Q&A With Trombone Shorty

TOP BRASS: Trombone Shorty delivers the sound of New Orleans to the world (from the Spring 2015 issue of ShowTime)

Troy Andrews’ childhood nickname has stuck with him even as his stature, and talent, have grown.

“Everyone in New Orleans has a nickname. It’s part of the culture of the city - just like the music,” Andrews — who is better known as jazz musician, vocalist and band leader Trombone Shorty — said from a tour date in Mobile, Ala. in March.

“I got (my nickname) when I was 4 years old. We were playing at a funeral, as is done in New Orleans, and the horn was taller than me. My brother (James) introduced me by saying ‘This is my Trombone Shorty,’ and it stuck.”

Born and raised in the jazz-enriched New Orleans neighborhood of Tremé, Andrews, 29, began playing music at age 4 and was touring with his brother’s band by age 6. Several decades into his musical career, Andrews has released nine albums and worked with some of the most well known artists in the world: U2, Aerosmith, Green Day, B.B. King and many others.

Andrews, whose current tour stops at the Carolina Theatre on May 11, talked to us about his home city, his career highlights and the next destinations on his musical journey.

You started touring as a musician when you were very young. What do you remember from those early days?
“Well, you know, my brother took me to Europe and we had the opportunity to play with legendary musicians like George Clinton and B.B. King and others from other countries. It opened my ears to sounds outside of New Orleans...My brother would test me on my musical knowledge every day. I remember just wanting to play my video games.”

Did your home neighborhood of Tremé help guide you to brass? To music in general?
“Without New Orleans, I wouldn’t be playing music. Everything I do, from the music I play to the language I use, to the food I eat, is influenced by the city. No matter what I’m playing on stage, you hear New Orleans coming out of my horns.”

It’s impossible to talk about horns and New Orleans without mentioning Louis Armstrong. Has his art influenced you?
“Yes. His persona is so large in New Orleans. It has some influence on every musician there. I had his music and posters of him as I was growing up. I only wish I could have lived in that time to have played with him.”

Can you contrast New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina, after the storm and in the present-day? How has the rebirth of the city affected you and your music?
“New Orleans is resilient. I think some of those who left didn’t know that you can’t just get the things that make New Orleans so special in another place. I don’t think any of us realized how important music was to our identity. I think it’s one of the top three reasons people have come back.”

You’ve played in some spectacular settings like the Superdome, the White House, the Grammys and more. Which place has been your favorite?
“The Grammys were great. I got to play in front of people and artists who I never would have otherwise been able to reach, but playing with Prince at the Superdome was a special and amazing experience, a dream come true....I also played the White House a few years ago with Mick Jagger and B.B. King and Jeff Beck; the President and the First Lady were in the audience. That was something I’ll always remember, too.”

Do you tailor your live show to the venue? Without spoiling the surprise, what do you have planned for the Durham show?
“We don’t change based on the venue. We might have to play a few songs differently, but we play with the same energy. We’re just getting back out on tour after taking three or four weeks off, something we haven’t done in five or six years, so we have some great ideas for the tour. When we get to Durham, we’re going to have a big New Orleans party up there.”

Have you started recording your next album? When do you plan to release it?
“I was in the studio when we took the break from touring. It’s a work-in-progress. We should have a new album ready soon, either before the end of the year or for the beginning of next year.”

You’ve played with some of the music industry’s most well-known names. Is there someone you haven’t played with yet whom you’d love to work with?
“Yeah. I’d love to play with Stevie Wonder, with Jay-Z and with Nine Inch Nails...I’m a little all over the place with music. I listen to and get ideas from a lot of different artists.”

Is there an artist you listen to who might surprise your fans?
“I listen to Ministry. It’s incredibly interesting music. I like to take my mind to many different musical neighborhoods. I’ve played with the Zac Brown Band, with some bluegrass bands, too. I’ve been blessed to have so many opportunities.”

From Bruno Mars to Macklemore to Jennifer Lopez, many hit songs in recent years have featured horns. What do you account for the brass renaissance? Do you hear songs and think ‘that could use a horn part’ ?
“I think EVERY song could use a horn part (laughs). I worked in the studio with Bruno Mars on a little project a while back. It was a great experience. Horns can fit in anywhere on any song. Sometimes people hear them and they don’t know that’s what they’re hearing.”

If you couldn’t be a musician, what would you be doing?
“I’d probably be promoting concerts. I’d have to be involved in some type of way. Music has always been the biggest part of what I am. I can’t imagine living a life that doesn’t include music.”

 Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue: May 11, 8 p.m.

 

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