Thursday, June 30, 2016

On Sunday night we put together a show at PORT in New Orleans.  The space had no roof and was high enough to bring the van in and set up a make shift camp sight.  Doors were at 7:00 which meant we had to get there at 4 to properly set up everything and make sure the space had just the right vibe. When we got there the sun was burning down on us in the hot June stillness but I knew it was going to be worth it once the night began to fall and the swamp projections became visible on the wall.  

Raja Kassis joined us for the evening on guitar after having only one rehearsal.  We had some nice musical moments that went along with the swamp scenes behind us.  My favorite thing is having a vision and seeing it through.  There's so many details that go into putting on your own shows.  If you forget one little cable or adapter it could make a huge difference.  I don't really get nervous for shows anymore but I do have a lot on my mind the day of trying to make sure all my bases are covered.  

This is why I like playing in non music venue kind of places.  This scene is not like anything you've ever seen.  We don't play on a stage above the audience.  We don't disappear backstage after the show.  Everything is out in the open.  

Chris Rose has become a dear friend.  He heard me last year at a Katrina event and has loved my music ever since.  He was there with his friend Lori Kramer who took all of these pics.  I remember getting to know Chris' writing during Katrina.  Every morning he'd have an article on the front page.  He was reporting from the scene every night.  No electricity, looters and guns everywhere.  It's hard to imagine that our city lived through that and we came out the other side and got back on our feet. It's nice to be appreciated by a guy like him. 

I'm very excited about sound right now.  I've been practicing a lot of guitar lately and exploring new sounds.  I have a new Roland JC40 coming soon that will be small enough to fit in the van and big enough to beef up my sound a bit.  Raja is used to playing African music and was excited at the chance to play music with so much space.  Two weeks ago he was in Morocco playing to a large festival crowd and on this night in front of 50 people seated watching every note.  During the intermission he told me how different it was for him to play in this way but he sounded great.  

The best door man in New Orleans, Jacques.

This was Margaret Hebert's first show since breaking her wrist and first show playing a Nord Electro. I've been wanting her to explore more sound design and move away from the piano and the vintage Wurlitzer we've been using.  She was very brave to get up there and play.  Many people were seeing her for the first time and she barely had use of her right hand.  We expected that something good would come out of her injury and due to the limitations we discovered more ambience and space with the Electro.  

It was nice to play an ambient show in New Orleans and have people come out and buy tickets.  This gives me great hope for my future in New Orleans and sends me out on the road feeling good about doing things on my own with no label.  Happy Trails!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ode to Time

the richest man is he who carries understanding in his heart and
the most virtuous is he who extends that understanding to another being
we're in a world who's quivering and wavering with question
i've been blessed with the precious gift of time
and i see kings with false notions of our possibilities 
i hear only one voice
all kings sitting highest on the mountaintop eventually cannibalize themselves
man's lust is a dirty whore
i've been charmed and repelled by ms. america
and i'm free of her bondage now 
and know my country and its beauty is going to come from me
my america is a blank canvas and shall plant the seeds around me
no matter what soil i lay my bare feet
thanks to god
to the god of all nations
for i've been blessed with time 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Cafe Windows....

I'm no longer seeing the world through the cafe window.  Well sometimes I am but at least now I'm out in the world as my true self again.  I love cafes and looking out the window on a rainy day.   When I get to Paris I could spend hours in the window, gazing at the scene and thinking and living off of bread.  I like eating simple and cheap and nourishing myself with culture.  Seems like the only thing that matters to me these days is staying on a path of growth.  It could be musically, artistically but mostly as a human.  Understanding is everything in this world, even today.  With all the modern devices, we are as confused as ever.  Fulfillment in simplicity, is what I'm after.  Sustainability. We need to go on a "fear of missing out" diet and get back to the essence of life.  


It sounds simple but stripping oneself down to the core is a life long journey and there are so many things tugging at us to make us think contentment lies in a product.  When I look at the Grand Canyon, I feel small and  feel our time here is but a speck in time.  It's healthy to feel these sort of things. It's better to look death in the face.  How else are you going to hear her secret.  Time is precious.

I was scared to hit the road again.  Scared that I might actually find what I was looking for.  Is that crazy?  It's true, many people shoot themselves in the foot like me.  I guess I fear luxury and not having to dig.  That is where I feel I find my true essence.  I think life is set up perfectly.  It's good to work for things and have obstacles.  I like limitations which is why I travel in 1987 VW Westfalia.  Sure you can go up to 75mph but the sweet spot is 63mph.  It sips not guzzles.  Sips miles and forces you to sit back and take it in.  

It's been amazing being in the van on the road.  There's a feeling of calm no matter where I am because it feels like home.  I always find that sense of home when I set up camp for the night, no matter where I am.  Some of my morning views are better than others.

My west coast trips are getting better and better and less intimidating.  First time I went through the desert, it kicked my ass.  I underestimated it.  It's good to get your ass kicked sometimes too.  Nothing worse than being too complacent. 

Only problem with camping in the desert for a few days is I come out singing like a wolf.  So much rage for the land.  It's nice though.  I'm cool with it.  

A Child Of The Wolf

Coonass hits the road to find the riddle of the wolf in nature.

