Zach Deputy on His Live Performances: "I'm Still Just Winging It"

Zach Deputy, a festival, jam band, and music-that-makes-you-feel-good scene institution, will bring his one-man act to Funky Buddha Lounge tonight. If you've never been to one of his concerts, be warned: It's impossible not to have a dopey grin on your face while simultaneously stamping your feet throughout the entirety of the set. His vibe is completely and totally infectious. 

Deputy's stage presence is unparalleled, and unrivaled at that, because he is the only musician up there. Armed with a guitar, he snuggles himself into a cocoon of synths, microphones, loop machines, and pedals, emitting a sound so powerful one can hardly believe it's coming from just one man. Through each song, multi-layered guitar picking and beat-boxing steadily loops and gains momentum and pounds beneath soaring, soulful vocals in a funkadelic delight that has brought him legions of fans over the years. 

I caught up with the funkadelic delight at home in Georgia on Tuesday, and he took a break from playing Hungry Hungry Hippos with his daughter to talk shop. 

New Times: How was your Thanksgiving? 

Zach Deputy: It was great, because I got to go see my mama. I was actually at home for the first time in four years, so I got to go eat with my mom and see my brother and his family. 

What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish? 

I like it all. But this year, my mom asked me what I wanted and I said, "I'd really like you to make fried chicken instead of turkey." And that's what she did. There's nothing better than my mother's fried chicken... I gotta get it when I can get it, ya know?

There's also a bunch of standards at my house: Macaroni n' cheese, mashed potatoes, candied yams, banana pudding, and broccoli casserole. But we did something crazy this year and had fried chicken. It was cool, because I had thanksgiving without the comatose feeling from the turkey. I kept on waiting to pass out, but it didn't happen. Turkey is all right and all, but I knew that the fried chicken would be... on point.

So there wasn't any chicken pot pie at Thanksgiving? Is it your mom's recipe that you sing about [in the popular song, "Chicken Pot Pie"]?

Well, I originally wrote that song more out of frustration because the only thing to eat at my mom's house was chicken pot pie. It was not because I liked it. This particular chicken pot pie which inspired that song, had been in the freezer for a questionable amount of years. We never actually knew how long it had been there. That chicken pot pie watched me grow up. 

Last time I was at my parents' place, I used 12-year-old caramel to bake brownies. 

Doesn't caramel get better with age?

So, are you always billed as the live entertainment at Thanksgiving? My sister is a classically-trained soprano, and the whole family always makes her serenade us with opera tunes. Not that she minds in the slightest. 

[Laughs.] No, my family's funny, they don't wanna hear me sing, they've heard enough of that! The last time I came home, it was my grandma's birthday and they did make me serenade her then. But my brother's a great singer, too, so there's a lot to go around. Supply and demand, ya know?

About your most recent album, Another Day. Kudos, first of all. Second of all, I read about the musicians that came into the studio with you to record it. Do you usually work with a band while you're recording?

Actually, most of my albums have been recorded with a band, mostly just because I can't afford to take the time to go in there and play every instrument, so I hire people to come in and play the parts. 

What about touring? Would you ever be inclined to bring a band along?

I have in the past, and it could happen. The difference is that there's a lot more forethought put into it. I actually have to think about what's going to happen during the set. Most of the time when I play solo, I just walk out onstage with my guitar and just start doing whatever.

I think it's safe to say that's working for you so far..

I started winging it when I was 17, and here I am still winging it. The crowds are gettin' bigger, and the venues are gettin' bigger, but I'm still just winging it. 

So, I was at Bear Creek a couple weeks ago...

Oh, that's literally my favorite festival. I like the people that go there, and I love the music that comes there. Just everything falls into place.  

I watched those two young lovebirds get engaged at your Saturday afternoon set. How did that all go down?

Well he contacted me asking about it, but I had to do some background checks to make sure he wasn't a creep. [Laughs.] So I Facebook stalked him, and he seemed legit, so I agreed to make it happen. You know, a lot of my music is about love, so if I could help facilitate someone getting married, I thought that was great. 

We planned out the logistics of it, and it ended up being pretty cool. However, I couldn't hear a thing the whole time so I wasn't sure what was going on. But after he got down on one knee, and then they started making out, I knew that was my cue to start playing music again. 

Zach Deputy on His Live Performances: "I'm Still Just Winging It"

Has anything else like that happened at one of your shows? Spontaneous declarations of love, major life announcements, the Second Coming?

I wouldn't even know where to start. People are crazy, and people are awesome. I could sit around talking for days about how crazy people are, and how awesome people are. I seem to attract them both. It's definitely an odd thing; the bigger I get, the more extreme weirdness I see.

As for the romance, people are always telling me that they met at my show and fell in love, stuff like that. In fact, I get like 150 offers a year to play weddings. I usually end up doing about 15 per year. I have to keep it under control.

There was a point, for about five or six years that I was doing 300-plus shows a year. My priorities have definitely changed as a human being, especially as my daughter is getting older, and I want to spend more time at home. So last year I cut that show amount in half, and we're still paying all the same bills as before. But I managed to break even, which is great. After spending so many years not breaking even, I can't complain. 

You know, it's phenomenal to look at where you've been, and where you are today. This past weekend, I sold out at a venue in Atlanta and I remember playing the exact same venue several years ago and there were four people in it, and one was my dad and one was my sister. So playing the same venue now where there are significantly more audience members, and half of them aren't my immediate family, is pretty awesome. 

Last question: What do you want for Christmas, Zach Deputy?

I have everything I want. I don't really like the presents thing on Christmas, because it blinds people to what's supposed to be going on during the holidays. All of the things I've wanted and asked for, thank God, have been given to me, and I'm grateful. 

[Laughs.] Unless somebody wants to buy me a bunch of light show equipment.

Zach Deputy will play at 9 p.m. Thursday, November 29, at the Funky Buddha Lounge and Brewery, 2621 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Tickets cost $12. 

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