What a Waste – Demo Review

Dave-vocals, Joe-guitar, Bobby-bass, Billy-drums

So, I was on a freshman class field trip one time down to the Gulf Coast. A group of six of us were staying in a hotel overnight and attending a seminar the next morning. The chaperone was our basketball coach; a middle-aged flub whose appeal had waned where sarcasm had waxed. Out of boredom, I had taken to the hallways of this place, staring out the windows at the dimly lit sand wishing I could figure out a way to get some beer and a bit of freedom. It was late, and the parking lot was dark. But I was positive I had just watched our coach kiss some woman and then get into her car, inexplicably driving away in the night. I knew immediately that this was grounds for mayhem and the time was now. And I have said all that to say this… This memory is what came to mind while listening to the first track on this demo by What a Waste, “Nailed to Your Southern Cross”. The sticks count in and instantly you’re hit with a motivating bassline that says action. I like it already. Tip of the toes kids, the pit is a calling! “You won’t see me. I’ll see you”, is what it sounds like he said. And that’s what I’m thinking jumping in that pit. The song is quick; in and out in just over a minute. I do hope the final cut gives us a bit more of this gem.

Moving on. Second track “So Far Away” finds Dave on the vocals with trail-offs at the ends of vocal bars leaving listeners with an almost melodic presence; almost. I like his style. It’s cool to scream your ass off. And maybe it’s the Southerner in me, but when the grit is mixed with a bit of butter, I like that. A quick two-and-a-half-minute track that, at a minute and twenty-eight seconds in goes through a change-up. And this change-up slowly builds in pace until they plop the original rhythm back in our laps. This is good stuff people! It’s like they’re milking the anxiety cow’s teats for all their worth. I’m spewing adrenaline.

Next up is the title track “What a Waste”. And apparently some guy works every day and has either pissed off Dave, or Dave is telling us the over-worked guy is pissed. Whatever the case may be, the guitar gets a little funky in this one. I mean its punk, but with a little snazzle-razzle on it. Ok it’s just a sharp note followed consecutively by the two flat notes beneath it. But I like the way Joe twangs his thang.

“Huffing Glue” is almost as short as the first track at only a minute thirty-seven and the final track on this demo. I think my laptop was huffing glue because it kept pausing, or buffering, whatever that means. Anyway, good ole Billy on drums counts us in and we blast off into a four-note mainstay broken up by a couple high notes that signify the chorus is here.

All in all, they’re quick, they’re tight, and pay them their respect. This is a middle finger to your day, to my day; something to spruce up your morning coffee. And I needed it because I’m out of creamer and sugar. Whoever said “once you go black, you never go back”….. lied. But to the ex-members of A Hanging, The Pallbearers and AR-15 that gave me this lovely dose of audio intensity, I say thank you. And definitely, definitely follow up on this project with an expansion, both in catalog and song exploration. With that, I will hand over the reigns to member and bassist for The Grooxs, Jorge Caicedo.

Jorge: This is the demo debut of What A Waste from New Orleans. Four tunes of straight-ahead punk rock with the Black Flag and Circle Jerk influences coming through nicely. The rhythm section of bassist Bobby Bergeron and drummer Bill Baxley, both of whom were in the excellent A Hanging, keep the bottom end tight while the guitars and vocals do their thing.

The tunes are more of a mid-tempo style as opposed to straight speed, although “Huffing Glue” is the exception. As per punk aesthetics, the songs are short, catchy and to the point. Catch these guys the next time they play a show, it’ll be well worth your time. You can get your cassette or digital download plus more perks using the Bandcamp link below.

Authors: Lingo Starr and Jorge Caicedo

Here’s Bandcamp link:

Here’s Spotify link:[0]=AT35_ULSKWdmLksrhwlj-VeIyQLsFNDME4LwNQVj3sIhCV2SvotBqP0iseJg0iyn2biCPcMp6pigdPTYmxqNLzQfoyWS0-8eTBmgJbozLrtkn7yrkyTZMac2RUo8dQ5hxDdxbwDcDlUAr2q6xOlfXXRxoQb8eR13uyhN4YChBpAAupZ90RsN5tI96nQezCUFnleQQy1vikbj


Ben Redwine

When a mild-mannered musician quietly sits before you, it may sometimes be difficult to discern between him and the musician right beside him. Especially being that true musicians rely on authentic expression to leave an impression with an audience. And the irony here is that not only is Dr. Ben Redwine’s body of work inceptive, but he, himself is the epitome of discernment. Throughout his career, he has made a name for himself telling the difference between seemingly similar things and making intelligent judgements by using such observations. The dissection of genres, from European classical to ragtime jazz, and the influx of Latin interpretations may seem to meld together for the layperson. But for Ben, a student of all of these things, the practice of first breaking down elements to understand their components and origins, then rebuilding an original composition using his own vision is what enables him to enlightened us all. The sum of these parts can sometimes feel clumsy or unpalatable if not assembled correctly. But when composed precisely, spectators can walk away downright jolly. And for students of the art that wished to delve deeper, he shared of himself this knowledge instructing on a collegiate level for six years.

Peeling back the layers of Dr. Redwine brings us all the way to Del City, Oklahoma. Where, as a child, Ben would see students file in and out of his grandfather’s studio in the backyard. Both his grandfather and grandmother were professional orchestral musicians; his grandfather being the premier woodwind instructor in the Oklahoma City area. At the age of six, an anxious Ben was finally given the right of passage. From then on, you would find him at paw-paw’s house every Wednesday for dinner and a lesson. For Ben, the regimen would continue for the next thirteen years and exist strictly in the vein of classical compositions. Once in high school, Ben played in the school band. Wanting to explore alternate forms of the art, he also formed his own traditional jazz band. And although it wasn’t his grandfather’s chosen genre, he supported Ben’s exploratory nature, even buying him a book on Dixieland jazz. This was both an unconventional path and new territory for him being that memories of music being played in his household were few. At his grand parents’ house, classical music was played and read from sheet music to perform. The first jazz players did not follow the route Ben was taking; many of them did not read sheet music. Still, Ben feels his path prepared him for these next steps. “So, speaking from my perspective being classically trained, I always strive to get a great clarinet sound when I play. And my technique is, you know, fundamentally sound because I’ve put a lot of time in the practice room. Yeah. And then you, you veer off into jazz and those elements transfer over.” The foundation had become a launch pad for new ideas. For many musicians, exploring a new sound is an overall exciting experience. And for those that previously trek within the confines of traditional genres and music theory, improvisation can be like a second birth. Aside from the technical aspect, within the undertaking lies further finding and expressing one’s self, and strengthening the mind-audio connection in an instant. The affinity for spontaneity never left him as, during his educational and military pursuits, his probe into non-traditional forms would remain throughout the years.

