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Published: 2012/02/16
by Mike Greenhaus

Trombone Shorty’s Journeys from NOLA

In terms of your new album, being that the last album reached so many listeners outside of New Orleans and even outside the traditional, jazz/funk world, did you try to include some songs that would bring in listeners who normally listen to over types of music?

The only thing I knew was that we’ve been on the road for a year and I wanted to grow as a musician and songwriter. I think the way we present the New Orleans music—our interpretation of it—makes it a bit easier for people to understand because it’s so close to whatever else they’re listening to. Then when we get into some other New Orleans stuff it’s cool because sometimes New Orleans music in certain cases don’t really translate on a record. So I wanted to be able to just think about how can I make this New Orleans but still keep it to where if someone had never heard of us before and just heard our song on the radio that they will become a fan and then see us live.

So I wanted to be able to keep our live show people that’s been following us before we put out records [happy], and I also wanted to be able to reach people in the standard music industry.

Your showmanship is definitely a great way to draw in new people. You’re not just playing the horns and singing, you’re out there running the stage and engaging the crowd.

Well, I’ll tell you what; I would be pretty bored with myself if I was just playing. I think I got bored a long time ago just playing all day. And my brother’s an entertainer and he’s a big crowd person. But I got bored some years ago. I was like, “This is boring. This can’t be the normal out there—it has to be redundant for them.” So for me it became redundant. I wanted to become an entertainer.

At one point I wouldn’t even speak on the mic I was so shy. But just watching my brother work the crowd and watching James Brown I learned how to be an entertainer. I really opened up just watching Lenny and being able to see that live. I just wanted to make it a show because sometimes you get some horn players and they think playing all them millions of notes that the people can’t really understand…But if you present it in a different way they can react to it. If every song is instrumental then they don’t understand.

Coming from New Orleans we’re just about dance music, having fun and really I have to give a lot of credit to my brother. He’s an entertainer. He got that from my grandfather, Jessie Hill. So it was just passed down. And I was just trying to imitate him and over the time I’ve developed my own things and started studying James Brown and Prince and all those people.

Have you played with Prince before?

About a month ago—right before Thanksgiving—he called me to go to studio. So I went in the studio and got a chance to work with Prince of all people. I was like, “Wow.” So check it out. In the studio, limo picks me up, Maceo’s (Parker) in the limo, and we go over to the studio. And it’s just me, Prince, the engineer, Maceo and a girl that he’s working with on some music named Paisley Park. That was a great way to end the year and start the year. It was fun. And I’m like, “Wow, it’s Prince!”

Myself and Maceo, after the session, we were in the grocery store until 3 AM just going “wow.” It was a dream come true.

Do you plan to promote your new studio album with a traditional tour?

Well, we’re going to continue to promote the record. And we’re going to continue to play. Actually, I just got a call from my manager today saying that we have hundreds of offers that we have to accept or pass. So I don’t know what’s in the stack but I just like to play. So I don’t really have anything planned besides just get back out there and touring and writing new music and trying it out. In that position, something like the Prince thing that wasn’t planned, he just called. You know, Jeff Beck wasn’t really planned.

Sometimes just doing things and getting into different music circuits you meet different people, you get turned on to people. But other than that I’m just excited to be able to do that. My band and I are very blessed to be able to go from Jam Cruise to Playboy Jazz Festival to Montreal. It’s just a beautiful thing so we have nothing planned so far.

I’m not thinking up anything yet but the music will just take us there. It’s a blessing. As long as they want us to come we’ll play and present the new music, our interpretation of New Orleans music and draw more people to the city.

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