An energetic mix of Blues and R&B, Zydeco is unique to Louisiana and the local Creole population. Characterised by its fast-paced tempo and upbeat rhythm, Zydeco is usually dominated by an accordion and a washboard-inspired instrument nicknamed a rubboard.
With a professional music career spanning over 20 years and ten albums, Chubby Carrier typifies what Zydeco music is all about – fun, upbeat and animated music, with a whole lot of heart and soul. With Zydeco in his blood (both his father and grandfather were Zydeco musicians), Louisiana native and winner of the 2010 Zydeco Grammy, Chubby Carrier has travelled all over the world, bringing his buoyant Zydeco sound to music venues across the United States, Canada and Europe.
We caught up with Chubby to talk about his career, the ever-evolving New Orleans music scene and the best places to listen to Zydeco down on the Bayou.
In the words of Chubby Carrier, how would you describe the essence of Zydeco music?
“High-energy, traditional Southern music with a Creole flair. Zydeco Music is special to my heart and soul – my dad introduced me to Zydeco music, my granddad played it and so did my cousins. For me, it’s a family tradition.“
Tell us a bit about your background as a musician. What were your biggest influences when growing up and how have they inspired the music you make?
“I started playing the drums in my dad’s band at the tender age of 10. My grandfather and my father were my big influences, but local musician Clifton Chenier was my biggest inspiration. They all inspired me to play the accordion – I fell in love with the sound of it.”
You and your fellow musicians, The Bayou Swamp Band, won a Grammy in 2010 for your album Zydeco Junkie, how did this impact upon your musical career?
“Winning the Grammy was a blessing. It has opened up doors, helped us increase recognition and awareness of Zydeco music and, of course, got me many more gigs.”
How has Zydeco influenced the cultural mainstream?
“By opening doors for the younger generation. We have to keep our tradition alive and pass it down to our kids – they are our future. People get involved in Zydeco because the music brings people together. We have a rich culture here in Southwest Louisiana, and our fathers and grandfathers taught us to keep the family traditions alive.”
What are the must-visit bars and clubs in Louisiana for Zydeco fans, from the mainstream to down’n’dirty dive bars?
“Not as many of the old Zydeco clubs are still running, but some of my current favourites include; Slim’s Y-Ki-Ki, Millers Zydeco Hall Of Fame (formerly Richard’s Club) and El Sido’s Zydeco Club & Blues Club.”
Food and Zydeco have always had an affiliation – can you recommend some of the best local places for home-cooked Creole and Cajun food?
“We have some great Cajun and Prejean Cajun places here in Louisiana. Don’s Seafood and Pont Breaux Cajun Restaurant are two of my favourites. They are family-owned, and I love just about all of their food. My favourite dish is the Creole Catfish, fried or grilled with a side order of Gumbo.”
Who should we look out for on the Zydeco scene in 2015?
Lastly, for Zydeco novices could you recommend an essential playlist of your best Zydeco tracks?
Booking a trip to New Orleans? Our codeshare arrangement with Delta makes it simple for you to travel all over North America, bringing Zydeco closer to home.
Have you got any of Chubby Carrier’s music? Tell us about some of your favourite Zydeco musicians in the comments section below.