Rock n’ Roll with a New Orleans Twist
Jan 26, 2017 04:00PM ● Published by Nicole Gould
More than 25 years ago, LeBlanc formed Cowboy Mouth, a rock n’ roll band hailing from New Orleans. Today, you’ll find him front and center as the band’s lead singer and drummer. Yes, you read that correct, the drummer of the band is front and center, not only singing at the top of his lungs, but also wailing away on the drums. Hesitant at first, LeBlanc admits it was the right decision because he’ll never have to stare at a guitar player’s rear end.
Adding their own twists to the rock n’ roll genre, Cowboy Mouth steps up their game by making their performances into celebrations, in hopes of transforming the audiences’ lives. They continuously display a powerful performance filled with energy and passion.
“Every time we play you see somebody who needed it. But the whole privilege of being able to have people use whatever you do as a catalyst for a positive change in their lives, that’s the best part about this job.” – Fred LeBlanc
The band most recently released their greatest hits album, The Name of the Band Is…, celebrating some of their biggest songs and crowd favorites, including “Jenny Says.”
Join LeBlanc and the rest of the Cowboy Mouth crew at Rams Head On Stage Friday, February 3rd, 8 p.m. Tickets are $32 and you must be 21 or older.
How did you originally get involved with music, playing the drums, and singing?
I was actually born deaf because of some deformities in my ear canal that couldn’t be fixed until I was three when my lungs were strong enough for an operation. My folks used to lay my head on stereo speakers to get me to talk, thinking the vibrations would get through to me and I would be able to communicate. The old family story is I could actually sing before I could talk. Singing was actually my first form of communication. When my hearing got fixed, I kept singing. Singing is not just something I do, it’s a method of communication. I’m better at singing than talking … just ask anyone I’ve ever been in a relationship with.
Playing the drums is what I like to do and I had some history playing in bands. I realized I enjoyed singing and writing songs too. My songs were always catchy and I didn’t want to spend my life looking at some guitar player’s rear end. I wanted to move up front, but not push anyone back. I wanted to be where the fun was. I’d always thought I’d be a good front man, but I learned as I went along and built confidence and it got better and better. Apparently, there are a lot of people who think highly of my front man abilities.
Tell me a little bit more about Cowboy Mouth and how it all began. How did the name come about? What’s it like being a band that calls New Orleans its home?
I had the idea that I wanted to be a drummer and a front man, surrounding myself with musicians. I had a lot of nerve. I actually booked a tour before I booked a band and we started right off the bat. We’ve been a hard-touring band over the years. Makes our tour very effective. You’re not just going to watch a bunch of people staring at their shoes waiting to hear a hit song. People always ask why I don’t want to play encores. That’s because the whole show is an encore.
The name was honestly something we all agreed on very last minute. We had no idea and went through hundreds of names and Cowboy Mouth was the only name we found that we all didn’t hate.
We got it from a play by Sam Shepard that’s, oddly enough, about a guy who wants to be a rock star. As a rock n’ roll band, we’ve been the red headed step child of the area; you get used to it. Everybody associates New Orleans with a certain style of music. Brass bands over the last 10 years had a resurgence, which is great, but they forget it’s the original home of rock n’ roll. New Orleans music isn’t so much about a style as much as it is a feeling. Cowboy Mouth has been about that since day one. We’re taking bits of people’s lives and throwing it back at them bigger than life. We could not come from anywhere else besides New Orleans.
It’s not too common that you see the lead singer also playing the drums front and center. What’s it like having the entire band lined up front rather than the traditional drummer in the back? Did you ever receive any doubts that it wouldn’t work?
I always thought it would work simply because I tend to think sonically. If you listen to Led Zeppelin through your headphones, you hear the drums and bass are in the middle and the guitars left and right. You see, sonically it works and rhythmically it should work as well. If you see the band, it definitely, definitely works. I never had any doubt. Was I nervous? Of course. I always knew I could do this.
You’re pretty well known for you high energy and wild performances on stage. What brought that about and how do you keep that high energy through an entire show?
It’s been the same thing since I started playing drums as a child. Enthusiasm. Energy is very contagious. You could push a negative or a positive vibe. My enthusiasm is my love for what I do. Holding the stick and hitting the drums. The feeling of singing a song at the top of my lungs. It’s a natural enthusiasm that’s contagious. I genuinely enjoy what I do. Is it always easy? No. But, sometimes you have to deal with a lot of business stuff.
In that moment when I’m playing drums, I guarantee there’s nothing else I’d rather do. I always try to keep people in the band with a similar mind. As I always say, “I would rather you play the wrong note with everything you got than the right note with absolute nothing.”
Last July you released The Name of the Band Is… When did you decide that it was time to release a greatest hits album? Can you tell me a little more about the collection of songs on the album? Which would you say is your favorite?
We’ve been playing for many years and it was John, the guitar player, that mentioned, “Hey, we’ve been doing this for 25 years,” and so I thought let’s put out a greatest hits collection. Then I thought I really like this version of the band. We’ve been known as a live band for so long, and I was never really happy with the older, studio versions of the songs.
I’m really happy now, so I decided to go in and cut these songs with this killer band and hope people can take away something tangible from the show. We actually recorded the album in Crofton, Maryland.
I don’t know. That’s kind of like picking your favorite child.
“Jenny Says” seems to be the song that put Cowboy Mouth on the map in the ’90s. Where did the inspiration from this song come about? How has the band grown since the release of that song?
It was a break up I went through with a girl who had moved out of town. We tried to keep the long distance and it just wasn’t going well. Finally, we decided to call it [quits]. We were both upset about it and at the same time the relationship was going south anyway.
What’s interesting is how it’s become our musical homerun over the years. We play it at the end of every show. The whole show leads to that point of troubles and worries and just let it go, which is the chorus.
I always encourage the audience to lose themselves so they can find themselves at our shows. We have groups of people singing let it go, its very cathartic.
Cowboy Mouth has been around for two decades. How have you seen the rock industry change over time from then to now?
The music industry has changed dramatically over the years. As a business owner, its difficult to monetize what you do. Good thing for me is that I always concentrate on being a life performer because life performance is something no one could steal from me.
The latest thing has been a difficulty to find out ways to make money playing music because people have access to Spotify, Pandora, and other stuff now. Those platforms, while they are very convenient and pleasant for the listener, they’re pretty much a nightmare for the artist.
Royalties situation is horrific for a performer. There has to be some sort of a way to make it for the performer otherwise the quality of music will go down, but at the same time, creativity will find a way.
Would you say that the development of social media has helped you stay connected with your fan base? How so?
Most definitely. I never really positioned myself in a way like “no, stay away from the rock people.” You meet people. I like my fans and I like people that come see us. I’m a very people oriented person too. I think that people get that sense from me on stage and so that aspect of it has been very great.
What is your all-time favorite moment about performing? Do you have any particular moment that really sticks out to you through the years?
I always say that my favorite moment and favorite show is the next one. I’m not trying to be cheesy or duck the question. What I’m saying is I had a lot of great moments on and off stage, but at the same time I’m a person who doesn’t like to look back too much. That’s why making the greatest hits album was challenging because I never looked at those songs as performance pieces. Rerecording them from a conscious place was a treat.
For me, I’m so fortunate to do what I do and with the people I do it with. I really think it’s one of the best bands out there and that’s why I’m always looking forward to the next time we play.
Every time we play you see somebody who needed it. But the whole privilege of being able to have people use whatever you do as a catalyst for a positive change in their lives, that’s the best part about this job.