Q&A with Creole/Zydeco musician Corey Ledet, a true dance/music experience in the ways of old-time house parties

"The music we make is, and always has been, very different from what others see as “main stream”. Our language is different. We do what we want to do and sing about it. Outside of our area, people appreciate that and feel the sincerity of it. We want to be happy and want others to be happy too. It’s all about having a good time."

Corey Ledet: Zydeco Party On The Bayou

The self-titled album Corey Ledet Zydeco is this Zydeco star’s 14th album since releasing his full- length debut in 2004. His 2012 release Nothin’ But The Best, was nominated for a Grammy in 2013. Corey Ledet Zydeco (2021) released by Arnaudville, Louisiana’s Nouveau Electric Records. Corey Ledet Zydeco was produced by Ledet and Louis Michot, recorded at Dockside Studios, Maurice, Louisiana. It was mastered by Mark Bingham at Nina Hwy Studio. Corey is featured on lead, harmony and background vocals, accordion, drums and washboard. Corey Ledet was born and raised in Houston, Texas, but spent his summers with family in small-town  Parks, Louisiana. The Creole culture has its roots in Louisiana, but spread across the country, including neighboring Texas. Because of this, he was able to be immersed at all times in the Creole culture he loved so much. The summers in the family home molded and shaped Corey’s world in a profound way. He learned everything he could so that he could incorporate the culture in all areas of his life – the traditions, the food, and most importantly, the music. His love for the Creole/Zydeco music was instant and hard for him to ignore. He studied the originators of the music such as Clifton Chenier, John Delafose, and Boozoo Chavis. He branched out to include studying any (and all) artists of Zydeco.  At the early age of 10, he picked up shows playing drums for Houston-based band Wilbert Thibodeaux and the Zydeco Rascals and slowly learned the main instrument of the music – the accordion.                           (Corey Ledet / Photo by Kristie Cornell)

He came to truly love any type of accordion – the single-note, triple-note and piano key accordions – and any others. He worked at building his skills until he knew each one fluently. By the time he graduated from high school, he was certain that music was the focal point of his future. Corey eventually moved to Louisiana in order to be surrounded by this beautiful culture at all times. He remains true to his roots and earnestly searches for ways to include them in his music. He keeps one foot firmly in the tradition while exploring surrounding influences in order to create the best of both worlds. He is able to infuse old and new styles of Zydeco into his own unique sound from all of the people he studied and was influenced by. He also appreciates the other traditional sound indigenous to Louisiana in Cajun music and has been able to expand his repertoire to include these influences as well. Corey’s versatile sound enables him to please any audience. Whether he is playing a solo acoustical set or he is backed up by a full band, you as a listener will always be thoroughly entertained. He finds joy in giving his listeners a true dance/music experience in the ways of old-time house parties. So, come and enjoy the music of old presented in a new way but still very tied to tradition.

Interview by Michael Limnios

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

It has allowed me to visit several places and countries that I probably would never have had a chance to see. At every place, I was able to see how alike we all are and how our differences enhance our lives. It has also made me very proud of where I come from and it has helped me see how I’ve learned from the others that came before me.

How do you describe your sound and songbook? What touched you from the sound of accordion?

My sound a happy zydeco; high energy with plenty of variety. I try to keep my songs simple, not too complicated most the time. I find that less is more. Meant to be a stark contrast to the complications of life.

At first, I didn’t like learning the accordion at all, but I had watched all these zydeco bands growing up and saw them playing it and knew I wanted to do that. I didn’t like it much at first because I didn’t understand it and knew it would take a while to learn. But I kept at it and I realized that it was a powerful sound and very versatile. I like that you can play melodies and bass lines on it at one time for any kind of genre from anywhere in the world.

"On this last album "Corey Ledet Zydeco", in the studio, I had a different approach as far as tracking it, which was to have the whole band basically improvise. Like Clifton Chenier and John Delafose would record in their time. And by doing that we produced an energy that was captured on tape. Also, while in Moscow, we did an “after party” and was originally only supposed to be a 2-hour performance, and it ended up being a 6-hour performance, because they didn’t want us to stop. The energy there was electric." (Photo: Corey Ledet)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What´s been the highlights in your career?

Being nominated for a Grammy and participating in the awards ceremony is on the top of the list. It was surreal and an honor. Visiting Russia with my band to perform for my first time out of the US and being accepted by them was unforgettable. I would also say these are the highlights of my career.

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

On this last album "Corey Ledet Zydeco", in the studio, I had a different approach as far as tracking it, which was to have the whole band basically improvise. Like Clifton Chenier and John Delafose would record in their time. And by doing that we produced an energy that was captured on tape.

Also, while in Moscow, we did an “after party” and was originally only supposed to be a 2-hour performance, and it ended up being a 6-hour performance, because they didn’t want us to stop. The energy there was electric.

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

I wish that musicians could have things like regular jobs have, like retirement and health benefits. Especially with this pandemic, it has hit us especially hard to not be able to earn a living and those benefits seem even further out of reach.

"It has allowed me to visit several places and countries that I probably would never have had a chance to see. At every place, I was able to see how alike we all are and how our differences enhance our lives. It has also made me very proud of where I come from and it has helped me see how I’ve learned from the others that came before me." (Corey Ledet / Photo by Travis Gauthier)

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

Because it is a rich culture that brings joy and makes people. And who wouldn’t want to be happy and joyful?

What would you say characterizes Louisiana music scene in comparison to other US local scenes and circuits?

Because the Louisiana music scene almost seems like a country within a country: it has its own language, its own way of seeing life, its own way of creating its music while keeping alive the traditions of our ancestors.

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

  • To be versatile and open to learning different types of music.
  • To be able to create original music that tells a story.
  • How to entertain an audience.

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

The music we make is, and always has been, very different from what others see as “main stream”. Our language is different. We do what we want to do and sing about it. Outside of our area, people appreciate that and feel the sincerity of it. We want to be happy and want others to be happy too. It’s all about having a good time.

Corey Ledet - Home

Corey Ledet / Photo by Kristie Cornell

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