We met Zack Seemiller more than twenty years ago when he first arrived on the island. His rock band, Grooveyard, was a Friday night favorite at the Green Parrot, the band had gorgeous sunkissed groupies, and Zack was living somewhere between a bee farm on Big Pine, and his tour van parked at Jabour’s Campground–a renowned camping spot in the heart of Old Town across Lazy Way from the Schooner Wharf, now a posh--if a bit stale--boutique hotel.
Zack mounted a solo career after Grooveyard disbanded, and has since released a handful of solo albums, raised two boys, and nearly paid-off his perfectly located classic conch house at the corner of Southard and Francis.
Working thirty to forty hours a week on stage in Key West over the past twenty-five years has been Zack’s master class in human observation. “After the fifth or sixth year, I had to make a commitment to experiment more onstage to entertain myself. Otherwise, I was on the road to burn-out.” Living at the center of Key West’s relentless bar scene, Zack quit drinking, and took-up comedy. (For Real) Seriously.
We sat down with the rock star comedian to see what he still loves about the Key West Life after all these years.
Do you think you’ll ever leave Key West, move somewhere else?
“No. I’ve been here thirty-years. I don’t do traffic anymore. There’s nowhere else where I can make a great living like this, as a musician, an entertainer. The weather is perfect. I put my guitar in the bag, hop on my bike, and peddle four blocks to my gig. Entertain people for a few hours, and walk a block to my next gig. This is the best life I’ve ever lived! I’m not going anywhere.”
What’s it like raising two boys in Key West?
“It’s a challenge . . . but it’s been a blessing. I have a 21 year-old son and a 17 year-old son. One’s a saint, the other, at the moment, I want to punch through a wall.”
What’s your favorite time of year in Key West?
“Probably May. Because of the weather, but also that’s when the night blooming Cereus seem to be out in full force. And I love cruising home late at night on my bike, smelling that bloom on every other block in Old Town.”
What are you reading these days?
“Charles Bukowski is my favorite poet, so I’m always going back to his stuff.”
Speaking of favorite poets, being a performer, who’s your favorite songwriter?
“Harry Chapin. Harry Chapin is my favorite . . . just because of his humanity and activism, but also James Taylor, Jim Croce . . . all the folk singers, even Jimmy Buffett. He’s in there.”
So tell us about your comedy act, or how you integrate comedy into your performances.
“Well . . . it’s mostly circumstantial. Based on who’s in the crowd. I interact with the crowd. And I also have some alter egos I’ve been working on. There’s Orlando–a handsome Latin man from Miami, who performs Cuban music. And then there’s Chevy Chestnuts, who’s my country & western personality. I use him for the songs I’m embarrassed to admit writing. Songs like . . . ‘That’s my Tooth,’ ‘How Can I Love You If You’re Not Laying Down,’ and ‘My Couch Pulls-out, But I Don’t.’ I’ve got a new one I’m working on called ‘Trailer Swift.’ Some people love the comedic parts of my show, others not so much. That’s why I use the alter ego, Chevy Chestnuts. It’s a lot of fun. Keeps me entertained”
In his early fifties, Zack resembles a youngish Captain Tony. We asked him if people notice the resemblance.
“No. But I have a great Captain Tony story. On Captain Tony’s ninetieth birthday, I played his party over at Salute on the beach, and Captain Tony looks over at me, and he says,
‘hey Zack . . . what’s your name again?”
That’s a true story.
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