Q&A with Creole musician Sean Ardoin, one of the most revered and royalty names in Creole and Zydeco music

"What I miss most about music nowadays is the lack of live instrumentation. I really enjoy live band or human played parts vs. samples. The human interaction and note play are irreplaceable for me as far how I like to experience music."

Sean Ardoin: Kreole Rock and Soul

You ever wondered what happens backstage at a festival or concert with multiple artists? Wouldn’t you have loved to have been a fly on the wall when the legends were in their comfort zones just hanging out? Bowie and Jagger, Rick James and Prince, the Eagles on tour, and your favorite artist with their guard down just hangin’. The stories, conversations and laughs are timeless! Sean Ardoin has had the privilege of being in some of those rooms and would like to bring that experience to you through his show, All Things Music. It’s a weekly live show set in an intimate interview format with guests - Sean's friends, from all aspects of the music business. Ardoin gives the viewers and listeners an “All Access Pass", pulling back the curtain on the music business - all aspects of their career, relationships, big wins and hard losses. Nothing is off the table. Who Is Sean Ardoin? The Ardoin name is one of the most revered in Creole and Zydeco music. Sean's family legacy started with legendary Creole musician Amedee' Ardoin, whose songs are the foundation for Cajun and Creole music, followed by Bois Sec Ardoin, one of the best-known practitioners of the state's rural Creole sound for six decades, and his father Lawrence "Black" Ardoin.

After co-leading the critically acclaimed Zydeco outfit Double Clutchin', Sean set out on his own musical journey in 1999. Ardoin has performed everywhere including but not limited to, Carnegie Hall; European festivals; New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Ardoin represents the roots and progressive future of Louisiana's Creole Zydeco sound like no other artist. A rare combination of tradition, talent and creativity, the Lake Charles, Louisiana-based artist started a new genre called 'Kreole Rock and Soul' in order to be able to express his artistry without the confines of the traditional Zydeco idiom. He sees a bright future for his band and brand. With his latest CD, “Came Thru Pullin'” and his two recent Grammy nominations, Sean Ardoin is ready to bring that Kreole flavor to you with all the spice you can stand!

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Cajun/Creole culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

My Creole heritage has influenced every part of my life. The way we are warm and welcoming, family oriented, faith based, and have tremendous love for life has provided a foundation that, I feel, makes me stand out in crowded rooms. The music I play is a major part of Southwest Louisiana everyday life and it has brought me all over the world a few times!

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

My sound is unique in that I've taken the Creole music essence and modernized it. I've always thought that it should be center stage in the world music culture. When I was in college, I thought that if I could inject modern recognizable elements into traditional Creole music, then I could get my peers to at least be curious about our music. Then as that process progressed, I started to have my own sound and fast forward to today and I now have created my own genre, Kreole Rock and Soul. I believe that it encompasses all of my musical influences into a big powerful musical gumbo, whose taste, the masses will devour! My drive comes from wanting to bring my family name to the highest heights of musical notoriety, while pushing the music to be all it can be so that generations will have the freedom to create and be, Creole, without the limitations of tradition...now that being said, if you want to be the traditionalist, that's great, I applaud those keepers of the flame, as long as they don't cast a disparaging light on those of us who push the boundaries. There is enough room for all of us, and I believe it makes us a more complete musical culture with all these elements in place. I created a band of bandleaders called Creole United, in order to maintain the traditional elements in the forefront. So, I'm driven to represent my Ardoin name, my culture, and my creativity with the utmost integrity, so that my music will stand the test of time.

"I want it to do what it's always done. Traditional Creole, Zydeco, and Kreole Rock and Soul music has always given people the opportunity to smile, choose to have good time, and choose to be happy. Everywhere I go, when we start playing, people start smiling and moving...it does what it does when I do what I do!" (Photo: Sean Ardoin)

How started the thought of "All Things Music"? What is the hardest and funny part a TV show?

I have always been "backstage" as my family is one of the pillars of my genre, so for me it was normal. I always hear from people I meet and those I've known for a long time, that they'd love to be able to be backstage and be a fly on the wall. So, I started thinking, I have a lot of friends in the industry and backstage is really an experience when there are multiple artists, who get along, back there just sharing stories and chilling. What if I created a show in which we did just that, allow the viewer an "All Access Pass" backstage? So, in 2018 I started doing it and did 20 episodes! They were successful and just as I'd suspected, people loved it. We'd go live and they'd stay tuned till the end, it was fun!  Then at the end of 2018 I got two Grammy Nominations and life got a little busy, so I ended season 1 in December 2018. Fast Forward to now, we are all on a "CoronaCation" trying to figure it out. My manager said, "hey man you can talk to people, you should do a fb live or something...that'll keep you in the public eye in this down time..." I told him, I was thinking about starting up season 2 of my Live show and here we are! The hardest part about this season is learning all the new technology involved in having your product stand out a little, it has to be as excellent as it can be with what we have to work with. So, I went into the workshed to figure it all out! Took me a few days to get all the programs talking but I have it now and I'm gonna keep tweaking to make it look and feel better each time. The funniest part of doing a show is how you recover when, of no fault of your own, technology just quits! lol.. The first episode, we're wrapping it up and all of a sudden, my guest's feed just dropped! So, now I have to make quick decisions, do I end it? Do I wait for her to come back in? Is she gonna come back in? Will she be able to come back in? So, I have to keep talking while asking and answering all these questions in my head and keep it all together, so the people are assured that I have it all under control... that's funny to me...because inside? I'm screaming.. NOOOOOOOO!!!! LOL

