Veteran Rockers, Cowboy Mouth, make their return to Birmingham at Workplay on January 27th. ARE YOU WITH ME?!? With a new record, and a new children's book (What?), drummer and front man Fred Le Blanc is bringing their infectious rock back to town. We had a chance to talk to Fred about the past 20 some odd years with the band, some of his favorite musical influences, and a bit about his new book, Fred The New Orleans Drummer Boy.
Bhamrocks- The new record, “The Name of the Band Is….” is a record of re-records of past songs, and a few unreleased tunes, with the current lineup. How were the past songs chosen to be included on the album? How did the newer recorded versions of the songs evolve with the new members?
Fred Le Blanc- The songs were chosen according to their popularity over the years. Some songs we recorded were not necessarily "hits" but have really resonated with our audience like "Tell The Girl" or Disconnected." Although for different reasons songs like "The Avenue" or "I Believe" were left off, primarily because of space issues. But since this went so well, I'd like to do this with other songs in our catalog, like "Belly", "So Sad About Me", "Drama"... Songs that have been very powerful and popular in a live setting, but have never really shined like they could in my opinion in the recorded versions.
BR- Speaking of the current line up, tell us about the players. And, what is up with all the changes in the bassists?
FL- Well there's me, Fred, the drummer and lead singer. John Thomas Griffith, guitarist and second singer has been in since the beginning. Matt Jones, the other guitarist (the guy covered in tattoos) has been in for quite a while. He really added a musical lift to the band that we didn't have before. Not talking smack about any of the other guitar players we had in the band, they were all great. But Matt really elevates what we do musically because with him we now have two powerhouse lead guitar players in the band. And finally, Brian Broussard plays the bass. He's an excellent showman, a lot of fun, and he plays every single song like it's AC/DC, which I find important for a rock 'n' roll band. Plus, it doesn't hurt that he owns a brewery…
Why all of the bass players, you ask? Because bass players are like GOLD in New Orleans. It is really difficult to find an excellent and reliable bass player in that town. If anybody reading this plays bass and wants to make a living at it, go to New Orleans. You will never hurt for work.
BR - You just released a children’s book, Fred The New Orleans Drummer Boy. What inspired you to personify yourself as a school age boy?
FL- That wasn't too far of a stretch, as I still see myself as the little 5 year old boy who wanted nothing more than to beat the bottom of the garbage can and sing in front of people. The book was actually my aunt Dottie's idea, although my ex-wife had been trying to push me to do a kids music album for a while. The book has actually done pretty well and we sell them on the road, too!
BR- Do you read a lot to your children, and what is your favorite book to read to him?
FL - I read to both of my children, my boy and my little girl. Anything to get them away from the iPads! The books change from time to time… My kids do enjoy me reading my book to them, especially since I named 2 characters in the book after them!
BR - The band’s biggest hit to date, Jenny Says, came out just over twenty years ago. Are there any songs where the meaning has changed, for you, from its original idea and/or concept?
FL - Damn. Was it that long ago? The meaning of Jenny has certainly changed over the years in that what was once a song about struggling to get over heartbreak has now become the band's musical money shot, per se. I was very fortunate that one of the songs that we're most known for has been used countless times as a giant emotional catharsis for many people over the years. It really is something to see every night, especially since we use that song at the end, like I said earlier. There's really nowhere to go after that! People always ask me how come we don't do encores usually, and I always say that our whole show is a damn encore.
BR - Jenny Says, was the opening track from the 1996 album “Are You With Me?”. What is your favorite opening track of from an album of all time?
FL - God, I hate questions like this because you're asking me to limit something that I could literally write for 3 to 5 pages. Okay, here's a few...
Taxman - Beatles/Revolver. The album from this really great boy band in the 60s where you knew that ALL the rules were about to change.
Serve The Servants - Nirvana/In Utero. See the above description without the term "boy band."
But for me I'd have to say my personal all-time favorite is "Career Opportunities" from the Clash's first British album. Yes it's the beginning of side 2, for those of you who are picky about those things. But for me that was the first song I ever heard of theirs. It perfectly encapsulated EVERYTHING that I felt at the time. That song (along with their entire catalog) lit a fire in my soul that nothing had since I discovered the blues and old country music working underage illegally in a used record store when I was 11 years old. In fact, their music resonates more with me as time goes by. I can't believe how brilliant and full of foresight that band was.
BR - If you could put together your dream Cowboy Mouth show, what city and venue would you play, and who would be on the bill?
FL - I always say that our best show is our next show. I'm not really somebody who likes to look too much in the past, I'm more of a "head – down – burrow – through" kind of guy. But I am looking very forward to Mardi Gras this year! We're playing a big free show on Monday afternoon, February 27 right on the river downtown at Spanish Plaza. We did it last year and it was an ABSOLUTE ball, thousands of people going completely berserk. That and the New Orleans Jazz Fest, which is better than any bill I could ever put together in my head!
BR - What has been your most memorable moment you’ve experienced with Cowboy Mouth?
FL - Wow. So many. The main one for me would be when my son came on stage when he was three years old to play drums with us. It wasn't planned at all and we were playing before Jimmy Buffet at Jazz Fest in front of a literally 100,000 people. Up to that point he barely tolerated me singing around the house or showing him videos of the band. He would always say that he would prefer to see some monkeys as opposed to watching me. But apparently putting him in front of thousands and thousands of people and having them scream his name over and over made me somewhat cool in his eyes. We'll see how long that lasts.
BR - Is there anything you and the band do as a pre-show ritual?
FL - We put our fists together and scream "Who dat!" in unison. You can take the band out of New Orleans, but you can't take the New Orleans out of the band…
BR- If you weren’t playing music, what do feel you’d be doing for a living?
FL - Robbing liquor stores. Either that or televangelism… My mom only saw me perform once with the band before she passed away. I think it shocked her because she told me wide-eyed that I should be a televangelist so I could make lots of money. I had a hard time explaining to her that that was not why I do what I do. Let's just say it's best for society at large if I keep playing music.
BR - What era do you feel was the best for music and why?
FL - That's a trick question, for sure! I don't think there was any "best" or "worst" era from music or anything else creative. There might be certain things that I enjoy more than others, but that has as much to do with my personal life experience as much as anything else. Just like for anyone.
People take creative endeavors on such a personal level – using a song or a film to help express how they feel about a certain experience they've had. Once I write a song and we play it, the audience can take the song and/or performance to mean whatever they want to. That's the best part about being involved in a creative endeavor. The creativity doesn't stop with the performer, the audience's experience of what we do on stage or recording is just as much a creative experience as ours. Get it?
BR - What do you feel is the best song you've ever written?
FL- So basically you're asking me which child of mine do I prefer? Once again, every song has a different meaning and provides a different experience. Obviously I'm very fond of "Jenny Says" because I've seen people take that song and run with it with regard to meaning in their lives. "I Believe" is another song that was never technically a "hit" but gets as big a response as Jenny ever did. And although we don't it play that much, "the Avenue" is pretty special to me. Mostly because people seem to of gotten so much out of it after Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. All of those songs are examples of our audience taking a song and giving it a personal gravitas within their own lives. And really, isn't that the best part of doing this?
Join us at Workplay, Friday, January 27th. Doors at 7pm. Show at 8pm. $17 and ALL AGES. Under 18 must have an adult present. And don't forget your red spoons!