With more than 30 albums to your credit, can you sum up Beausoleil's trajectory and progression?
It's simple; we just get better and better! I've always followed the improvisational spirit of music, which is sometimes referred to as "playing it your own way or expressing yourself." Indeed, there are guidelines but most are blurred depending on instrument, talent, geographical area, and influences.
Your band often performs at festivals and other events where the jam band ethic is pretty prevalent. Do you see yourselves as part of this populist movement that includes the Dead, Phish, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, and so many of today's bluegrass bands?
We play and interpret traditional La French music our way, and I compose a good bit of tunes. Not really for the sake of a popular culture but for the sake of our own culture that continues to get watered down as Americanization rolls over us.
What can we expect from a Beausoleil concert?
A BeauSoleil concert equals un bons temps... a good time.
With all the amazing awards and accolades the band received -- Grammys, kudos from the likes of Garrison Keillor and Allen Tousaint -- does that set a high bar? Do you feel pressured that you have to continually satisfy expectations? Does that intimidate you in any way?
High Bar? We created the bar, son! No, not at all. We just did what had to be done to save the sinking ship of a forgotten culture. We love the music and greatly admired those whom we learned from, as well as our tradition, the hardships and good times, and we were bent on remaining authentically who we are, both off and on the stage. You know, we were especially lucky, first to have been born when we were amongst this incredible, elastic, creative, fun loving, spiritual and talented French culture in the New World.
And I was lucky to grow up speaking French with Acadian parents and ancestry. I was lucky early on to realize the value of our culture and how quickly it was vanishing. I was lucky to sit at the feet of many master musicians, some who were barely known outside of their locale, some who had recorded in the 1920s and were still alive, some who were Créole French farmers, some who were part of the New Orleans diaspora that moved to the bayous after Storyville was closed in 1917, and of course lucky for my own family, who made it their task to teach me forgotten French ballads.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I really never look back to see what I've done or who've we've influenced. But I do get a kick out of some 16-year-old kid playing Dennis McGee tunes like they were always around, and I'm reminded how they were once rare diamonds in the rough, hidden in the dirt of popular music and opinion.
The Rhythm Foundation presents BeauSoleill with Jon Clary and others at the Hollywood ArtsPark New Orleans Experience Festival taking place at 7 pm on Saturday, March 1 at Hollywood ArtsPark. Admission is free. Visit rhythmfoundation.com.