Revealing Chris Beary

            Chris Beary is a social entrepreneur who has contributed consistently to the New Orleans community and the preservation of Louisiana music history over the last three decades. He is the founder of several non-profit organizations in the city, and serves in managerial or ownership capacities of many other businesses across a variety of sectors. After practicing law for 25 years, he shifted his focus to community building and social endeavors. I have been hearing about one project by the name of the Funky Uncle for quite some time now, and it was a pleasure to give a few listens to this interview.

            An interesting topic mentioned early in the interview is the realization we all eventually have: all artists are not local to us. There is a difference between the music we hear in recordings and the music which is crafted by local and regional musicians. I can remember having a similar realization in my teens when it finally dawned on me that not all music I had just heard had been recently released. I recall boldly proclaiming to my parents that a friend had introduced me to the next great band of 2001: Guns N’ Roses!

Beary describes his realization as perhaps more gradual and smooth; exploring the city as a preteen on his bicycle, hearing local musicians and attending all-ages shows at Jimmy’s Music Club. The intersection of our memory lanes, however, lies in the eyes-wide-open thrill of discovering live music performances. The energy, improvisation and temporality of a great live performance can never truly be captured on a recording, and Beary has put his money where his mouth is to create opportunities for performers to captivate their audience and perform wholeheartedly. More on that later.

Coming from a family of music fans, Beary was encouraged in his growing interest in live music performances. He describes going out initially to see any show he could find, but refining his interest over time and following bands who he most preferred to hear. As he talks about “peeling back the onion” and understanding music on a deeper level, he says his interest in becoming a part of the machine began to develop along with a deep appreciation of funk music. Although self-described as a mediocre drummer, he talks about his natural inclination from a young age to want to be a part of the music scene.

A lifelong entrepreneur, Beary talks about his brief foray into music club ownership in the late 90’s, when he purchased Jimmy’s Music Club. He says the experience ultimately led him to consider all of his future ventures into the industry as social entrepreneurship. He then talks about the financial hardships faced by musicians in the gig economy, citing several reasons why these observations led him to become a social entrepreneur and champion of fair economic treatment of musicians. It is pretty common water cooler talk to hear folks on the scene express these sentiments, but it comes as a welcome relief to listen to this podcast and hear about an individual with this level of credential who has devoted a significant portion of their life to this worthy cause. It takes all kinds of people to make up a thriving community, and savvy businessmen are no exception.

Moving forward, he details the circumstances which led towards the eventual formation of The Funky Uncle Live including his introduction to guitarist/composer Cristian Duque. I have had the pleasure to work with Cristian many times in the past, and was thrilled to hear of the collaboration with the spirited entrepreneurial vision of Beary. One of the most notable things I have seen in Cristian’s group, Soul Project, is his commitment to performing original music with fleshed out arrangements. On the occasions I have heard them perform covers, they bring a distinct energy and earnestness to the performance which stands out wholesomely. To mention the firepower of the ensemble itself… go check them out!

The discussion between the two led to the creation of a beautiful thing; a mardi gras float equipped with a professional soundstage. Duque is quoted (paraphrased here) as pointing out the disparity between the typical quality of venue soundstages vs the immaculate planning that goes into studios for recorded music. Once the float had been designed and built, the debut performance was held at a “JazzFest for the homeless”, an event which became a staple for the roving venue until the 2020 pandemic. During this time, Beary and Duque began conversing about the possibility of using the float as the backdrop for socially-distanced, streamed performances. He describes the generosity of the local community, detailing several crucial production functions and equipment which were donated to the cause.

Through the course of the pandemic, the venue served as a functional and safe performance outlet for over 100 unique bands to broadcast shows as a means of income during the quarantine. At this point, he touches on another crucial element in this conversation: Beary was able to draw in a community of collaboration because he is not benefiting financially from the effort. As the interviewer points out, this is immediately disarming for potential collaborators for apparent and universal reasons. The network of support generated by the Funky Uncle Live during the COVID pandemic will certainly stand as a testament to the importance of community building and philanthropy. Not every music lover can be a gigging musician, and not every gigging musician has the economic ability to bring things into life. It is an observably symbiotic community which has sprung up through altruism, but more crucially backed by humility, expertise and good intention.

Beary’s interest in the arts is not limited to live musical performances: he goes into a great detail within the full interview about the series of paintings by local artist Frenchy which depict the COVID concerts at the Funky Uncle. These paintings were sold, with the overwhelming majority of the proceeds going toward supporting the musicians who performed at the venue. Beary marvels at the speed and frenzied dexterity of Frenchy, likening his focal intensity to operating as fast as four people at once. Displaying a consistently organizational mind, he describes the paintings as a body of work worthy of examination as a whole. He draws a simile between the progression of an artist’s career to the development of the perspective used to capture the energy of the live, audience-less, performances.