From there he would study at the University of Oklahoma, earning his bachelor’s degree in music education. Ordinarily, the course of action from here would either be to teach or perform. At the time, orchestras were folding and often unreliable as a career. And Ben could read the writing on the wall. Though he would attend LSU earning a master’s degree in clarinet performance directly following his time at the University of Oklahoma, he decided to enter the United States Military music program, playing in the Army band for four years. In year three, he auditioned and won a job with the Naval Academy band in Annapolis, Maryland. Now this was a notable fork in direction. Because switching from one branch of military service to another is very uncommon. He would have to put himself through boot camp for a second time. Never the less, he succeeded, playing there for sixteen years until he retired in 2014. Also to note, towards the end of his Navy career, Ben took advantage of educational benefits and earned his doctorate in Washington, D.C. at Catholic University of America. While taking courses there, he served as Assistant Professor teaching music education. He also taught clarinet privately, and directed the university wind ensemble. Looking back on his decisions in life, I’d say Ben has always addressed life within the parameters of utility and foresight, even at the expense of traversing a path less travelled. He told me a story once about how he purchased CDs one by one, until he had a collection of twenty, all before owning a CD player. The pursuit of his passions was never dictated by what was readily available to him. And his decision to join the military was in-part a solution to retain benefits while also choosing performance over teaching. Though his move to audition for a separate military branch was both uncommon and physically taxing, it preserved his place in the performing arts. And those military benefits enabled him to earn a doctoral degree. 

After retiring from the Navy in 2014, Ben continued teaching at Catholic University and playing gigs in the area. With family in Baton Rouge, he would frequently come down to Louisiana with his wife, Leslie. Eventually, it made sense to move to Louisiana and settle close enough to New Orleans to play gigs. And that’s not all he would go on to do. He performed with the Louisiana Philharmonic and Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestras. He was also featured at the historic Dew Drop Jazz and Social Hall, and at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. And he taught at Southern University and A&M College. Drawing from his minor in Latin-American music history, and his time playing on several continents throughout the course of his career, Ben has set his sights on an exciting new endeavor. A composer is writing a concerto for Ben to perform live. He envisions the performances set on stages here, as well as abroad. His time spent as an instructor will come into play, as he plans to give a spoken presentation on the history of jazz preceding the performance. And he hopes to be able to include several free performances for local schools within proximity to his performance dates. He is currently coordinating with a Louisiana non-profit to enable tax deductible crowd-funding. Anyone interested in donating resources to Ben’s concerto can contact him directly via his website, You can also view his current performance schedule there and catch a show. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Ben. And I can’t close things out without mentioning how gracious he’s been, sending contacts and prospective clients my way. His knowledge is vast. His talent is enormous. And his contributions to the music world are immeasurable.


Fuel the Funeral Entertainment

In Louisiana, thirty-seven miles from the Gulf of Mexico, lies the town of Cut Off, the place where Hunter Bruce was born and raised. At that time (and still to this day), it was the type of place with nothing to do. You could find Hunter with friends hanging out in the parking lots of Sonic or Wal-mart. And the music scene… well it didn’t exist there. Experience with music for him at that time was whatever played on the radio. Streaming could only be found on Pandora and music in his household wasn’t a focal point. It wasn’t until Hunter graduated high school and moved away that he got to actually see live music. His first experience was on a grand scale and it would change his life forever.

On June 27th, 2016 the Warped Tour made its stop in New Orleans. And Hunter was one of the thousands in attendance. With most of his friends off to the military, he went to this event alone, and would spend most of that day at the smaller Full Sail University Stage. He affectionately recalls, “I saw Bad Seed Rising, incredible. I wish they would’ve never broken up. I saw Palaye Royal. No one knew who these guys were. There was like twenty people standing in front of that stage with me. Now these guys are touring the world and that’s so awesome to see.” He was later spotted and stopped by the guitarist for Palaye Royal, who signed and gave him a CD, thanking him for coming to their performance. He still has that CD to this day. And he’s kept a record of all the bands he’s seen over the years. Later that same year Islander, whom he was unfamiliar with, would headline at The Varsity Theater in Baton Rouge. He remembered Bad Seed Rising from the Warped Tour, and they were on the bill along with local supporting band Ventruss. That night, he became a fan of Ventruss and would see them countless times in the future. “The guys from Ventruss came, ‘aw dude thank you so much for being here’, you know, shook my hand. ‘Oh man we really appreciate it.’ And whenever that kind of stuff happens, you start realizing; man, this is really a tight knit community. You know, it feels genuine. They’re not just trying to sell me a CD or something. They actually appreciate you being here. That’s a really cool feeling.”

I can’t help but draw attention to the idea that, just like Hunter came away with a good feeling from his interaction with the band, the bands exist in that moment on stage drawing their feeling from the crowd. When the energy and excitement is projected from those in attendance, they witness a better performance. For many, these shows also become a new source of friendships. Regular attendees recognize one another from previous shows and began to strike up conversations among one another. And speaking from personal experience, I can say that a band grows in their appeal once you have some sort of personal vestment in them. Gaining friends with mutual interests, meeting members of the band that just blew you away on stage, and perhaps coming away from a show with a memento of some sort all make people feel connected and a part of something greater and more relative. These experiences also help to quell the overwhelming nature of today’s uber-convenient paths to new music. We have the world at our fingertips when it comes to new music. But there’s just so many options that make all too easy to get lost. Indie bands in Louisiana, for instance, often times get drowned out by all the other music with which they have to contend globally. has focused on the niche of Louisiana bands, in part, for that reason. Bands who join our site intermingle pools of fans, helping to lift one another up. Likewise, when a booking agent does their job well, you can show up because you recognize one of the bands on the bill, and walk away gaining interest in new ones. In his present-day capacity as an entertainment company owner, Hunter recognizes and has been able to lend his services to bands in the Gulf Coast region, an area that he paused to recognize in this interview as rich with new talent. This is a pleasant surprise, given the havoc that Covid wreaked on the live music community as a whole.

“There was a lot of bands that broke up, which is unfortunate. There’s a lot of bands that took that time and said, well we can’t perform right now. But we can write. We can go to the studio. We can record. We can really spend this time honing our craft and come out swinging. And I think once the lockdown stopped and people came back, you could really see who spent those two years just kind of sitting around waiting, and who spent those two years still diligently trying to hone their craft.” As anyone can tell by now, Hunter remained an attentive understudy of the local music scene throughout. From his break out from Cut Off, to a stint in Houma, to finally settling in Folsom, Louisiana, that list of bands he’d seen grew to over 300. And all of these places were and still are rather obscure when it comes to hotbeds of music activity. He was constantly driving out to see these bands play. So, when a new venue, the Hideaway Den & Arcade opened up near him in Folsom, he was elated to attend their first rock show. Pious, Thornprick, and Dead Machine Theory were on the bill. The venue was pleased with the turnout and Hunter, well he saw opportunity. He approached the owner about booking another rock show and they accepted. On the bill was Acala from Covington, 4Mag Nitrous out of Baton Rouge, and Dead Savage from Hammond. The three fit well and, barring the fact that he accidently booked it on his wedding anniversary, the show was a success. “From that show, we’ve expanded so much. We built out the stage. We brought in an in-house sound tech with a full sound rig. They’re looking to do more and more. Whenever they first opened up, they were like man, we want to be the Southport Hall of the north shore in the sense that we want to offer a wide array of entertainment.” In the past, many places in the north shore area have been accustomed to the safety of cover bands. Every so often a local act performs. But Hunter hopes to see more original talent performing in the area. And he hopes The Hideaway, where he has become the main talent buyer, sets the standard. His intention is to strategically mix local bands with regional, national, more widely recognized names. Shortly after approaching and booking his first show at The Hideaway, Hunter approached about twenty venues between Slidell and Hammond with the interest of booking shows. “I went to these places. You know, here’s my business card. I understand you don’t know me from Adam. But, you know, give me a chance. Let’s see what we can do. Everywhere turned their nose at me; slammed the door in my face. They didn’t want to work with me. I get it, you know. You don’t know who I am and a lot of these places, they have their in-house people already. But after that, I’m like alright I guess I’m all in on this place (The Hideaway). And I’ve been all in with them ever since. And I don’t regret it man, I never looked back. And I think now if one of these places that originally turned their nose to me came back and said, oh man we’ve been seeing what you’re doing for this place, maybe we can do something, I’d probably tell them no. They take really good care of me here. I’m all in over here.”

