You kind of get the New Orleans sound by osmosis. You’re at the Mardi Gras parade; you’re 5 years old, you’re catching beads. You’re not paying attention to the sounds of the rhythm, but yet, they’re there. When the marching bands are rolling through, the drums are booming, the horns are blasting… These are sounds. They get inside of you. You’re at a backyard party, and they’re playing Fats Domino… Sounds, you know?
As a kid, you’re thinking, “Boy, we’re having a good time at this party! All my family is here; I’m playing with my cousins…” But those sounds are there too.
You get to college, and you start going out drinking. Lee Dorsey is on the jukebox, and then the Meters, and then Dr. John. You’re drinking, you’re having a good time, and these are the sounds you’re surrounded by. And so, without really knowing it, they’re infecting you and affecting you.
So when I was in college, gigging in New Orleans, part of the New Orleans thing is—if you’re playing a wedding, if you’re playing a corporate event—there’s always a jazz element to it, you have to know how to play that (“When the Saints Go Marching In”), and you also have to know how to play the sounds of the second line (“Hey Pocky Way,” “Iko Iko”).
You have to learn the music. It doesn’t just magically happen. You have to sit down and figure it out. You have to work it out. When I did, the rhythms just came to me. Something about these rhythms and syncopations was able to come to me, and the only thing I could figure was, hey, I drank the water. When you drink the water your whole life, it becomes part of you without you knowing, and all you’re asking yourself to do is just let it out. There’s a lot of effort and learning that goes into it. There’s a lot of paying attention to details. But it comes out.