Steve Deaton teaches English at Belhaven College and Holmes Community College. He also gives guitar lessons at Morrison Brothers. It doesn't take too much imagination to see all of this when I meet him: He's got the English teacher look all over him, although maybe a cooler English teacher than most of us might have had. What might not be so obvious is that every so often, he and his band Buffalo Nickel like to rock out Jackson audiences and make great records.
Deaton, 35, came to Jackson from Decatur, Miss., to earn his Master's in English at Mississippi College. That was 11 years ago, and he has no interest in leaving anytime soon. While still in graduate school, Deaton was teaching and playing solo gigs at Hal & Mal's until the solo act became an acoustic trio, and the trio became a five-piece country-rock band that sounds like "Sweetheart of the Rodeo"-era Byrds collided with the best of Southern Rock.
Though the band has gained fame in the Mississippi area and beyond, Deaton was especially reluctant to sign any record contracts that might have them moved from Mississippi.
"It seemed like a good way to break up the band," Deaton tells me, laughing. "I think that's kind of a myth, that you have to be in a music city. What we've found when we go to other towns is that being from out of town is a real plus."
The band's been through publicists who've promised to get their songs on the radio and nationwide exposure, with minimal results. "You get on the radio once and someone might hear you and not hear the band's name. And a lot of them will play (our songs) anyway is what we found out."
Deaton couldn't be happier to stay in Jackson and recording in his home studio whenever he and the band feel like it. He points to one of his favorite bands, San Francisco's Red House Painters, as an example of a band who stayed in their hometown and grew a nationwide following without even bothering to tour.
"Touring nationwide is inefficient for what we want," Deaton tells me. "We don't want to be superstars; we just want people to hear our music. I don't want to be in any other bands. I want to be playing with these guys when I'm 50 or 60 years old. It'll be a miracle if we can make it that long, but I think this is the way
to do it."