Paul Anastasio began studying violin at age nine and soon gravitated to popular and folk music. By his mid-twenties, he had studied with jazz violin pioneer Joe Venuti and had begun performing in Merle Haggard’s band, the Strangers. Later he served four years in the western swing band Asleep at the Wheel and worked for three years with Larry Gatlin and two years with Loretta Lynn. From 1997 to 2006, he traveled to Mexico to study and archived the folk fiddling of southwestern Mexico’s Tierra Caliente, transcribing over 1,000 tunes, which became an ongoing project. Paul has been teaching vintage jazz, swing, western swing, improvisation, traditional country, and Mexican fiddling annually at music camps and workshops across the U.S. He is a musician in Lafayette, Louisiana-based bands including Stop the Clock Western Swing and Runaway Fiddle.
Interviewed by Holly Hobbs, 09/04/2020.
Raised in the St. Bernard projects of New Orleans, Ricky B is considered a pioneer of New Orleans bounce, an indigenous local subgenre of rap. Incorporating Mardi Gras Indian chants into his early records, Ricky is considered widely influential across multiple demographics, including rap, hip-hop, brass band, funk and more. Ricky B has multi-generational appeal, as the songs he wrote in the 1980s and 1990s are still regularly played by DJs throughout Louisiana. Ricky B is also a cultural historian and advocate for New Orleans music and culture.
Interviewed by Holly Hobbs, 10/15/2020.
Aurélien Barnes is a New Orleans trumpet player steeped in the tradition of the city. Born in 1995, he is part of the young generation of musicians carrying on the legacy of the trumpet and the blues in New Orleans. From an early age, he learned from some of the best musicians and teachers in the city, including the Tremé Brass Band, Leroy Jones, Gregg Stafford, Kent Jordan, and many others. He is the son of Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes, a multi-instrumentalist and specialist in blues, zydeco, and Afro-Caribbean musics. Aurélien performs with several brass bands in New Orleans and around the world, including Grammy-nominated Cha Wa, Kings of Brass, the Palmetto Bug Stompers, and more. He has performed with a wide range of artists across several genres, such as Marcus King, Nicholas Payton, Solange, Dr. John, and Carlos Vives. In addition to his musical diversity, Aurélien is a French citizen and speaks French, Spanish, and Portuguese fluently.
Interviewed by Holly Hobbs, 10/14/2020.
Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes is a musician, author, and ethnographic photographer. Sunpie is the Big Chief of the Northside Skull and Bone Gang, one the oldest Afro-Creole carnival groups in the United States, which began its traditions in 1819. He is a member of the Black Men of Labor Social Aid and Pleasure Club and the band leader of Sunpie and the Louisiana Sunspots. His joint book and album project, Le Kèr Creole, was co-authored with Rachel Breunlin and Leroy Etienne. Sunpie is a former National Park Service Ranger, former high school biology teacher, former college football All-American, and former NFL football player for the Kansas City Chiefs. He performs his own style of Afro-Louisiana music, incorporating blues, zydeco, creole jazz, gospel, work songs, and Caribbean and African-influenced rhythms and melodies and is a multi-instrumentalist who plays accordion, harmonica, and piano along with rubboard, talking drum, and dejembe. He is a former member of the Paul Simon Band, and his acting work has appeared in the Hollywood films Point of No Return, Deja Vu, Under Cover Blues, Jonah Hex, Tremé, The Big Easy, Skeleton Key, and many more.
Interviewed by Holly Hobbs, 09/14/2020.
Grammy-nominated musician, author, educator and interpreter Yvette Landry grew up in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, deeply influenced by her Cajun culture and upbringing. After earning a master’s degree in education and developing a successful teaching career, she began performing widely, playing a variety of instruments in several Cajun bands as well as fronting her own, the Yvette Landry Band. Her debut award-winning album, Should Have Known, was released in 2010. The album was named by New Orleans’ Offbeat Magazine as Best Country/Folk Album of that year, while Landry herself received an award for Best Country/Folk Artist. She has served as a cultural ambassador on behalf of the Library of Congress to perform at the Festival of Traditional American Music and has performed at both the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center. She is also a private homeschool teacher and teaches bass, guitar, accordion, and vocal lessons to students.
Interviewed by Holly Hobbs, 09/11/2020.
Zydeco artist Corey Ledet was born and raised in Houston, Texas, but spent his summers with family in the small town of Parks, Louisiana, immersed in Creole culture and music. An accordion player by training, he studied with many of the originators of zydeco, including Clifton Chenier, John Delafose, and Boozoo Chavis. His performing career began early at the age of ten, playing drums for the Houston-based band Wilbert Thibodeaux and the Zydeco Rascals before picking up the accordion. Ledet relocated to Louisiana and has performed there for years, infusing old and new styles of zydeco into his own unique sound.
Interviewed by Holly Hobbs, 09/17/2020.
Preservation Hall pianist Rickie Monie was raised in New Orleans’s Ninth Ward. Monie’s parents played piano in church, and at home they would spin records by Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Teddy Wilson, and other pianists. Monie’s father began teaching him at the age of eight, and he eventually played piano and organ in church. In 1982, Rickie Monie began to perform at Preservation Hall, where he has remained since. In addition to piano, Monie is also an accomplished clarinetist and regularly plays the organ in churches around New Orleans. As an ambassador of music for New Orleans and the United States, Rickie continues to share his love of music with students of all ages.
Interviewed by Holly Hobbs, 09/24/2020.
The grand-nephew of Mahalia Jackson, New Orleans-native Courtney Nero, better known by his stage name, Nesby Phips, is a multi-instrumentalist, rapper, and producer who is known for his soulful approach to production. He has produced songs for Wiz Khalifa, Lil Wayne, Curren$y, Juvenile, and countless more, and due to his incorporation of many different genres of music-making into his production, co-headlined a sold-out performance at New Orleans’ famed jazz venue Preservation Hall, marking one of the first shows at the Hall headlined by a New Orleans rap artist. Nesby Phips has also worked as a cultural liaison for many writers, filmmakers, and journalists documenting New Orleans music and culture, including ESPN, Converse, VICE, Complex, VIBE, The New York Times, and more. His 2017 album, Black Man 4 Sale, was co-produced by Atlanta/LA-based producer, DJ Fu.
Interviewed by Holly Hobbs, 09/14/2020.