When I first started touring, instead of making literal videos, I began weaving a story together that articulated things I feel and think about on the road.  This is part 4 of my series of films that started as a joke.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Grand Point Music Hall, Eve of the Eve I......

It was a very surreal night to play on the stage at The Grand Point Music Hall.  It was really funny when I played on channel 4 a few times and they kept announcing the event on TV and every time I heard them say Grand Point Music Hall I laughed inside.  It was as if they said Carnegie Hall in their television voices, legitimizing Grand Point as a music destination.  

When I came up, there were no artist or musicians to look up to or suggest that I take the musical path so I strapped on a helmet and pretended I was 6'4" and worked hard and played football and baseball and anything else involving a ball.  When sports ran its course, I was left with a great work ethic passed down from local leaders like Norman Buckner on to my parents, to Coach Tim who helped me learn to sit in the pocket and develop confidence as a quarterback.  

When I privately took an interest in music in college, I never really told anyone.  I just played for my own enjoyment and eventually discovered a singing voice.  In acting school in NY, I was encouraged that I was indeed an artist and could put to rest any insecurities I had coming from a small Louisiana town.  I remember before leaving for NY reading Marlon Brando's biography and pointing out to my parents that he was from a small town too and that I was not crazy for wanting to test myself in the big city.  

When Tommy and Seth asked me to play there, we decided to wait a few months to play the Eve of Christmas Eve.  No one would be working, everyone would be anticipating the Bonfires and I wanted to add to the holiday tradition.  Wanted to drag it out, smash it on the floor and make it stick around for awhile.  

It was so good to see the mix of people young and old and even old Uncle Dave and Pim stuck around to rock out into the wee hours.  When I heard his Ahhhheeeeee, I knew things were going well.  

It was nice to see my cousins and share stories of building huge Bonfires and see their kids coming of age, building their own.  It was especially nice to share my new song "Along The River Road" with everyone.  My old ancient song, bouncing off the old cypress walls.  All that wood in there reminded me of being in Big Sur in California on the coast, sitting by a fire in a cabin.  All these years since leaving Grand Point, seeing her from afar helped me to see the beauty in the eroding culture.  

Brent Boe provided some much needed good vibes from the side of the stage with all his crew.  It pure pleasure to remind them of their childhood swagger playing Johnny O's "Fantasy Girl".

Was happy to have Margaret Hebert on the vintage Wurlitzer.  I'm learning a lot about my own music from playing with her.  Even though she nearly cut her finger off during the week, she was still able to play beautifully.

Thanks to all who came from near and far.  I feel like if I had continued on a major label and sold out in the slightest way, we would have never had that kind of night, that kind of connection.  Someone asked me where I learned to sing like that and I just told them that it was just the sound of someone who kept getting up after being knocked down.  It was the sound of the resilience of Patti Ann and Nelta Louque, the sound of old Grand Point. The sound of a boy who thinks he's TaTa Jones.

Photos by: Paul Hebert

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Along The River Road...

Before I left for my December tour, I built a tiny bonfire on the river back home in St. James Parish.  We used to build huge ones with a bow saw, me and my cousin Gerard would do the cutting.  It would take two months because it was so big.  It was normal to spend all day finding the center pole, hauling it and recruiting help to get it in the hole.  Each year the logs got fatter and me and Gerard would dare to cut down the biggest tree in the woods.  

I enjoyed having a goal and working towards the end and being able to climb to the top of it.  One of my favorite things to do during the month of December is to make campfires on the river at night and cook on the open flame.  My nephews and I camped out on the river the day we built this before I left.  We were so tired that night but managed to stay up playing Batteille and hanging in the upstairs bed of my Westfalia.  

photo by: Margaret Hebert

My cousins laugh at me because I had a hard time cutting down trees.  We built this mostly with trees that had been felled.  

I've always loved these trees with the moss growing on them.  Next week when I get back in town, I'm looking forward to putting the cane reed on it so it will pop when we light it.  

For many years, I've been wanting to write a Christmas song but could never whip myself up in the right mood.  Christmas Eve hasn't been the same since my grandmother died.  I remember making up songs in the back of the truck on the way to her house on Christmas Eve.  I beat on boxes and sing about the people in our family we were going to see.  Such pure joy being a kid on that day knowing you'll eat your dad's gumbo, open presents and then go to the river for the bonfires.  

After a few years of living in Brooklyn, I remember returning home for Christmas Eve and when they lit the fireworks and the fires started to catch, I was in the middle of the roaring crowd and had the chills thinking of our tradition that had died but was reminded that it was still going on and that I had to let go and make new ones.

Last November, I sang at my cousin Patti Poirrier Amato's funeral.  The choir director, Mrs. Poche, told me I'd have to sing a long time because there were a lot of people in the church going to communion.  I began making a song up at the end of Amazing Grace, I don't know where it came from but it resonated with everyone and brought a certain peace.  I was encouraged to write a Christmas song after that experience.  I've been all over and have never found a tradition like ours.  It's a beautiful thing that there's still a place in the world, where the doors remain open to strangers, with a place at the table.  So let it snow in the mountains, I'll take my fire by the river.  Happy Holidays.  "Light the fire, I'll be coming, coming home"!