Michael Doucet Interview

Michael Doucet is a fiddle master. Doucet formed BeauSoleil in 1975.. Michael recently wrote in to discuss how he became interested in playing the fiddle, his favorite Jazz Fest memories and his passion
for Cajun music and culture. For more info on BeauSoleil check out
their website: http://rosebudus.com/beausoleil/index.html

Did you cone from a musical family? Were your parents musical?
All of my dad’s sisters sang but from my aunt Lena I learned many
Cajun French ballads….from my uncle Ti Will Knight, I learned how to
play fiddle (his fiddle is in the LA State Museum in Baton Rouge) from
my mom’s side I learned to read music and play jazz.

How did you become interested in playing fiddle?
My uncle (above) played and took the time to show me a few songs. I
wanted a guitar but the fiddle was so strange and intriguing to me;
the way you had to use your hands were so different; bow arm and
fingering…I loved the diverse sounds you could make and the way it
felt holding it….there were too many kid relatives so I never had a
fiddle of my own until I was 21

How did BeauSoleil first come together?
Just some friends from around Scott, LA who were interested in the the
vanishing old Acadian French style of our heritage.  Kenneth Richard,
Bessyl Duhon and I were the core of BeauSolel.  I was asked to perform
for two weeks in France in 1976 and was asked for a group name.
Remembering my childhood family reunion visits at BeauSoleil (the
house of Armand Broussard, Joeseph (tBeauSoleil’s son) left a lasting
impression of the continuing lineage of my Acadian roots.  While we
were in Paris, we were given the opportunity to record our first
album, “BeauSoleil…..la Nuit” for EMI, Pathe Marconi.  We’ve been a
touring, recording and teaching group of musicians ever since then.

You have played many classic sets at Jazz Fest. What do you love about
Jazz Fest?
In the 1970s, I loved the openness of the festival…..how you could
walk to different stages, get a good seat, listen for a while then
move on to something else.  I’ve always enjoyed playing there with
BeauSoleil for the past thrity-six years as well as the Savoy-Doucet
Cajun band and others. I also like the Heritage and the musician
camaraderie aspect…..seeing/meeting the greats like Dennis McGee,
James Booker, Thelonius Monk, the Meters, traditional New Orleans Jazz
bands, Gospel, Doug Kershaw etc

What have been some of your favorite memories of Jazz Fest?
Too many of those really……I’d say playing both weekends with
Coteau in 1976, performing with Freeman Fontenot & Bois Sec Ardoin in
1980, having Richard Thompson and Sonny Landreth joining us in 2001,
sitting in with Tab Benoit, Dr John etc and the Wetlands All stars a
few years ago, playing the RayBand stage and getting free sunglasses,
running into and chatting with David Hildago, Allen Toussaint, John
Fogary, hearing Sun Ra, Dr Michael White, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell,
and the list goes on……

What inspires you lyrically?
Silly puns.

How do you go about creating music?
I pick up an instrument and try to play what I’m hearing/feeling and
inspired to say
What are your hobbies outside of music?
meditating, walking and enjoying the ever changing wonder of life

You are passionate about spreading Cajun music and culture to as many
people as possible. What do you love about Cajun music and culture?
I love the fact that I grew up speaking French and being of Acadian
decent from both sides of my family.  I grew up in the countryside on
a farm and had many friends and relatives nearby making my childhood
ideal.  When at LSU in 1969, I found Irene Whitfield’s 1939
dissertation on Acadian and Creole music which led me to do more
research, making a lasting friendship with Irene, and fueling my
desire to discover more and more the roots, power and creativity of
our music.  I was lucky to be around to learn from the Master
musicians who were born in the 1890s and were among the first Acadian
artists to record in the 1920’s and 30’s. The Acadian story is quite
unique and amazing and being a part of such a unique group and part of
the world allows me to both follow my ancestors yet seek artistic
development in the moment.

You’ve some a lot of research into the history of Cajun music and
studied with many of the great masters of Cajun music, such as Dennis
McGee. What do you feel is the most important advice you’ve learned
from these masters?
Simply, to be who you are…

Do you have a favorite quote or motto that you live by?
On vas les embéter! (We’re going to irritate them)

What do you feel is your place in music history?
I think I’ll wait until I’m dead to even approach that one…not quite
dead yet!!
I was in the right place at the right time with the right intention to
learn, document and share the origins of French Music in Louisiana

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