Two-time Grammy winner Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience perform Saturday at the Carson City Levitt AMP Concert Series presented by The Change Companies. The band brings zydeco music from Louisiana to Carson City for the first time.
Zydeco is a genre that evolved in southwest Louisiana by French Creole speakers. Simien’s show mixes that background with other influences. He adds in the regional New Orleans funk and jazz sounds, but also fuses reggae and some island and African influences.
“It’s just a big jambalaya,” he said. “You put a bunch of things together and make it better.”
Simien plays the accordion and he sings. He put together his band in 1981, and began touring in 1985. His keyboardist and vocalist Danny Williams has performed with him for 30 years. The band includes guitars, horns and drums.
The performance is to entertain, but Simien educates along the way about the history of the Creole music and culture. He said the music will be a taste of something fans won’t hear every day.
“What we do, is what we do, and nobody else does it but us, our way,” he said. “We try to represent our culture, our people and our music the best way we can.
Simien’s music achievements were recognized with a Grammy in 2007 for the album “Live! Worldwide.” Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience won Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album, a category Simien helped establish. His second Grammy came in 2013 for his album “Dockside Sessions,” which won Best Regional Roots Music Album.
“It feels good,” Simien said on winning the awards. “I thought it would never happen to me.”
He’s been making records since 1989. He said if he records something, and he wants to hear it again, then it’s good and he’s happy with it. For it to be recognized to win a Grammy is a plus, and it’s the ultimate gift, he said.
“Maybe someday we’ll win more, maybe not. Two is good enough for me, but we’ll keep trying for more.”
Fans of the Disney movie “The Princess and the Frog” may already be familiar with a Simien tune. He collaborated with Randy Newman on the song “Gonna Take You There” — playing the accordion, rubboard and triangle.
The first major breakthrough for Simien and zydeco music came in 1986 when he contributed to the sound track for “The Big Easy.” This was the first time a zydeco band was featured in a Hollywood film, he said. He’s contributed music to “Exit To Eden” and “A Murder of Crows” as well as many commercials.
Simien said he is always busy working on new material. He has a studio at home and works on his projects among collaborations. He continues working on film projects as well as music for the band.
“There’s a lot of possibilities that never existed a few years ago for the band,” he said.
LOVES What he does
Among all these accomplishments, Simien is most grateful to be doing what he loves. He’s been touring since 1985, living out of a van on the road, flying all over the world going to places he said he never dreamed of going.
“After all these years we’re still going,” he said. “That’s as good as it gets. I look forward to every gig.”
He said he wants to keep performing as long as he’s able to. He wants to keep sharing his music, especially with new audiences.
“That never gets old; it only gets better.”