As the pandemic drew to a close, Beary decided to renew his commitment to community work and has allocated roughly 90% of his working hours to pursue social entrepreneurship. One of the first projects at this time was a compilation album to commemorate the spirit of the Funky Uncle community, which was completed in 2021. These albums were passed out during Mardi Gras 2022, and the physical copies are sure to become collector’s items. The album also included interview recordings interspersed with the musical tracks, serving as an homage to the performers who shared their stories with the broadcast audience. As the local venues began to reopen, the streaming shows have ceased, but the Funky Uncle still rolls on for community and private events as well as fundraisers.

Beary’s current community development project is the Louisiana Music and Heritage Experience, a massive music museum which is slated for construction across from the Convention Center. I recommend listening to the full podcast episode to hear the description of many of the exhibitions and performances to occur at the new museum. From the sound of it, this will be an employment opportunity for music lovers, historians, and performers alike. I will likely write a follow-up to this piece once there are continued developments to the museum.

This interview shed a lot of insight into the enthusiastic spirit of Chris Beary. I have not yet had a chance to meet him, but there is something decidedly disarming about the way he speaks about the collaborators who have helped him to create musical communities. You may not be a musician, Chris, but you’re a funky moth- I’ll shut my mouth.



Tamarie T and Thee Elektra Kumpany

                First and foremost, I love the energy Tamarie brings to this interview. There are moments of bare sincerity which speak to me meaningfully as a fellow musician and bandleader and I wanted to share my thoughts. I was unable to check out the show on Frenchmen he recently hosted, but I hear it was out of sight. Please consider listening to the full interview on the Podcast. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy. Here is a brief bio summary of Tamarie for anyone who missed the podcast.

                Tamarie T is an artist born in Inglewood, Chicago who has recently moved to New Orleans to continue his artistic career and bring his signature funk vibrations into the musical melting pot of the city.  Continuing in the tradition of early funkateers, Tamarie performs with a full ensemble complete with rhythm section, horns, vocalists and even dancers. His early career, which included covering the music of powerhouse artists such as Prince, eventually led to a role as a booking manager at Chicago’s Underground Wonder Bar. During these early years, he was able to establish a network of musicians (both peers and mentors), as well as begin to develop what would become a signature musical styling and dynamic stage presence. Tamarie calls his music “Exotic Funk”.  Let’s dig in.

                What is exotic funk? On an immediately relatable level to many musicians, exotic funk is the opposite of “everything”. Tamarie details a discussion wherein he was cautioned against saying the band plays everything. Personally, I have received similar advice from many of my mentors over the years. I have been a bandleader for over fifteen years, and I have changed styles and tastes in various ways. As the years go by, material from previous phases begins to accumulate and decisions must be made about the direction of the group musically and from a marketing perspective. Many artists find themselves in between established “genres” and must choose the lesser of two evils when deciding how to file paperwork on streaming platforms, etc. I tip my hat to Tamarie for putting boots to the pavement and taking on long-form interviews like this in order to be clear and descriptive.

                Tamarie paved his own way toward expression. He describes his career ascent from self-promoting on Craigslist as a “frontman extraoridinaire” to developing his musical and industry chops by reaffirming his constant desire to find his own sound. Tamarie speaks about “assuming the roles of our elders” as he describes the foundation and reformations of his ensemble. Again, I would encourage anyone reading this to give a listen to the full interview, especially if you yourself are at a transitional point in your career where you are looking to expand beyond covering other people’s tunes. I personally continue to perform occasionally with cover groups, but when I perform solo or with my band, I choose to do exclusively original music. This is a transition I was only personally willing to commit to after the pandemic, but this portion of the interview was especially compelling for me as a listener.

                Venturing into a personal aside, I also found it relatable when Tamarie spoke about various elements of sacrifice that are sometimes required to be a musician. And doubly so if you choose to forge your own path. As with most things in life, the factors at play will not be identical between any two people on this planet when it comes to major decision making. This topic, that is- the sacrifices musicians make to purse the lifestyle which suits them, could be the subject of a novel on its own. For the time being I intend to leave the subject alone, but perhaps will write a separate opinion piece to take a closer look at the matter in general.

                For now, let’s talk about New Orleans. It is a visceral city in which to be a musician and there is enough excitement generated per day to power a small-town power grid. For many, the first performances in the city are absolutely electrifying and can generate enough mental momentum to make you feel like you can conquer the world. This certainly seems to be the case with Tamarie, and I hope to see his career continue to grow during his time in the city. There are likely enough articles out about the potential roadblocks and the pitfalls which lay about, so let’s instead take a tangent.