Reflecting on his start, Hunter couldn’t remember the last time he did something that brought him so much joy. From booking the bands, to doing the fliers, to the online promotion, he fell in love. He became a true believer in the old adage “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” So, unbeknownst to most, during his days booking, he spent four months registering, recruiting, and building his own roster. By its proper name, Fuel the Funeral Entertainment is now a booking agency with a list of developmental and promotional services, some of which include EPK one sheets, public relations, advertising, and website creation. Through dedication and diligence, Hunter hopes to bring to these bands what they have brought to him, loyalty. “There’s a lot of nights where you’re working until two or three in the morning.  behind the computer making sure that it’s done the right way. I don’t want to approach these bands and say hey, let me give you booking representation if I don’t know what I’m doing, you know? There’re enough thieves out there. I don’t want to be another one of them. And that’s what really lead me to starting this venture.” Before he began the process of forming this LLC, before he even had the idea, he was hired by an up-and-coming artist management firm that wanted to expand into booking. Though initially excited about the opportunity, upon working for the firm he began to notice business practices that he would only describe as a little less than reputable. “We’re taking these bands’ money and we’re not doing much for them. How are we justifying this? I just took a big step back and I’m like, I don’t want to do this. This feels wrong.” And just as one experience inspired him to book for The Hideaway, his experience with this company prompted him to forge his own path.

Since its inception, Fuel the Funeral Entertainment has been focused on transparency. The contracts come with personal advice from Hunter himself advising recipients to bring the documents to an entertainment lawyer. And I wouldn’t be surprised if honesty is the best bait out there these days. He’s been in discussions with bands that he’s had to turn away. Though he has confidence in his future ability to become more adept at the art, if what they’re seeking is outside of his level of current experience, he’s not above informing them. During our discussion, he stressed the importance of knowing one’s limitations and not embellishing upon them. This, coupled with his humility and true appreciation for what bands bring left a lasting impression that tells me his candor in business will take him far. You can view their list of services and submit works for review on the contact form at  

Author: David Trahan


Music Journalist Search

Top o’ the morning to the powers that be, as well as the common folk. I, Lingo Starr, have been tasked with finding an “additional” journalist for And I use quotes because, as I am told, this is not my replacement. “Lingo, we’re not looking to replace you. We just think that David (the owner) is writing more articles than need be at the moment. And we think you could use a hand with expediting finished works.” This, as per second in command. So, without further ado, and in good faith, the facts are as follows. is searching for a journalist interested in covering the music scene in Louisiana. Specifically, we need someone to both draw from material we give you, as well as from your own findings (research, interactions, and otherwise). If you would like to establish a catalog of published works and get involved with a website that supports Louisiana musicians, contact me at I’m going to go through applicants myself. Please send example(s) of your work, and feel free to include any questions. We do perform within deadlines here, so expect that. We do not, however, (thank God) report to an office, so that’s a perk. You can check out examples of NOM’s subject matter here I look forward to hearing from, and working with, all of you!

Author: Lingo Starr


Matt Rhombus of Totem

For Matt, the Big Bang occurred at the age of eight when he encountered a family member’s extensive music collection. From this single point in time, his melodic universe began with cosmic bodies like Korn, System of a Down, Slipknot, Weezer, and Alice in Chains. Ever expanding, his exploration has landed him in a galaxy filled with sludge, punk, and rock-and-roll. Bass-heavy grooves have charted his path on this journey and, over time, have become the dominant, more prevalent point of recognition for his vessel of worship known as Totem. While music itself was always at the core of his attraction, camaraderie surely enhanced his gravitation. Like many of us that play, we are inexplicably drawn to an instrument at an early age. And suddenly, the arduous task of finding ourselves as human beings is compounded with finding a sense of musical identity. For those of you that don’t play an instrument, I would liken finding one’s musical identity to getting your first apartment. You don’t have much to do it with. Still, you gather everything you have that you think you will need, and some of what expresses who you are, to establish yourself in this “new” life. Only you’re not sure exactly where you want to live, what you want it to look like, or what you can afford. I have always admired true musicians because not only do they face this head-on at a time in life when they are still unsure of themselves. But they do it out in the open, in front of everyone. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the court of public opinion can be bitter.

Unbeknownst to Matt, he was mentally preparing himself for this quest just two years after honestly encountering music for the first time. He found himself doodling band names on his binders while in class. And at thirteen, to some degree, it had manifested itself physically. His hair was spiked and his jeans had chains hanging from them. Soon his friends would be discussing the idea of starting their own band. He knew several guitar players and a drummer. So, he settled upon bass as his contribution to the endeavor. “I think it was like, a Crescent or something. I remember cracking that thing open on Christmas Eve. And it was just a little beginner bass. But man, I wore that thing out.” At that time, Matt knew the cost of a bass guitar. While he gave it a shot, he was almost sure he wouldn’t be lucky enough to get one. But in due time, he would come to know the value. And while he did dabble in rhythm guitar and drums over the years, he always stuck by his bass. Looking back, he affirms the experimentations became useful tools within his narrative. Because of them, if need be, he can pick up or sit behind either and play.

“Getting better at bass… I think that I actually haven’t progressed, like technically speaking, at playing bass. Like, I don’t think I’m an amazing bass player by any means. But I use the bass as kind of a tool to help me write songs. That’s been the struggle of my past ten years, trying to find my place in the New Orleans music scene in general. Being in one band, being in another band, I’ve decided that I’m not going to put my talent up to somebody else anymore. I’m going to spearhead everything. And that’s why our band right now, Totem, is very bass-heavy and very bass-driven.” Modesty would definitely be Matt’s namesake. And his tendency to cite things like tremolos from Steve Harris and other technical players in the field has perhaps contributed to this mental conflict within him. But his niche and true appreciation for the craft lies within getting into a groove and holding things down to propel the song. Pitting one musician’s take on things against another is misleading. But inside the minds of many musicians, this is sometimes an eternal conflict. Doubting one’s self is by its very nature, misleading. And there came a point in time where this combined with being kicked out of a band had Matt stuffing his gear into a closet and shutting the door. He credits his long-time friend and drummer, Gage Breaux, with forcing him to leave the questions behind and return to the things he loved about the art. Their bond and Matt’s second coming further cemented Totem in the rhythmic, bass-lavish landscape that has become their signature sound.

