April and May is usually the busiest time of year for a New Orleans musician. Wedding season is in full swing and festivals happen every weekend, the biggest of which is the 7 day phenomenon known as Jazzfest. Over 650 bands perform across 14 stages each year at Jazzfest, from local brass bands and youth groups to international headliners like Bruce Springsteen and Chaka Khan.
This year, however, the fairgrounds were quiet and empty. Frenchmen St is eerily quiet and litter-free. The windows to all the clubs in the french quarter which usually have music and people spilling out are boarded up and blacked out. The tourism industry in New Orleans came to a grinding halt in March during the COVID-19 pandemic while the nation is on a stay-at-home order. Walking around the city has an uneasy, unnatural feeling of being suspended in time.
I started taking pictures of the stores and clubs that are all closed, and then of signs that you would never have thought would have existed last year: "6 feet y'all," "playground closed," "out of business," "stay safe," etc. As the camera roll on my phone grew with pictures of an upside-down New Orleans, I began to put music to the images. The ballad that I hummed most while biking around was "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans," because I surely did and still do miss what makes New Orleans great: live music, parties, human connection, cookouts, and celebrations.
As Glen David Andrews and I were recording his new album, I told him about my idea to play saxophone over all these pictures. He said, "let me sing on it," and the rest was history. Joe Boucha played piano, I played saxophone and recorded/mixed the song, and Glen David sang on top. We hope you enjoy this representation of what New Orleans looks and feels like in Spring 2020.
Purchase the single here:
Donate to the New Orleans Brass Band Musician Relief Fund here:
Current projects: Radical Health Zine, the New American Songbook, Pathways with Joseph Campbell.