It’s a 2016 tour stop somewhere in Pennsylvania. Zach Deputy has the audience jiving to his one-man funk-jam show. Deputy plays the last tune, exits the stage, and an icon is standing there. It’s The Prime Minister of Funk, George Clinton, who says with a smile, “Hey! You dat boy playing up there on that thing? Funky as shit!” This was Deputy’s fourth time playing on the same bill as one of his heroes, but the duo's first chat.
“You can’t really say you know someone until you’ve had a conversation,” Deputy tells the Observer. “And George Clinton and I had a nice talk that night. Yeah, that was good.”
Deputy now has a house in Savannah, Georgia, but up the road about 20 miles across the state line and into the South Carolina Lowcountry is his actual home. This region spans about 90 miles from Charleston down to Hilton Head Island. It’s a marshy stretch along the coast dotted with more than a hundred sea islands. Folks here wear flip-flops and Croakies to keep their Costa Del Mar polarized sunglasses from falling off. They spend hot summer days playing golf or out on the boat catching redfish. A group of Hilton Head bars known as the “Barmuda Triangle” fill up at night. Deputy soundtracked the scene eloquently.
“The Barmuda Triangle or Reilley's Plaza is really a square, but they call it a triangle," Deputy says. "This is where my career started.”
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Small crowds became legendary Hilton Head parties, and Deputy sharpened his sword. He plays alone with a special synth guitar that can sound like anything from a regular guitar, bass or trumpet. He also has a drum pad that he plays with his fingers. There are two microphones — one synthesized, making it two mics with five lines. He mixes everything on the fly and can be his own backup singer. It’s a salt life ode to the Lowcountry with a funk, jamming, soul and beatbox collective. There isn’t a plan. He takes the stage, releases from the soul and paints a picture with sound.
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“As a kid I was a bedroom singer for a long time. I’d be singing in my room alone, and someone would knock and ask if it was me singing and I’d shy up and say no. And I remember riding with my dad in his truck and seeing the happiness he experienced listening to music,” he adds. “I want to do that to people.”
Deputy has a new unreleased five-track EP, which may or may not make Thursday night’s set list. There will not be a script when he takes the stage at Gas Monkey Bar N' Grill as part of his 40-show Flamingo Bingo Summer Tour. Deputy came out of pocket to mix and master the EP, but the question now is distribution.
“The record industry is going in so many directions. I get emails every week from various record companies with different ways for distributing the EP. I don’t even know what some of this stuff means,” he laughs. “But I do know this. People at my shows smile and have happy feet.”