so he thought if I can get one more I am good to go.
That following Wednesday, he went to a bar that he used to do open mics at and no one was playing. He asked the owner if he could play. Zach explains that there were like three people in the bar – but he played anyway. At the end of the night the owner gave me $75 bucks and asked me if I wanted to do every Wednesday.” Adding the $75 to what he had already earned, he only needed $25 more to make rent.
That definitely seems like something that would happen in a movie or a tv show. Just perfect time.
I had literally quit playing for over a year. It was so ridiculous. If I wouldn’t have tried to sell timeshares for two weeks I would never have walked over to the Brick Oven…We are all being nudged but we aren’t listening, including myself. We are all being pushed if you listen to your gut – not your mind you will hear it. In my life, if I trust my gut it works out, if I don’t it all goes to crap.
I think this is a good place to throw in my last question. Is there anything you would like fans to know about you or your music? I know that’s kind of open – so feel free to take it whatever direction you want. Funny, serious, totally random?
I am, and I believe all artists should be full spectrum. I am full of failures. Full of joy. Full of sadness. I seek to expose my own nakedness through song so that people know they are not alone. That’s why I want to be . . . why I don’t like the separation between artist and fan. It is the worst feeling for people to feel like no one understands them that no one gets them. I want them to realize they are not alone . . . realize that they are powerful enough.
That’s one of the biggest problems with idolizing. You aren’t just elevating them, you are demoting yourself. It is the artists job to say hey alright you can do this. With fake artists you get the opposite. You think that if you look like this or sound like this. If you are not being you and everyone likes you, do they really like you or do they like the character you created. If you are being yourself and someone gets it, you aren’t alone. It makes it better. The bravery, he explains, is in being yourself. Being himself – he hopes that he and others doing that are giving people the courage to be them. It doesn’t matter if everyone likes you, if you are being yourself and five people like you – then those five people really like, they get you – and that, he explains, is better than everyone liking some fake version of you.
That part about being yourself, not worrying about other people – I feel that the most at festivals. It’s sunny, people are having a good time, dancing and enjoying their friends. For me, there’s a moment at festivals I always think about – when the music is playing and you look over to the entrance and people who are just walking in hear it and they start dancing while they are walking. They are being themselves, without worry.
Exactly. At festivals we are socializing like we are supposed to be. We are supposed to be in groups to be like family. There is so much of what a festival is, he explains that is just the way things are supposed to be.
Every interview we have done this season has been awesome and unique. I think this is the interview that impacted me personally the most. People have been moving, people have been fun – but in talking to Zach, I really gained appreciation for the things that he appreciates and focuses on – that I probably should do a better job with. For example, I constantly have a calendar in front of me, I am worrying about the next this or that. I am worrying about what people think or wondering if they think I am weird. I am weird, but that’s what makes me who I am. I spend a lot of time worrying about how stressed out I am, but if I spent more time not worrying – just taking it one day at a time, I would probably be less stressed. It is also a good lesson to look at the hard things or the time life didn’t go the way you expected (like selling timeshares instead of playing music) and appreciate them for being part of your path, your journey, and not as something wrong or bad.
Ok. Ok. Enough heavy thoughtful introspective stuff. I was so grateful to grab some of Zach Deputy’s time today. We can’t wait to check out his show and say hi at Resonance in a couple weeks. For everyone out there – let us know if you have gone to Resonance or are going this year. We always love to engage with readers about their experience and would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments. Stay tuned for more fun info about Resonance coming soon. In the meantime, check out Zach Deputy and all his fun music!