Sparking an alternate creative direction in Totem with a new guitarist, Max Bonnet, has aided Matt in dusting off the difficulties within him. And intentionally not sticking to one particular genre keeps things fresh. As he pointed out, Boris, The Melvins, and Neurosis have always been bands that inspired him in this vein. Max brings with him a penchant for the shoegaze genre. Which should bring about a balancing effect when paired with Totem’s already established driving bass and drum elements. “Max is like refined energy. And he knows how to put the right dynamics on certain strums and he has more technique. He’s got something going on with him. He’s got this shoegaze background. I don’t know, he was obsessed with shoegaze for a while. He’s got some pretty shit that is really going to help us open up a new door to the psyche-rock domain.” In the past, Totem has been a trio where the bass basically commandeered the responsibility normally taken up by the rhythm guitar; keeping pace in the groove and moving things along a plane. Their drummer, Gage, would reinforce this, adding highlights and directing the change-ups. In the future, much of that will remain the same. But this recent addition will accentuate those priorities while also pulling the direction into question. Totem’s recent EP, For What It’s Worth, can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, and Bandcamp. And it will come to be a pivotal sonic example from the band. Because moving forward, a unique dimension via Max Bonnet will emerge. The newly minted trio is in the midst of writing several songs to add to their EP in preparation for their upcoming album. And in true Totem spirit, it will be exploratory, possessing artifacts of both prior artistic endeavors and future direction.


2022 Year in Review

With 2022 coming to a close, I figured it would be in good practice to reflect publicly how this first year has gone. I think it’s important that everyone consider doing this in their own lives. Taking inventory is a good step toward accountability and establishing goals. So, for the record, and in an effort to bolster transparency, here it goes…

2022 essentially began life for, a website that networks and promotes Louisiana musicians for free. I launched publicly and began efforts to onboard Louisiana musicians. The number of possibilities seemed to mushroom exponentially in my mind. This is an exciting phase in the process of any new endeavor. Pure fantasy, where are all your hopes and dreams still reside protected in a bubble. And in that spirit, I was heavy on expanding features for users. I wanted to serve our independent musicians in as many ways as possible. It is within my nature to multi-task (a.k.a. ADHD). So, while site testing and refinement continued, I began interviewing musicians. I taught myself filming and editing basics, and on February 25th our Youtube Channel was born, with our first interview video being published. I also made things to where, when a member posts a video on my site’s video page, it automatically posts to this Youtube Channel. I also started a blog and published its first article on that same day, and linked the blog to our site menu. Two weeks later, I opened a donation page at And two weeks after that I started Podcast, publishing NOM’s first podcast episode. For the next two months, I would teach myself where to source merchandise, how to build an e-commerce website, and how to create designs for apparel. In May of 2022, the e-commerce store was launched, eventually housing 112 pieces of clothing, all with original designs. This, too, would be linked in the site menu. Oh, and I created accounts on 12 music streaming platforms with 16 playlists named after genres. I began adding music from members to those playlists. All of these things required getting the word out. So, I taught myself how to create and publish advertisements in bulk.

In the background, my current programmer seemed to be lagging. Having “personal issues” to deal with meant he would be MIA for weeks at a time. And as with any new website, it had its fair share of bugs. So, I began the search for a new programmer. At any rate, between the old one and the new one, I believe I overwhelmed my programmers with so much expansion and inadvertently sacrificed functionality at some point. Technical errors begin to pop up. While I scrambled to get a hold on things site-wide, I was forced to take a look at what my life had become. Whether or not I would be able to keep pace with the demands of a podcast, a Youtube Channel, a blog, 16 Curated playlists on 12 platforms, and a networking website by myself remained to be seen. But media was the one thing in all of this that I could control. It was the one thing I could do myself. So, I felt I had no choice but to meet the demands placed upon myself. This, I decided would consist of a Youtube video every week, an article every two weeks, and a podcast every two weeks.

Halfway through the year I read The Lean Startup by Eric Reis. It explained that the best strategy to starting a business is to create a “minimum viable product”. It was then that I realized I was going about this all wrong. I had created too much too fast. But to withdraw in any form, even in-part, what existed, would in my eyes concede defeat. What already existed needed to remain and be improved upon. Shortly after the arrival of a new programmer, I halted all expansions and began to concentrate on one thing, “flawless operation”. I am still very much involved in this task.

Despite the exorbitant costs associated with NOM, I have adhered to forgoing financial opportunities here and there with the interest of putting the artist first. Instead of selling advertising slots on the Podcast, I chose to recognize members of my site, one per episode, playing portions of their work and drawing from a questionnaire I sent to them. I also made graphics and included members on our Youtube videos. I avoided pitches for profit from influencer mills because I felt it muddled the integrity of the site’s purpose. And I resisted the idea of putting the whole site up for sale because I couldn’t let go of the vision; becoming THE resource for independent bands in Louisiana, for free. While preparing to write this piece, I had planned to go tally up all that I have spent creating this website and its tributaries; programming, paying for ads and promotional material, financing subscriptions to necessary services for transcription, editing, etc. But I honestly think I don’t even want to know that number. I can tell you that at this point, it has topped 20K. And this is money spent in order to DIY, because the typical corporate route is financially unattainable for a man raising a family. There are times when I feel as though I am becoming the Howard Hughes of Louisiana’s indie music scene. Whereby the pursuit of this vision is slowly consuming both me and my every resource. Yet seeing these parallels does not dissuade me from the quest. I must take a moment here to recognize something of the utmost importance. It is the way I feel. It’s the sense of accomplishment when I publish that video or that podcast. It’s the sense of camaraderie and the connection I feel with each and every one of my interview subjects. It’s the idea that these people deserve more attention than they are commonly given and that I want to be the one to depict them as human beings, not just juke boxes. And if all else were to fail, in the end, I feel as though the body of work in its wake will have accomplished that.

I also wanted to go dig up all the statistics associated with NOM in preparation for this article. But I feared that bogging one down with charts and graphs would steal light from the overall direction. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from obsessing over things of this sort, it’s this:  in order to get something of meaning from your endeavor, you must put in something of meaning. My time, my energy, my hopes and my vision make up the tokens in this pot. There aren’t statistics out there that narrate this. As for the traffic to the site, to the Facebook Page, and to the store, I learned that throwing money at it conflates numbers, and honest fans will come as long as what you produce is from the heart. But to quantify things, traffic at times has seen over 800 new visitors a month. Although stifled by technical difficulties in the registration process, I was still able to onboard 67 bands and music industry professionals this year. The podcast, launched at the end of March, has cataloged 15 episodes, garnering 750 downloads in 22 countries. The Youtube Channel, started February 25th, has received 1.7K views resulting in 86 hours of watch time and 47 new subscribers. And our Facebook page grew by 431 people, and increased in reach by over 47K people. These are modest beginnings in the grand scheme of things. But with enough support from fans, I know these numbers will grow. And not only do they house works that I can say I am proud to have produced. But they have resulted in increased exposure for deserving musicians at no cost to them.  

 Throughout year one, there have been some highlights that truly elated me along the way. Gaining fans like Cyril Neville, Russel Batiste, and Stanton Moore was a nice surprise. Tab Benoit becoming a site member really made me proud. Enjoying a lengthy phone call from Jan Ramsey was also something I really appreciated. And I can’t mention these things without also mentioning how humbled I’ve been by gracious efforts from people like Clarinetist Ben Redwine, friend Ryan McKern, photographer Charles Dye, and metal band members Jay Gracianette and Blake Lowery. Ben became a member and began sending countless references my way, introducing me to so many people in the music industry. Ryan McKern has written for me in the past and recently volunteered to pass out some advertisements to local venues. Charles, though heavily sought after and quite busy with his own, agreed to come with me on an interview, contributing his stunning work to my articles. And both Jay and Blake have essentially taken me in as one of their own, bringing me face to face with Pat Bruders (Down) and Vinnie LaBella (Exhorder).

