So, here it is. It’s the day after Christmas 2013. My gigs are done for the year, and I’m preparing for the new year, ahead. I’ve been going over the calendar and getting papers and receipts together to prepare for the tax season, and it occurred to me that 2013 was an exceptionally successful year for both my wife, and me.
The first exciting thing of the year was receiving word that I had been selected to receive a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts for “Individual Artist Career Advancement.” Lake Charles hasn’t had a recipient selected for this grant in more than five years, and this year, in addition to myself, local visual artist, Heather Ryan Kelly was also selected. This grant, for me, was the first major step toward being able to record my own new music and move in a new direction as an artist.
Around the same time, I was invited to perform on the Shotgun Red Variety Show which is filmed in Nashville, TN for the RFD-TV cable network. Heather and I traveled to Nashville over the Mardi Gras holiday and spent six days in the hills of Tennessee. We saw a lot of sights, visited old friends and made new important contacts in the music industry. The folks on the Shotgun Red Show are a class act all the way around. The musicians are top notch, and with only one 5 minute rehearsal, they nailed my song for the performance.
Right around the same time that we were preparing for the trip to Nashville, we received our copies of the 2013 Thrive calendar. Thrive is a local publication that covers health, business and the arts in the Lake Charles area. Each year, they hold a contest for local visual artists to submit their work for the annual calendar. Fans and readers of Thrive vote for their favorite entries, and the top twelve get in the calendar. Heather’s entry received the highest number of votes, and her photo was featured on the February page.
Shortly after returning from Nashville, I began the preparation for recording. Over the next few months, six recording sessions total, I brought in some of the best players I know…my friends and band members. With the talent and skills of Clint Ward, Mitch Simon, Danny Cormier, Vic Simon, Jay Ecker, Lawrence McLeroy, Scotty Trahan, Chris Miller, Camryn Miller and Taylor Clements, the CD slowly began to take shape. Had it not been for the tireless efforts of master engineer, Mark Robertson, my vision would have never come to fruition.
Meanwhile, in the middle of all of this, Heather submitted a couple of photos for a local Vision/Verse event. This is where poets are given a piece of visual art that they have never seen, and they write a piece of poetry for it. The visual artists are given a poem, and they have to create a visual work for it. It is a very, very interesting creative process. Low and behold, one of Heather’s pieces was selected for the cover of the book that is produced from the entries.
In addition, the local women’s shelter asked Heather to produce their campaign poster and the symphony asked her to photograph their performance so that they could update their website and other media for the new symphony season. Both were huge successes, and she got a lot of recognition for her hard work.
Summer came and went. Just as I was preparing to return to work for a new school year, the CD was released. Releasing a CD as an independent with no agent, no publicist and no manager is a very enormous undertaking. Nonetheless, I jumped in with both feet. I managed to penetrate the Folk radio markets around the world with moderate success. In August, I reached number 26 on the most played albums as reported by the Folk Radio. Since then, I have managed to hold around number 15 on the Independent Roots chart for Louisiana. The most exciting thing is getting messages from people all over the world about my music. My CD, Le Forgeron, is currently being played at over 300 stations, worldwide, including Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy and Israel.
One of the things that I dearly miss about my touring days is getting to play Folk festivals and soaking up the great music of astounding Folk musicians from all over the world. November came around, and I had the opportunity to play my first Folk festival as a solo artist. I was invited to play the Champagne/Urbana Folk Festival in Urbana, IL. I was hosted by my friend, Rob Krumm and his wife. Rob accompanied me on my songwriter performance and assembled a band so that we could play a good ole Cajun dance. I also got to catch the dynamic performance of Del Rey who plays the Blues on ukulele and resonator guitar in the style of Memphis Minnie. She is phenomenal!
Also, in the middle of all of this busy time, I had the opportunity to perform on stage with some of my heroes. My band and I had the opportunity to serve as back up for the great Doug Kershaw. Doug is the world famous Cajun fiddler aka the “Louisiana Man!” We had a great time performing for the crowd at the Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville, LA.
I also had several opportunities to share the stage with my long time hero and good friend, Jo-EL Sonnier. Jo-EL has been a major force in the keeping of Louisiana Roots Music alive in the world of Country music and here at home where it counts. The respect that I have for him can’t be explained in words.
Now, I’m back where I started in this blog. Christmas has come and gone. I am already preparing for the first big event of 2014. I am prepping about 85 CDs for mailout. January will be the first major campaign to gain airplay on Americana radio. I’m happy to have a promoter and publicist, on board. I’m hoping to secure an agent, soon. Gotta find the right one. I’ve got a couple of solo shows scheduled for 2014, as well as, some shows with the band. I’m looking forward to another great year and can’t wait to get started.
EDITED: After posting this blog, this morning, I learned that I have been selected as number 8 in the top ten Roots albums of 2013 by Mary Armstrong in the Philadelphia City Paper. That just adds to the list of great things that happened in 2013.