Tamarie mentions the lack of response by various venues to his email requests to schedule a performance date, which is something I believe most musicians can empathize with in one way or another. There are, of course, some band leaders (the names change, the game doesn’t) who will prey on new-to-town musicians and there are always suspicions that venues may not be paying what is owed. But beyond the surface-level (and unsolicited) cautionary tales any local musician could share, and to avoid potential slander, I would like to use this article to encourage Tamarie and others to continue pushing for opportunities to perform (for money) their original music.

He describes his first performance in the city with local musician Sierra Green. I have personally had the pleasure of working with Sierra Green numerous times and I am vicariously thrilled for Tamarie to be introduced to such a business-minded (and bullshit-avoidant), charismatic and knowledgeable veteran of the scene. Anyone who has heard Sierra knows she possesses an incredible voice and a powerful stage presence. Certainly, a potentially exciting pairing for as vibrant of an artist as Tamarie. He also mentions trombonist and band member Maurice Cade, another New Orleans transplant born in Chicago. Maurice, in addition to performing with Tamarie and Sierra, is the trombonist in my horn section, The KB Horns. Maurice’s playing was recently featured at the Blues Music Awards in Memphis where The KB Horns accompanied blues guitarist Kenny Neal. All that to say, I believe Tamarie has found himself in exemplary company when it comes to fabulous musicians with earnest intention.  

Returning to the interview, Tamarie makes an aside about “assuming the roles of our mentors” which I found quite compelling. As the years pass, we do inevitably find ourselves in a position wherein we must take the mantle from whoever paved the way for us. Although we may never get an opportunity to inherit a legacy show or even meet our musical icons, I believe Tamarie is right in pointing out that we must appreciate the mentors who shaped our early years and we must express that gratitude to them in whatever way we can. Tamarie talks about the eventual reformations of his ensemble which led to staffing decisions that excluded long-time band members. He spends some time on this point, elaborating on the delicacy of the situation and the process by which bands transition to new membership while still showing respect for the members who are not chosen to represent the current trajectory. Having been a bandleader for over a decade, I relate to this deeply because sometimes the decisions can be absolutely gut-wrenching. It takes a certain type of person to balance the role of a business manager and that of the artist. Music is very often emotionally involved work, and I appreciate that Tamarie took the time in the interview to speak on the necessity of being considerate to those who must be let go in a transition. Life is hard enough; we must be nice to each other.

Coming to a final quote, Tamarie speaks about an interaction with Sierra Green where he was told to “not be humble”. Now we are playing with fire, and I love it! There is always a necessity for respect and decorum, relative of course to the situation, but there is a sound truth in the sentiment that the meek will not inherit the stage in New Orleans. I think there is a sound logic within this idea, and I want to point out again that this interview in its entirety goes into great detail about this point (I don’t want to see anyone taking this out of context). I personally relate to and agree with the sentiment, and I believe it goes without saying that in the context of all other topics discussed in the interview Tamarie shows a consistent empathy and compassion for his core band as well as temporary hires. Disclaimers aside, holy shit what a good thing this is to hear early on in your New Orleans journey.

This is a fiercely competitive gig market, with a lot of room for sidemen and fill-ins. But there are only so many stages and so many tourists to entertain on a given day. Until the point in your career where you are selling tickets with your name on them to pay your bills, being a bandleader in a tip-driven economy is no small undertaking. Recruiting band members who will make themselves available to you to take a chance on original music in a cover-dominated environment can be tricky, and Tamarie points out that even once you clear that hurdle the musicians will likely be involved in several other projects simultaneously. Scheduling rehearsal can be a nightmare, and commitments can often be quickly severed when the prospect of higher-paying work is introduced. It is not an easy task, and can be complicated even still by the lack of response by bigger name venues. Speaking from experience, it can be exhausting.

I encourage Tamarie, and anyone else looking to present their original music, to pursue this goal to the fullest extent possible. Tamarie, you are in good company (Kumpany?) and I wish you nothing but success. Don’t let the bullshit wear you down, and do what you can to stay true to your vision. I don’t believe there is any dishonor in taking pickup cover work if it helps keep things moving, and there are lots of places beyond tourist-populated clubs to perform. Big crowds are nice, but it’s hard to retain people’s attention and even harder to make fans who seek you out independently. I wish you success, and I am looking forward to meeting you out on the scene!

I’ll say this, nobody is going to see you as anything but yourself in New Orleans as long as you put it out there. Shine on!

Author: Kasey Ball


About the author:

Kasey Ball is a Louisiana born composer/arranger, multi-instrumentalist and producer. He is a 15-year veteran of the Louisiana music scene and bandleader of KB & the Backbeat.