Frederick Breedon IV, Getty Images Hank Williams Jr. has revealed his summer…
- Posted on Apr 30th 2010 12:00PM by Tad Hendrickson
While his roots are in the music and culture of New Orleans, he's transcended the life of a brass band man on the streets of his hometown, touring with Lenny Kravitz's band when he was 18, jamming with Green Day and U2 at the reopening of the Superdome, appearing at the 2008 NBA All-Star Game with Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr. and, most recently, making several TV appearances with his own band, Orleans Avenue.
At the time of this interview, Andrews was gearing up for a prime May 2 slot at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. So ubiquitous is Trombone Shorty's presence during past festivals -- in 2009, he was the youngest figure ever to grace the festival poster throughout the event's history -- that it's been asked whether Andrews sleeps. Apparently he does, or at least tries to. "I was just trying to take a nap and I heard a brass band walking up the street," he tells Spinner. "I was too tired to get up to see who it was."
Now 24 years old, Andrews talks in a low and raspy voice with a slow deliberate cadence that makes him sound like he's trying to conserve his energy for playing. While his star is clearly on the rise internationally, Andrews has been a phenomenon at home since he was a young boy. "I was given a horn at an early age," he recalls. "I never really got a chance to think about doing anything else until I was about 18, when I realized I could do something else if I wanted to. In my teens, I was rolling in it."
Getting his nickname from his musician brother James Andrews when Troy was marching in one of his first second lines, Shorty is a third-generation musician who led his first band at age six and began to play for money at seven. He went through the prestigious New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA) that also gave the world the Marsalis brothers, Harry Connick Jr. and Nicholas Payton, among others. This mix of steady work and education makes Andrews an unusually broad-minded player. He plays second lines and likes to perform with fellow 'Treme' regular Kermit Ruffins, but 'Backatown' is just as close to the funk of the Meters and Galactic as well as the soulful rock of Kravitz.
"What we tried to do with the record is capture what we do live and then just tighten it up a little bit, make it translate on record," Andrews says. "Live, we may come across some stuff and jam on it, but the record brings it in and focuses on what we needed to do. We worked hard and we didn't rush it. I think we alright with this one."
Produced by Galactic's Ben Ellman, 'Backatown' ranges from the soon-to-be second line classic 'Hurricane Season' and the Stevie Wonder-esque 'One Night Only (the March)' to the hip-hop and horns of 'Quiet as Kept' and the power-chord riff-rock of 'Suburbia.' Allen Toussaint's 'On Your Way Down' is the lone cover here, given a loose funk groove that the original didn't have. Amidst the 13 originals, the standout track is 'Something Beautiful,' which sounds like a very good and funky Kravitz ballad, although its Shorty handling the lead vocals -- he sings on several of the album's songs -- while his old boss sings backup and plays guitar.
"New Orleans is like a big musical gumbo," Andrews says. "The sound I have is from being in the city my whole life. To be able to play onstage with the Meters or the Neville Brothers and then be able to go next door and play with Kermit Ruffins, that is all part of the sounds I had in creating this record. I'm happy that we all moving in a new direction and creating some new things. Hopefully we'll have some youngsters who will come up after me and change it again."
Like the rest of us, Andrews is really enjoying watching 'Treme' each week. While he did some acting in high school and appeared on 'Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip' as a displaced New Orleans musician, Andrews is happy that he gets to play himself on TV.
"If I had to get into some action films or something I don't know if it could work. With 'Treme,' I just got the cameras and my lines and script. I'd look at it and say, 'I normally wouldn't say it like that.' And they'd go, 'Well, add your thing to it' and once that happened it was cool."
So, is there pride on Bourbon Street?
"There's pride on Bourbon Street for the musicians that work there," Andrews points out. "They take it very seriously. I've never worked there or played in band there, but it's a part of the city. They play for the tourists and represent a whole different side of the culture of our city. It's needed. There's pride on Bourbon Street in my eyes."
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