All of these things leave me feeling fulfilled, even if it is in my nature to never be satisfied. And honestly, I believe that as long as I continue to put forth an all-out effort to display Louisiana’s music scene and the people that comprise it, recompense will come. Subscription numbers to the podcast and the Youtube channel will eventually result in a few bucks back in the pot. And traffic to the site will yield a few more through advertisements. And who knows, I may one day get a donation from someone to the buymeacoffee page. I have enjoyed creating merchandise designs and, as the word gets out, this site as a brand could become a popular fashion. One thing is for certain… I never want to charge a musician for anything, ever. In my eyes, the talent is the draw. And I would never do anything to take away from that. If you have read this to the end, I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart. Of course, I hope that you check out one of the links within these lines. But above all else, I hope that you support the musicians of Louisiana. Streams, show tickets, album and merch purchases, even likes and follows on social media mean the world to these people. Let’s do all that we possibly can as a community to keep them in our world.


Decades in Music

For many of us, we can recall where we were when we first heard the sound on the radio. For some of us, we can’t help but smile when we think about how we wore out that first record or cassette. But in the minds and hearts of any fan, one thing was for certain. When we heard rap music for the first time, we knew right then and there nothing would ever be the same again. It wasn’t that it was just distinctive or rare. It was the only sound of its kind… on earth. In time, it would become clear that this wasn’t just a passing fad. And contrary to opposition from taste-makers of the era, its gravitational pull would birth a place of permanence in the world of music.

The year was 1973, and at just seven years of age, Darnell Cotton had caught the bug. In his hometown of Newburgh in upstate New York, a vibration was in the air. At the reigns were people like the D.O.C. & Company, DJ Kid Legend, Charlie Rock, and Eddie On. And in the street was the only place it could be found. Rapper’s Delight, commonly thought of as the first rap song, wouldn’t traverse airwaves for another six years. But on highways in the back seat of a car, rap music would migrate out from Brooklyn to places like parties at Mount St. Mary’s College in Darnell’s hometown. Ambassadors of the new sound would arrive with milkcrates full of vinyl to recruit new disciples. And at seven years old, by way of friends or family, Darnell would find a way in. Captivated, he could see himself on that stage, performing for the crowd. Back at home, with his parents and four siblings, the aural landscape was completely different. Major Harris, Gladys Knight, Earth, Wind, and Fire, The O-Jay’s, Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and The Stylistics projected from those speakers. Darnell had a deep appreciation for this music as well. With one genre sometimes fueling building blocks for the other, in his mind the two styles would go hand-in-hand.

In 1978, his family moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And to put this time into perspective relative to the genre, the first rap song ever produced publicly didn’t even exist at this point. The following year would see the Fatback Band’s King Tim III (Personality Jock), the first rap song ever, pressed to a vinyl B-side. And even then, it was filed under disco and funk and cited on the charts as R&B. Being a time before the internet, his new surroundings were all but untouched by the influences of his old neighborhood. Without the support of radio, the progression of rap music swept across the states by way of people like Darnell. He had been there at ground zero. His mind and his mix tapes were the proof. At this point in time, the people in his new hometown were unaware. He recalled one evening at Leo’s Rollerland on Airway Drive in Baton Rouge, “As a matter of fact, when we came here my brother and them lied to the people and said we were the Sugar Hill Gang and was rapping their song. And when it came out (on the radio), they really believed it!” Over the next four to five years, like the landscape of music itself, Darnell’s life would see many changes. The older brothers he often hung with wouldn’t be around and he would stand on his own.

In 1981, at fifteen years old, Darnell credits himself with throwing the first Baton Rouge DJ party open to the public. He set up shop at a pizza place on Airline Hwy and invited kids his age to come hear him spin records from artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Planet Rock, and Nucleus. Around this time, Darnell befriended a local radio station personality that went by the name DJ Jazzmore. Jazzmore lived near Darnell, and the two would spend hours in a music room dedicated to turntables and vinyl. When the radio station opted for a change of format in ‘82, Darnell befriended his replacement, DJ Iceman. Iceman shared Darnell’s interest in rap music and would often DJ at events spinning it. Although the craft had yet to bless radio in Baton Rouge, Darnell could watch him cut and scratch live to the reaction of the crowd at Images, a club where Iceman was the resident. And with Darnell visiting New York every summer and returning home with new, unheard-of mixtapes and vinyl, Iceman would be introduced to the latest from rap’s birthplace and recordings of the radio station WBLS w Mr. Magic and Marley Marl. The exposure aided Iceman in his career both on stage and on the radio. In-kind, Iceman would put Darnell on the mic during his nightly mixes. Darnell also wrote a rap song titled The Fresh Mix, which Iceman put in rotation on the radio. This inspired Darnell to produce his own record and go on tour with DJ Iceman in 1983 MCing, beat-boxing, and rapping. Once again, he found himself furthering this migration of rap music. And to put this moment in time into perspective, 1983 would be the year Doug E. Fresh, the founding father of beat-boxing, made his debut in the single Pass the Boo Dah.

1983 was also the year Darnell really started getting into break dancing in talent shows and at basketball competitions. He and his partner were able to book shows that year on the merit of their competitive success. Constantly networking and gaining momentum, Darnell then formed Reality, a group reminiscent of the Fat Boys, at the turn of the year. He would go on to enter his group into the City-Wide Talent Show and win. With victory came a tour, performing at every City-Wide Talent Show at schools and on college campuses across the nation. Recalling a show at Southern University’s Union Hall, Darnell remembers, “Everybody who was somebody at that time, who got record deals or whatever coming up out of here eventually, later on, was in that talent show. And they saved us for last. And when I tell you, when we came out there them people went crazy man. When we got through, the crowd just erupted, everybody stood up.” Reality performed Missing Kids, a song they wrote inspired by a recent child abduction epidemic, to a packed house. And when I say packed, the fire marshal came on-site to prevent any more people from entering the building. Because of their success in this talent show, Darnell was able to get a record deal through Royal Shield Records. His group also appeared on CNN, courtesy of Joann Courrier, founder of Child Keeper’s Foundation. And the governor presented Reality with a plaque for their creative efforts within the social epidemic. Reality did Public Service Announcements and scored #1 slots on radio stations across the nation. But behind the scenes, trouble was brewing. Record companies wanted to sign Reality. But they were under contract at Royal Shield. The children’s foundation wanted to press the record and adopt it as their anthem. All were turned down. And on the heels of a scandal involving missing funds at the record company, their song was pulled by execs at Royal Shield. Darnell had been through extreme highs until this point. And now, at just nineteen years old, he had hit the low. “I guess it really didn’t affect me like that because I was who I was and I’m going to still keep doing what I do. Okay, this ain’t happening no more. It was good while it lasted. But I went on tour with some of the biggest stars…” Even though the record company would go on to fold, Darnell was speaking on the fact that Reality went on a six-month tour with Roger Troutman and Zapp, Ready for the World, Lisa Lisa Cult Jam, and the L.A. Dream Team. Following the tour, further problems within the group concerning management would see its dissolution.

