Trombone Shorty Talks to Us About His New Album and New Orleans
His new album Parking Lot Symphony Comes Out on April 28th.
Just 31-years-old, Troy Andrews has the kind of career it takes most musicians a lifetime to build. Then again, Andrews was only four when he first picked up the trombone and quickly began performing on stage and even leading street parades in his musical neighborhood, New Orleans' Tremé. Wiedling an instrument nearly as big as him, he marched alongside much older (and taller) brass band members. Hence his stage name, Trombone Shorty.
It's been 4 years since Andrews released his album Say That to Say This, but he hasn't taken a break. From performing at the White House for the fifth time to playing with artists like Madonna, Macklemore, She & Him, Zac Brown, Dierks Bentley, and Mark Ronson, he's also opened tours for Daryl Hall & John Oates and Red Hot Chili Peppers, appeared in Foo Fighters' Sonic Highways documentary series, inherited the esteemed annual fest-closing set at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and released Trombone Shorty, a children's book about his life that received Caldecott Honor Book in 2016.
Now Andrews is ready to release Parking Lot Symphony, a collection of songs that harmoniously blends the flavors and sounds of New Orleans from its most elemental sounds like jazz funeral music with popular influences from funk to hip hop.
We caught up with Andrews to talk about his cover of Allen Toussaint and Ernie K-Doe's "Here Come the Girls," what it's like to play opposite his musical heroes at Jazz Fest, and where he loves to eat in New Orleans.
SL: In the time since you made your last record, the city of New Orleans has changed a lot and is still changing. Has the city's growth influenced your music?
TS: I embrace the growth because growth is what I'm trying to do through my music and what I'm trying to do with the music scene here. It influences me to be more inspired and continue to do what I'm trying to do. The city has changed a lot but I'm still very rooted in the culture that I grew up in, and sometimes I don't really see the change until I come back after a couple of months. But, you know, I've always been about pushing the music forward and it influences me in that direction.
I'm happy that people are coming here and it's influencing the sound, but there's always going to be Frenchmen Street and people in the Tremé area, my neighborhood. I don't think those sounds are going anywhere. The people I grew up with are still very much dominant here like the Neville family, Rebirth Brass Band, Kermit Ruffins. People like that are still very popular and doing very well. I think it's changing in the way like everything is changing. I mean Fats Domino: the Neville Brothers didn't sound anything like him so I think we should always be constantly changing and evolving and see what type of influences can come in.
SL: You start out this new record with an instrumental dirge, but it isn't so much to set a somber tone as it is to establish a sense of place. Can you talk about the influences you combined in making this collection of songs?
TS: The spirit hit me, and I wanted to get the music out, and it naturally and organically shaped into that. I watched a lot of videos of the Treme Brass Band and it just brought me back to when I used to play some of those jazz funerals, and dirge is one of the most powerful types of songs when everyone is walking out of the funeral and we start marching down the street. I just wanted to write something that reminded me of that but through my interpretation of that. I was just tapping into some of my childhood moments I can remember playing and marching down the street in the Tremé neighborhood. I knew with dirge I could be inspired by the old sound but I could rewrite my own thing through my ears and my eyes. Once we had all the songs together we listened in different orders and this last one we picked it really sounded like it made it feel like a movement of music like classical. It sounded like if I was watching a movie.
SL: That makes sense. When you listen to it, it almost feels like you're moving through the history of New Orleans music too. You go from the roots of the city's music into songs by Allen Toussaint and The Meters, and then eventually into something that's reminiscent of trap rap.
TS: Absolutely. I have all those influences in there. I had points in my mind that I wanted to put together. I'm very influenced by Juvenile and Master P so we wanted to have some of that in there. And the same with Allen Toussaint and The Meters, and then to sort my sound the way I do on the song "Tripped Out Slim." Then there's the influences of the street parade and Rebirth Brass Band, and even sounds like James Brown. Everything New Orleans has to offer was in my mind naturally because I lived through so much of it.
SL: In the same way there's the Great American Songbook, you could argue that that there's also the Great New Orleans Songbook, and since there's so many to pick from how did you choose Allen Toussaint's "Here Come the Girls" and The Meters' "It Ain't No Use" as the two covers you included?
TS: I didn't want to play the standard songs, and when I heard these songs, even though they were written before I was born, I almost feel like they were written for me to perform. It just fits with the sound I had with my band. I just thought that with the horns in "Here Come the Girls" and the guitar at the beginning of "It Ain't No Use" they would fit really well with the sound I was creating at this moment.
SL: Jazz Fest is coming up, and you've inherited the prestigious festival closing set, but this year The Meters are going to be playing at the same time on the other main stage. How crazy is that for you as a musician and a music fan?
TS: You know it's hard because I'm such a big fan of The Meters and if I could sneak off my stage and fly over there and play with them or just watch them for a minute, I would. It's just incredible. They're celebrating 50 years of music and it's crazy to be up against them at the festival. It's an honor and a pleasure, and I just wish we were able to play together. They don't play that often together,and we don't know how many times The Meters are going to get to play together so it's a really historic moment for New Orleans and for them, and I'm sad we're up against them.
SL: You recently said that you don't feel like you're home until you've eaten at your grandmother's house and seen the Rebirth Brass Band at the Maple Leaf. What are three things you would tell someone to do if they want to experience your version of New Orleans?
TS: Well if it's their first time, I would say get the Bourbon Street thing out the way. Get that out the way. If you can find your way over to the Blue Nile on Frenchman Street, there's so much great New Orleans music there with the New Breed Brass Band. And there's Kermit Ruffin's Mother-in-Law Lounge in Treme. Grab a po-boy from any corner store in the city and you'll be in heaven. The food is so wonderful here. I've been going to a little place in my neighborhood called Lil Dizzy's Cafe. My friends have to tell me when it's time to go. I get all the food and sit outside on the street and say hello to everyone. You see the older neighborhood people. It's just a perfect location.