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Too many to memories in this short time.  But I can say that I was playing the Fourth of July Celebration on the National Mall in D.C. and Carl Perkins was on the show. The day of the show, we're eating breakfast and in walks this old school musician.  I'm thinking, I know this guy... So, he comes and sits at our table and starts talking to us, introduces himself and I immediately start to trip out... I'm eating breakfast with Carl Perkins, Mr. BLUE SUEDE SHOES himself!!  Long story short, we talk and even ride the van over to the festival site together. On, the van ride, he then let's me know that the other guys riding in the van with us is Elvis' original band!!! That was a great and memorable moment in my career because not only did I get to meet a living Legend, but he was a down to earth, nice guy who was genuinely interested in me in our short time together. I never forgot it and he was just another example for me of a successful artist who knows how to treat people. I model it to this day, if I meet you and we have a conversation, I'm all in, this is your moment with me and I'm gonna be locked in, because people never remember what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel!

"My Creole heritage has influenced every part of my life. The way we are warm and welcoming, family oriented, faith based, and have tremendous love for life has provided a foundation that, I feel, makes me stand out in crowded rooms. The music I play is a major part of Southwest Louisiana everyday life and it has brought me all over the world a few times!" (Photo: Sean Ardoin)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

What I miss most about music nowadays is the lack of live instrumentation. I really enjoy live band or human played parts vs. samples. The human interaction and note play are irreplaceable for me as far how I like to experience music. I appreciate programmed music and do it myself, but my default leisure listen is always gonna be something organic. With this pandemic we're dealing with in full swing, the one thing I hope is that we can get back to live concerts and festivals, that's where I thrive...on stage, helping people to choose to have a great time because of my music! I fear that too many people will have become accustomed to consuming their music online in this downtime and it will affect our live crowds. But I know that historically, no matter what the economic conditions, entertainment will always be needed and sought out. It's always been that way because people want to leave their cares for a brief moment in time and lose themselves in the music played by me and my peers, so that they can endure the difficult times ahead.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

If I could change one thing in the musical world and it would become reality, it would be that money wouldn't be the determining factor for which artists get heard. Talent and drive should always reign supreme...and it does, but there are many super talented individuals out there who did not have opportunity because they didn't have the money needed to get the platform needed to blow up... a tree does make noise if it falls in the woods... but if there's no one to witness it or there's not camera there...it's an inconsequential thud...

"My sound is unique in that I've taken the Creole music essence and modernized it. I've always thought that it should be center stage in the world music culture." (Photo: Sean Ardoin)

Why do you think that the Cajun/Zydeco music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Zydeco music generates a devoted following because when people experience it in it's fullness here in southwest Louisiana, they are forever hooked! The beat, the people, the high energy charged atmosphere of a Zydeco dance and the couples dance associated with it, make it highly addictive. There are Zydeco festivals, societies and dance groups all over the world whose sole purpose is to try an recreate the experience of being in a southwest Louisiana dance hall or festival, lol... but try as they might... it can only be imitated, because to duplicate it, you'd have to import the people as well and that's just not possible cuz they are too busy weekend in and weekend out feasting on what we have here.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in music paths?

Relationships are not important, they're everything and everyone at that event is important.  I speak to everyone in my path and even introduce myself to some outside of it lol... I've gotten TV appearances and opportunities to do big things because when I was at a festival, I went and talked to the guy working the sound board in front, or I had conversations with the person working catering...or helped the person, who looked overloaded, carry something. Everyone is important and if you're looking, there's always an opportunity to get to know someone and bless them with a smile and a "hey, how are you doing?"

What is the impact of Creole music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

Here in Southwest Louisiana, Creole music is the most popular music. If you want your event to be successful, you almost have to have a Zydeco band in the lineup. It's an important part of our cultural identity and without it we wouldn't be whole. I want it to do what it's always done. Traditional Creole, Zydeco, and Kreole Rock and Soul music has always given people the opportunity to smile, choose to have good time, and choose to be happy. Everywhere I go, when we start playing, people start smiling and moving...it does what it does when I do what I do!

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