Get ready to ‘move and groove’ — BeauSoleil’s Michael Doucet talks music, dance and time ahead of fall tour
BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet brought the music of southwestern Louisiana to the rest of world. Founded in 1975, the band has released 25 albums and garnered 12 Grammy nominations and multiple wins. They’ve toured extensively in the US and internationally, and will play venues in Northern California and Illinois, as well as their native Louisiana, this fall.
But when fiddler, singer and songwriter Michael Doucet started knocking on doors in the late 1960s, he didn’t set out to found a globe-trotting band.
“My beginning motives were to meet the creative masters of our Acadian culture of southwestern Louisiana,” said Doucet, “(to) preserve their songs and stories and to promote and honor their lives and talents. I was honored with NEA and Library of Congress grants to do this, documenting and securing facilities of education to bring this almost lost and forgotten history to our youth.”
“My experiences of knocking on masters’ doors were always met by warmth and affection of knowing that some younger kid got what they and their music were all about. They were all my best friends and I think about them every day. I’ve written songs about these experiences,” he said, citing “Blues à Bébé,” “Varise,” “Chanson pour les Frères Balfa” and “Chez Denoose McGee.”
At the time, Doucet also worked outside of music, explaining that although he formed BeauSoleil in 1975 and has been recording and touring globally since 1976, “playing in a life-sustaining manner while living in Louisiana had not yet been undertaken nor understood.”
That changed in 1986. After releasing seven albums, the group tried something new.
“We decided to try to bring our music to North America and the world by touring as a full-time endeavor,” said Doucet. “We’ve played in 33 counties and every state of the Union more than three times each!”
Far from being archival museum pieces, BeauSoleil’s music pulses with vitality. Along with Cajun and Creole influences, the band incorporates elements of zydeco, New Orleans jazz, country and blues.
When asked how he balances traditional music and BeauSoleil’s more modern innovations and why he decided to blend the two, Doucet said, “That’s a funny question as I’ve never looked at it that way.”
“All songs have a source, a writer, a place. Mine happened in the late 1960s to really attempt to extrapolate the essence of what was happening to our musical culture. What happened before and in the future in a universe (…) means grokking the essence and forging that reality into songs that find their own natural, and not contrived or personal, agenda.”
“So, the purity of learning traditional songs directly from past masters (such as) Dennis McGee, Canray Fontenot, Will Bolfa is like a flowing river and I find myself in the middle with a view of the three times.”
In addition to Doucet, BeauSoleil’s long-time members are guitarist David Doucet, drummer Tommy Alesi, percussionist Billy Ware and bassist and engineer Bill Bennett.
When bassist and fiddler Mitch Reed retired last year, accordionist and bassist Chad Huval, who has sat in with the band numerous times over the years, joined full time.
Love the music but don’t know how to waltz or two-step? Doucet says not to stress.
“Dancing is a creative expression of who you are and your innate rhythm. It’s not a stock ‘correct Walmart synced’ formulated function. Be yourself and just move and groove!”
For more information, visit beausoleilmusic.com and the venues’ websites.
BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet’s upcoming shows:
Friday, Sept. 21: The Palms Playhouse, Winters, Calif.
Saturday, Sept. 22: The Freight & Salvage, Berkeley, Calif.
Saturday, Sept. 29: Joie de Vivre Café, Breaux Bridge, La.
Friday, Oct. 12: Elgin Community College, Elgin, Ill.
Sunday, Oct. 14: The Al Larson Prairie Center for the Arts, Schaumburg, Ill.