Though he started at such a young age and had been through so much, Darnell has very few regrets. He cited times here and there, where looking back he sees how he may have been stubborn or perhaps leading with his ego. But all-in-all, his misses were logged as lessons learned and taken in stride. Royal Shield may have been the first company to engage in shady business practices against him. But for Darnell, it wouldn’t be the last. Despite underhanded efforts on the parts of several companies… unreported earnings, biased contracts, copyright infringement… Darnell persevered through it all. And no matter what happened, he could always see the darker alternatives just around the corner. But the choices and decisions he made in his life kept him out of trouble and nurtured his passion. He has since started his own record label, 360. He has enjoyed airtime with his work in the Vibe Tribe, a live instrumental group incorporating rapping and signing. He also scored radio play with his gospel track Everyone Finds Their Way Home. And he worked with Mystical on his first solo album following his time with No-Limit Records. He has several albums to his credit, with his latest being Show You How to Love. Darnell was also recently featured in a documentary covering the origins of rap music in Baton Rouge, Diamonds in the Dirt. Time and time again, though life has taken from him, it has validated him. He’s never had to wonder if his talent was good enough because the world has spoken. His passion for the art has not waned. To the contrary, he has begun a new chapter with Grynd Time Entertainment, his newest venture. Currently taking on producers, engineers, and talent, he is seeking to expand his presence in the world of music. To hear specifics on his future endeavors, as well as more stories from his past, check out our podcast interview under his name. A video series will be published on him in January ’23 on our Youtube channel as well.

FB: Darnell Cotton

IG: cottondarnell and darnell.cotton

YT: MrCotton and 100%Cotton

Show You How to Love:

Diamonds in the Dirt:


Ole Oddlokken

Born in Lillihammer, Norway, Ole Oddlokken spent his winters as many children did in the area; outdoors, often skiing. During the summer months when the climate had warmed, you could find him participating in the local marching band. Unlike here, the marching bands there were, and still are, not directly affiliated with schools. But many children in Lillihammer volunteered and Ole would do the same. Originally, he took interest in the valve trombone, but this was a popular choice for many of the kids. So, the band leader suggested a saxophone. Sometimes it’s life that steers us in just the right direction. As this sax really resonated with ten-year-old Ole and is still his instrument of choice today. The first two songs he learned would be Frere Jaque and (ironically) When the Saints Go Marching In. Being an extra-curricular activity, a true desire was present amongst children in this program. They gave end of the year recitals and many would often go on to perform in the adult community orchestra. As an adult, Ole followed suit, performing with several orchestras and big bands in town. It was then that he was exposed to jazz music.

While playing in various bands, Ole studied fine art at a college in Olso, a town south of Lillihammer. There he would meet his future wife, Nonny, an exchange student originally from New Orleans, Louisiana. He and Nonny would go onto marry, eventually giving birth to a baby girl. In 1994, when their daughter was a year old, they moved to New Orleans and settled in as a family. His saxophone would rest in its case for the next eleven years, as life for Ole became less about the arts and more about family and a regular job. Hurricane Katrina spurred a desire for inspiration and creation in Ole. And luckily that saxophone survived the storm. Joining a small folk singer/ songwriter band quenched his thirst for the arts. They played shows around town and went on to put out an EP. But during this time, he had been doing photography work and there were concerns about making gigs and so forth. So, after a few years, Ole left the band. But moving forward, that sax wouldn’t see its case as often, as dipping his feet in musical waters was a path that once again reunited Ole with his passion. And, as he said, “from there, the rest is history”. 

This long span of time that encompassed his move and settlement into the U.S. left Ole without any musicality. It also cleansed his palette of the music styles and compositions of his homeland. Starting again in music for him might as well have been starting anew, as his new surroundings brought new roles and atmospheres. He traded sheet music and traditional styles for improvisation. Although this had been new and exciting territory for Ole, a rift would again soon form between him and his calling. Putting down the sax to concentrate on his photography gig once again left a void within him. And after a year he found his way back into music through a Craigslist ad, joining a funk band by the name of Noisewater. The new digs were a fun change of pace; not particularly deep, but a hit in the bar/ venue scene. Local shows at Café Negril on Frenchmen Street, Banks Street Bar, Tipitina’s and others close to home made managing a job, a family, and band performances possible. And by all accounts, the band did well. They were on tv and radio, and even put out an EP. Delving further into expression and farther away from theory, Ole would occasionally get together and play with Will Vance and the Kinfolk, as well as improvisational funk, hip hop band, Breaux Jackson. Ole recalls a crazy night playing with Breaux Jackson at One Eye’d Jacks, where Andy Dick showed up. The night resulted in a viral video you might have seen where Andy Dick got knocked out just outside the venue.

Through a booking contact in Lake Charles, Noisewater had the chance to play a few dates with The Shizz, headed up by classically trained singer Lilly Lewis. As time went on, Noisewater would play fewer and fewer gigs, and Ole would go on to play in Lilly’s following band, The Lilly Lewis Project. Several of Noisewater’s members would do the same. Chad Carlisle would bring contributions on keys, and Will Laird would come in on bass. Although at times a bit funky, the Lilly Lewis Project is something special. Introspective thoughts project outward as she discusses things like losing one’s self, or what freedom means to her. And this was yet another change of pace for Ole. He had long ago left sheet music for exploratory improv and funk. And now, for the past six years, he has been able to contribute to a more soulful mixture in Lilly’s band.

Not that long ago, Ole went back to Norway for a visit with family. Just after his return he was able to play one show with the Lilly Lewis Project at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation stage on Rampart. Then Covid hit, bringing live performances to a halt. But by this time, his love of the craft had cemented itself deep within him. Fortunately, his saxophone would not be relinquished to its case as in previous instances. Oddly enough, this deafening silence handed down to us all became yet another inspiration for him. And as he noted, he feels as though it made him a better sax player, among other things. He reacted by writing his own music and setting up a recording studio in his home office. “The label I worked for, put out this thing (on social media) just to get people to share music and such which was ‘tag five musicians and share a music video of you playing a song.’ So, I was like, ok I’ll join in on that. I had been writing some music so I recorded myself playing that and put that up. I continued writing music and making videos just to have some sort of creative outlet. Next thing you know, I was like, this looks like a full album at this point.” Ole would begin a journey that resulted in his first self-produced and recorded album, The Home Office Sessions.

Following the videos that inspired this, the project began with Ole writing and recording his parts. Once all of the parts were recorded, he began reaching out to former band mates to record their parts and add their style. Brandon Hotard and Hayden Winfried, both from Noisewater, contributed guitar work, as did guitarist and producer Britton Newton. Chad Carlisle, who we mentioned earlier from Noisewater, made contributions on keys. For drums, Ole tapped on Wayde Hymel of the Lilly Lewis Project, as well as Milton Mansfield, and James Clarke. To polish things off, he was able to procure a percussionist and a cellist from New England. Lyricist Da Prophecy came in for some features rapping and Nonny, his wife, did spoken word. Throughout the project, he encouraged the contributors to play what they felt, only occasionally requesting a swell here or a certain texture there.

