Cedric Watson brings Louisiana noise to UD
By Zach Rogers
At first glance, you might think that’s a typo. But no, it’s correct. Zydeco.
Even though a lot of people don’t know what the word means, I’ll bet money they know what it sounds like. Zydeco, in a nutshell, is the sound of southern Louisiana – a musical subgenre that blends Cajun music, blues and French Creole influences together to create a lively, spirited kind of music rooted in history. One of the biggest musicians currently channeling this sound is Cedric Watson, a Texas-born singer, fiddler and accordionist who moved to Louisiana and immersed himself in the culture.
With his band Bijou Creole, Watson has become a rising star in the zydeco music scene with four Grammy-nominated albums under his belt. His fifth and latest is Le Troubadour Creole and was released in August. On Wednesday, March 12, Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole will play the Kennedy Union Boll Theatre at the University of Dayton, hoping to bring the Louisiana spirit up north.
I caught up with Watson before his stop in Dayton to find out more about his life, his music and the road ahead.
When did you first start playing music professionally?
I’ve played with a lot of different, talented musicians over the years and I’m honored to have had that experience. Two of the greatest musicians I’ve ever played with, who I like to call my musical mentors, are Edward Poullard, a Creole fiddler, and JB Adams, a zydeco radio DJ and musician. I started playing and touring professionally with a band called Dexter Ardoin before moving on and playing with Jeffrey Broussard and the Creole Cowboys, a band I actually helped put together. Then I started playing with Wilson Savoy in the Pine Leaf Boys, and ended up playing and touring with those guys for 3 1/2 years. Soon I started writing my own songs and developing my own style and started a group of my own, Bijou Creole. – Cedric Watson
What is your musical background?
I grew up hearing all kinds of music: blues, classical R&B, country, rock, hip-hop and, of course, zydeco. A lot of people sang in my family and my uncles played in bands together. I started at age 16 with a guitar and got my first fiddle two years later. I also took an interest in the accordion and banjo, which I play a lot now, too. – CW
You were born in Texas, but relocated to Louisiana. How much did moving there affect both yourself and your music?
I grew up in San Felipe, Texas, and I have deep roots on my mother’s side there. I also have relatives in Louisiana we would visit often, and that’s how I fell in love with Louisiana and the culture. Zydeco music is popular in Texas, too, so we always had bands in Houston to see and dance to. But coming to Louisiana really changed my whole career in many ways. I became better at speaking and understanding Creole French, and now most of my friends all live here, too, so it works out. – CW
There are obviously a lot of French, Cajun and Creole influences in your music. How would you describe the sound of your music?
No matter what, I always play a kind of Creole and zydeco blend. It’s mixed with different influences from both Cajun and zydeco, but I like to think of it as an original style of music I cooked up in the gumbo pot. I try to keep up the tradition of the syncopated Creole swing we adopted from our Caribbean and African ancestors, and I keep my music predominately in French or Creole patoi language. – CW
You’ve had four albums now all nominated for a Grammy. Your newest, Le Troubadour Creole, is sure to make it five. What does it feel like to get that kind of a reception?
It’s an honor to be nominated. It just lets me know all of my effort and hard work and spirit I put into my music and my band are appreciated by many. It pushes me to keep going. But the Grammys are not the most important thing to me. It’s all about being able to experience life as a musician and see the world and share this positive music with as many people as I can. – CW
You’re coming to play at the University of Dayton on March 12. Have you played in Ohio or Dayton before?
I’ve never played in Dayton before, but I think it’s going to be fun! I can’t wait to see the campus and I look forward to making people groove. – CW
What else do you have planned for 2014, as far music and touring goes?
Things are kind of slow during the winter, so now is the beginning of our spring touring season. I’m very happy to start off in the United States, but I’ll be playing in Europe a lot over the summer, in places like Denmark, Sweden, France, Germany, all over. I go there every year and the people really love the Creole zydeco. – CW
Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole will perform on Wednesday, March 12 at the Kennedy Union Boll Theatre at the University of Dayton, 300 College Park. Admission is $20 with discounts available for UD faculty, staff, alumni and students. Show starts at 8 p.m. For more information, please visit cedricwatson.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Zach Rogers at ZachRogers@DaytonCityPaper.com