Zach Deputy wants you to buy his new album, Another Day, for your mom this holiday season. "This is the album you take home and play when you get the fireplace out and just hang out with family, you know?" explains the Hilton Head native. "It's definitely got a whole R&B feel. That's what I listen to, so I was really happy to do it. I think for some of my fan base, they're like, 'What is this?'"
But longtime Deputy fans should not be alarmed. Another Day is as full of danceable grooves as ever. It stands out for one simple factor: These 10 tracks are noticeably absent of the sampled guitar and vocal loops so integral to his live show.
Instead of beat-boxing his own rhythms, Deputy hired a world-class band of New York session players with experience backing up everyone from Aretha Franklin to De La Soul and Jay-Z.
"There's definitely not that much soloing or jamming on this record," explains Deputy. "It's all about the songs."
Developing a career around looped beats and progressions has its perks, allowing the guitarist to work a crowd into a dancing frenzy all by himself, but it can be a hindrance as well. Deputy had handfuls of ballads and multipart songs he wanted to perform on stage, but they didn't translate well into a loop show.
"The majority of these tunes I don't play live," says Deputy. "When you make a loop, you record a chord progression, and if a song has multiple chord progressions, you have to make multiple loops. It can be two-and-a-half or three minutes before I've got the song up and rolling."
Beginning in February, Deputy plans to tour with a full band, allowing him to perform ballads like "You Don't Even Love That Girl" and Another Day's title track. The album's second song, "By Your Side," wears its Stevie Wonder influence prominently, while "Remember" may be the polished pop song that finally gets the touring and festival workhorse onto FM radio.
When the simplified focus of Another Day came into light, producer Scott Jacoby — a Grammy Award winner who has worked with John Legend, Vanessa Hudgens, Naturally 7, and many others — said to Deputy, "Let's make a Ray LaMontagne kind of record." It's an apt comparison. Even those familiar with Deputy's dynamic range will be taken aback by the lounge-singer-style of the disc closing "Tagalong."
"I played Jacoby one of my ballad songs and he was like, 'Holy shit. Do you have any more songs like that?'" recalls Deputy. "I played seven songs in a row, and he said, 'This is the album we're going to make.'"
Ironically, Another Day is an album that would have been more convenient to record back in 2009, when Deputy's trailer full of instruments and equipment was stolen in New Jersey, just days before he entered the studio for the Sunshine sessions. Charleston fans chipped in to help cover his staggering losses, but Deputy says he still hasn't fully recovered or paid off the loans he acquired to purchase new gear.
"I was going in to record Sunshine, and it was like the world was just crumbling," says Deputy.
Despite that lingering loss, the resulting album helped project Deputy to a level of national popularity far beyond the days when he held down a weekly gig at O'Malley's on King Street.
These days, when Deputy plays at the Pour House, he's usually quick to head home to Hilton Head to his girlfriend (the subject of one of Another Day's most upbeat songs, "Sweet Rene") and his 3-year-old daughter.
"I miss home," Deputy says wistfully, getting in the car to head from Ohio to Ann Arbor, Mich., last week. "Sometimes I drive home after a show even if I'm eight hours away."
With a sound steering more toward Rev. Al Green and Ray Charles than an endless dance party, maybe he'll start getting some earlier gigs, making that drive easier. Maybe you can even invite your mom.