On our website,, you will find a delightful new experience for Ole in the form a music video for one of the songs featured on The Home Office Sessions, Master Divider. The night we spoke of earlier where Andy Dick got knocked out at One Eye’d Jacks was when Ole first met lyrical contributor Da Prophecy. The two shared the stage that night, as Da Prophecy sat in on a few Breaux Jackson songs. This time, Da Prophecy contributed lyrics to Master Divider, a beautifully written jazz track with rap lyrics. Ole also made use of a website that generates visual pieces from which an artist can build a music video. The music video link, as well as a link to the video composition website will be included below. Diverging from his time with Noisewater and the bar-scene party hits, he wanted this album to say something. Though he does not doubt that his heritage and musical back ground may have snuck its way into this work, Ole feels as though being Norwegian didn’t really come out in his expressions on this album. In fact, one of the songs that didn’t make it to the album was a Norwegian folk standard. He felt as though it didn’t really fit. And honestly, he finds Norwegian music to be a bit melancholy, straying from the vibe of this album. At times, the guitar work gets a bit heavy in his opinion. As Ole explained, “instead of just being all melancholy and chill, I like the contrast of that guitar on a couple of songs where it gets heavy”. He did mention drawing inspiration from his love for a German label, ECM, whose catalog features euro jazz, classical, and rock albums. He also cited Christian Scott’s post-Katrina work, Anthem, as a source of inspiration.

As a body of work, The Home Office Sessions album spans genres and moods, definitely lending itself to crossover appeal. I believe there’s something in there for everyone. Though mostly an instrumental, the album enjoys lyrical guest appearances from both Da Prophecy and Ole’s wife Nonny. Being created solely as a response to an epidemic lockdown, this album effectively has not seen the light of day; sans the digital arena. Ole hopes to once again call on his musician friends and perform the album live. Exposing the album and getting in-person feedback will bring this project around full-circle. And it’s something we should all look out for. Until then you can find the video for Master Divider at the link below.

Author: David Trahan

Master Divider –

Master Divider used Rotor Videos visual builder


MJ Dardar

Eleven miles from the head of passes on the Mississippi River, Michael Dardar grew up in the small fishing community of Venice, Louisiana with one older sister always by his side. In his house could be heard a wide variety of sounds, as his mother was a Barbara Striesand and Frank Sanatra fan, while his father loved listening to The Eagles, The Allman Brothers, Boston, and Foghat. His first live musical experiences came from the local church, where his mother was a leader in the church choir. Gazing across such contrasting soundscapes, he would ultimately gravitate toward his father’s tastes. And around fifteen or sixteen years of age, he began to experiment with the idea of writing and making music along with a childhood friend. “You know the Fischer Price microphone things? We would go in there; we’d put these little cassette tapes in there and we’d put the scotch tape on top of them. And we would basically tape songs on a different stereo, whether it would be a Beatles tape or something like that. And we would overdub our own lyrics and melodies on top of the tapes.” Looking back, he laughs at the thought of his father popping in one of his favorite tapes only to find his own voice beaming from the speakers. Years of this would eventually culminate in his first album, Rust, recorded in April on 2021.

From his days of experimenting with recordings of his own, the allure of one day making the transition into live performances seeded deep within him. And it never left. And although he rounded up a talented bunch of musicians to pull off the album, his only experience performing it came as an acoustic set with friend and co-writer, Jerry Martin. The two would eventually translate the work into an all-inclusive performance, implementing more band members and instrumental elements to his act. Gradually, guys like Mark Kryvanick and Tim Belanger would join them on bass and drums respectively. And he would implement a rotating roster of guys like Tillis Verdin, Brett Guillory, Teddy Baudoin, and Travis Thibodeaux on keys. Larger shows would even see a horn section taking to the stage. Adding the horns to his live performances, MJ feels, really resonated with himself as well as the crowd. “Adding that horn section is kind of the big one. The last time we did it was an album release party which was early May, May 6th I believe. And every song on our last album had full horn sections. And so, to be able to perform them that way, with the actual horn lines as opposed to transposing keyboard parts and things like that… it’s so much better and is really able to translate what we recorded into the live performance.” These elements were a refreshing change from the previous acoustic performances which had eventually become stale in his eyes. As Jerry Martin points out, “There’s nights, as an acoustic gig, where you’re struggling to hear yourself (above the crowd).”

With Houma and Lafayette being mainstays for the MJ Dardar band, the Tasting Room and Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans have also played host. But Houma has always marked home base for MJ. Enlisting a full-time manager and maintaining a strong online presence has enabled him to broaden his reach, which he hopes will eventually lead to a venture outside of normal boundaries. Finding value in this, MJ has been sure to engage with fans and followers in the thousands across multiple platforms. I, for one, have enjoyed the personal aspect in videos where he sits down in front the camera, playing acoustic guitar and singing. This ability to connect with his audience was instrumental during the height of Covid back in April of 2020. Along with Jerry Martin and other band mates, he committed to remotely filming forty-one full request, multi-track videos in thirty days. It was through this personal challenge and the resulting encouragement of online audiences that the genesis of the Rust record took hold.

At their core, the songs on Rust feel good. The rhythm guitar strums, tambourines, and shakers keep you in the groove while story lines originate from the heart. And bringing in that brass section gives it a feint departure from your typical country sound. Hammond and reed organ contributions back MJ’s soulful vocals nicely. And he’s got just enough grit in his voice, like the perfect mix of sweet and savory. Track “Leaver” pulls us away from this rural soundscape completely, delivering a surprising R&B plunge. Softer rhodes and sustained piano take the edge off as MJ sings about the value of his family as a child. The overall quality of these recordings is unquestionable. And this is important to point out because it doesn’t take much to pull a listener outside of an enveloping experience due to a distractive distortion or overwhelming level. It’s a delicate balance that MJ and the band maintain very well. And their ability to cross over from country to R&B seems completely natural.

MJ recorded his debut album at Audiosmith Studio in Prairieville, Louisiana under the guidance of owner Robbie Smith, a long-time friend and associate of his band mate Jerry Martin. As luck would have it, this would give way to a host of opportunities for him. Not long after completing his album, Robbie would go on to help form Redstick Records, a label out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And he asked if MJ would be interested in signing a recording contract with the label. Travis Thibodeaux, whom I mentioned earlier, would also do work for the studio on keys. Bringing his experience as the keyboard player and vocalist for Journey, and writing credits for “Take My Hand” recorded by Grammy winner Wayne Toups, Travis would prove a valuable asset. Through Redstick Records, MJ would have the pleasure of working with Brignac Lane Studios in Saint Amant, Louisiana while still reaping the benefits of Robbie’s production skills. He would also go onto be featured in several works by Jambon and Company, a band that had also recorded at Audiosmith Studio. Taylor Nauta, another artist on the Redstick roster, recorded guitar on MJ’s upcoming record “Caught Up In The Middle Of The Rain”. And Deanna Scott, MJ’s manager, would be taken on as Artist Management at Redstick Records. Being within this circle of musicians, recording studios, and labels has enabled MJ to implement things like strings into his work. The extension has also accommodated him in his quest to expand across country, blues, R&B, and pop genres. And being in the room with some of his personal heroes while soaking in the camaraderie and confidence of others has really inspired him to push the envelope.

