Grammy nominees work to preserve SW La. music, culture

Grammy nominees Sean Ardoin and Mickey Smith Jr. are doing their part to be ambassadors of Southwest Louisiana’s music and culture, and supporting others doing the same.

“I’ve been a big proponent of bringing people and directing their attention to Southwest Louisiana as long as I have been playing, which is a long time,” Ardoin said with a laugh during Tuesday’s Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitor’s Bureau partner breakfast at Treasures of Marilyn’s.

He said Southwest Louisiana is so rich in its music history people often don’t realize most of the “heavy hitters” of Zydeco music in this region “are the ones who are the heavy hitters in the industry.”

“Keith Frank, Chris Ardoin, myself, Rusty Metoyer, Cedryl Ballou are all from here,” he said. “We’re not from Lafayette, we’re from here. We have a really big opportunity to promote the Creole culture in this area because we have a lot to offer.”

Ardoin said he’s been performing Zydeco music for about 38 years and during that time created what he calls the “Creole rock and soul” genre.

“I did that because whenever you leave Southwest Louisiana, even if you go to north Louisiana, it’s totally different,” he said. “When you leave here and tell people you play Zydeco music, there’s a whole rainbow of what people think you play. It was very important for me to jump out of that Zydeco box and create something that was very descriptive, very attractive and something I could use to regain control of the narrative.”

Ardoin said he “ugly cried” when he found out he had received two Grammy nominations — Best Regional Roots Music Album for “Kreole Rock and Soul” and Best Americana Roots Performance for his single “Kick Rocks.”

“I’m the first artist from the regional roots category to break out of that category and into the parent category, Americana. There’s hip-hop, country, pop and Americana,” he said. “We’re about to put Southwest Louisiana on the map because at this moment in 2019, I’m one of the top five artists in Americana right now.”

Ardoin said his album “Kreole Rock and Soul” features the accordion, scrub board “and a whole bunch of Southwest Louisiana flavor on it” and said he’s using it to get more “control of that telescope that I can direct traffic back to Southwest Louisiana.”

Smith, head band director at Maplewood Middle School, is a semifinalist for the 2019 Music Educator Award presented by The Recording Academy and The Grammy Museum.

“Working with the tourism department, I’ve had opportunities to travel and in essence be an ambassador for our community and for our state,” Smith said. “I really appreciate those moments.”

Smith said he’s often encouraged to move outside of the state for his career, but said he reminds people “he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing.”

“The audience I get to engage each and every day of young minds, that’s my most important audience,” he said. “The stage I get to stand on each and every day, that classroom, is priceless to me.”

Smith said his sound is “more than his saxophone.”

“My job is to help others discover their sound,” he said. “Someone did that for me. Sean Ardoin is more than a musician, he has a heart that is so big. If you see me doing anything today it’s because he’s always pushing me and says ‘See It. Say It. Get to Work.’ “

Smith said it means so much to have someone in your corner.

“If I can be that person for the young or the young at heart, that’s really what it’s all about,” he said.””

Mickey Smith Jr., a semifinalist for the 2019 Music Educator Award presented by The Recording Academy and The Grammy Museum, performs Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 at the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau’s quarterly partner breakfast at Treasures of Marilyn’s.

Crystal StevensonEditor
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Two-time Grammy nominated artist Sean Ardoin spoke at the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau’s quarterly partner breakfast at Treasures of Marilyn’s Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.

Crystal StevensonEditor
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“If you have not enjoyed some Creole culture here in Lake Charles, you are missing out,” says Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter during Lake Charles Convention & Visitors Bureau annual breakfast. 

Crystal StevensonEditor
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Eric Zartler with the CVB speaks during the quarterly breakfast at Treasures of Marilyns in Lake Charles, La., Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)

Rick Hickman””

Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau’s quarterly partner breakfast at Treasures of Marilyn’s in Lake Charles, La., Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)

Rick Hickman

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