The coastal crooner chats with us about gumbo, Southern beaches, and his new Margaritaville casino and restaurant in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Why open a Margaritaville casino in Biloxi?
I had been approached about opening casinos for a while. After Hurricane Katrina hit Biloxi, I thought if I’m going to be in the gaming industry anywhere then it should be there. I saw it as a way to help out at home. It’s kind of ironic because Biloxi is where I worked summers during high school. It’s where I made my first dollar as a professional musician. It’s pretty cool how things have come full circle.
Was there a particular event that inspired the lyrics to “Margaritaville”?
I was with some friends in a Mexican restaurant on a hot day in Austin, Texas. We had a couple of margaritas and they really tasted good. The idea starting forming then. Afterwards I was heading back home to Key West. I wrote the song in about six minutes driving down the Overseas Highway. That was a good six minutes.
How do you take your margarita?
With Margaritaville tequila on the rocks and salt on the rim.
What is it about the coastal lifestyle that continually inspires your music?
In the Southern tradition you’re always connected to the land where you grew up. I’ve been a lucky guy to be able to travel around the world and do a lot of interesting things. But I always seem to come back to my connections to the Gulf—New Orleans, Mobile, and Biloxi. New Orleans in particular shaped who I became musically.
Favorite Southern beach?
The least inhabited ones! Nowadays I look for secret surf spots and secret fishing spots. It’s amazing the little unpopulated places you can find out there. But, since they’re secrets, I can’t tell you where they are.
What’s the best thing your mama taught you?
Tolerance. She believed everyone should be treated equally.
What’s on your Southern bucket list?
I know the Mississippi River from New Orleans, but I haven’t spent time on its shoreline from Natchez to Vicksburg and on up to Memphis. There’s something about fishing and boating on that part of the Mississippi River that intrigues me.
Ultimate Southern meal?
A great bowl of quail and andouille sausage gumbo.
Where’s the most unexpected place you’ve encountered Parrot Heads?
My promoter had me playing my first show in Tahiti. It was a hula dancer from Hawaii, an Elvis impersonator from New Zealand, and me. No one there knew who I was, and we were having trouble selling tickets. I was going around and putting up flyers on every American boat I could find. The day of the show, all of a sudden an ocean research vessel appears. It’s from Gulfport, Mississippi, and filled with 150 marine biology students from LSU, Southern Miss and Ole Miss. They sold out the show!