With album number two, “The Reason Why”, nearly complete. And his third album taking shape, MJ am Jerry still intend to release stripped down, acoustic versions in the midst. The impact of growth through their journey, first with Robbie Smith of Audiosmith Studio, then Redstick Records and manager Deanna Scott continues to propel the two forward. Over 100 shows this past year and so much time logged in the studio is proof positive of their drive. I couldn’t be more delighted to have the privilege of sitting down with MJ and his team, and discussing how things took shape as well as where the band hopes to find themselves in the future. Below you will find relevant links to the players mentioned in this article. The full interview can be found on our podcast where MJ, Jerry, and myself go on to discuss navigating festivals and venues, chord structures and story lines of previous albums versus upcoming ones, and much more. Special thanks goes out to Kevin Sevin in Houma, Louisiana for the use of his beautiful home during the filming of this interview, which you will soon be able to see on our youtube channel by subscribing today.

Author: David Trahan


Poisson Rouge

A sense of identity can be drawn from the music one chooses. And as children, a sense of our family’s identity is passed on to us in this manner. We’re not always lucky enough to have heritage tucked into that medium. But members of the band Poisson Rouge were. Now husband and wife, located in Erath, Louisiana, founding members Greg and Kylie Griffin were both steeped in Acadian culture as children. Some relatives in Kylie’s family spoke fluent French. And the sounds of zydeco artists like Rockin Sydney were frequently heard by Greg as a child. As awareness of their culture gradually took hold, they began to form bonds with the underlying meanings of these elements. Those like Greg and Kylie that are fortunate enough to learn about their heritage at an early age often feel a sense of pride within it and a duty to protect it. This sentiment is at the core of Poisson Rouge.

Perhaps a brief pause is in order to help clarify key components of the origins of this microcosm we call Louisiana. Acadian heritage is that of French ex-patriots that arrived in Nova Scotia seeking religious freedom. And in their quest were ultimately driven out of the province, some coming to settle in Louisiana. The Creole heritage draws from people indigenous to Louisiana as a colony and possesses French, West African, Spanish and Native American roots. Consequently, the Creole population is comprised of African, Caucasian, and multi-racial people. Cajun is a result of the melding of both Acadians and Creoles. Being that the groups are now so closely related and the origins of each date back hundreds of years amongst many continents, all of what I just said is debatable. And the terms have taken on different meanings over the years. But for the purposes of this article, it will help to at least explain the continuity amongst the influences of each.

Being a genre built upon and delivering messages of tradition, the realm of cajun, zydeco, and creole music can sometimes be tricky to navigate for musicians. Purist nay-sayers turn up occasionally, thumbing their nose at the infusion of styles such as R&B or funk that are outside of familiar landscapes. I suspect there is an inherent fear that things of this nature will eventually dilute an important element of these cultures. But while Poisson Rouge appreciates the importance of the preservation of traditional styles, they welcome inspiration from other genres too. For instance, their song La Louisiane contains more than one verse where Kylie actually raps. But the song is encased in familiar zydeco elements like a washboard, an accordion, and a French horn. As for the final result, how does it sound you might ask? Poisson Rouge books countless venues and festivals every year with attendances from hundreds to thousands.

Like many of us, Greg, Kylie, and other members of this band grew up listening to a multitude of different genres. And sometimes the influence of those alternative genres seep into and subsequently change the final result. As for the nay-sayers, Greg disagrees with the idea that music needs to be made to appeal to other people. And I second this notion because I believe pandering to appeal hinders creativity. Ironically, the free communication of and borrowing from different genres closely parallels the manner in which cajun, creole, and zydeco genres were formed over the years. Similarly, though trumpet and french horn were Kylie’s strong suit, she sought to change that upon returning to the University of Lafayette to pursue her master’s degree in music. Courses there with horns were centered around classical jazz. As she explained to the university, “I’m done with the band stuff. I don’t want to play french horn anymore because it doesn’t serve any purpose. I’m just teaching music, I’m not playing music in that genre, you know classical jazz.” Kylie went on to play accordion while pursuing her masters. Within the concept of influences shared amongst genres, I couldn’t help but think what effect years of french horn and trumpet in a classical jazz setting had on a musician that would ultimately play accordion in a zydeco band. I find these things both fascinating and convergent. The cross-over appeal between audiences that Poisson Rouge enjoys is achieved by their willingness to accept and include influences from other genres not native to their history. With tradition and progression lurking, Poisson Rouge as a body of work has never felt contrived for its members. There is a deep-rooted passion that underlies their resulting sound. Some of the band’s members are people who were music majors in college. Some of them are music teachers now. Some of their families’ members play music. And all of them got to see musicians on festival stages at an early age.

In Louisiana, there are more festivals per year than days in a year. We celebrate everything from culture and industry to wooden boats and food trucks. Yes, we actually have several food truck festivals. (The next one is in Slidell, Louisiana on October 29th, 2022, a week from this article’s posting.) Making the transition from the crowd to the stage, bassist Greg Griffin has taken notice of those in attendance at some of these festivals. Often times he can read what type of crowd he’s playing for by their style of dress. And even when the crowd hasn’t quite fit his band’s infused design, he’s still seen nods of approval. But singer/ accordion player Kylie expressed concern stating, “Playing in Alexandria has been the most eye opening. Because nobody really dances; very few. You will get some people that will dance. And you’re like woah, one couple danced. But down here, that (dancing) is the norm…. It goes to show you how fast our culture is just going away, especially in some areas of the state.” When Kylie was growing up, you couldn’t keep drinks on the tables in zydeco clubs due to the amount of people dancing on wooden floors.

Through twists and turns in the bayou, the trees begin to envelope you, gradually concealing a world beyond. Likewise, the further one strays off the beaten path in Louisiana, the more they become surrounded by unique characteristics indigenous to the region. These features contribute a sense of singularity to the land as well as its inhabitants. Losing these features can essentially begin to strip away the character of a region and a sense of one’s own identity. Long ago, our nation’s Constitution removed bilingualism and in time would include an article that restricted the judicial process to the English language. This reduced the status of the French in Louisiana. And the assimilation of Louisiana’s French population into a now English society would see children chastised and humiliated for speaking French in schools. Since the language of a people is at the core of their identity, this effectively began the removal of their existence. Kylie grew up on a crawfish farm in Pecan Island that was later claimed by Hurricane Rita, which ultimately resulted in its sale. Her children will never know that way of life, nor will their children. And it was her late grandmother that would speak French to her when she was a child, not her parents. With the extinguishment of these factors comes a cultural whitewashing. As time marches on and previous generations die, with them is buried little pieces of our heritage. Unearthing these pieces and placing them on display is essential to maintaining a people’s continuation. In Greg and Kylie’s capacity both as musicians and as school teachers, it has always been a focal point to keep their own culture at the forefront of their efforts. They have both participated in a French immersion program in Nova Scotia that works to embolden the use of French language amongst its participants. They have put on summer music camps for children in the past where the kids played guitar, fiddle and accordion, singing songs in French. The school where they both teach facilitates a crawfish pond and a rice patch, familiarizing its students with their local way of life. The song I had mentioned previously, La Louisiane, speaks about the causes and effects resulting in a disappearing culture. And in building upon traditional music styles and stories, and travelling to spread these messages, Poisson Rouge hopes to instill a sense of urgency in its audience as to the needs of a dying legacy. You can find out more about Poisson Rouge on their website There you will find pictures, bio’s and links to more music.

Greg Griffin – Bass

Kylie Griffin – Vocals, accordion

Jude Pryor – Guitar

Bradley Gueho – washboard

Scott Domingue – Percussionist

Author: David Trahan