Roots Remix: How Creole Torchbearer Sean Ardoin Decided to Do His Thing and Bring the World to Louisiana on Kreole Rock and Soul
Ardoin may have a serious pedigree in Louisiana’s often underappreciated Creole tradition but he uses that as a jumping off point to invent new approaches, without abandoning all the goodness he and his forebears have cultivated. “Generally the industry and people who discover Creole music want to keep it in a box. I had to jump out of the traditional box and create a new thing. I grew up listening to all sorts of music, from Earth Wind and Fire and Kiss to Fishbone and Bob Marley, as well as the old-school music. As a guardian of the Creole culture, I will always point back to Louisiana, but I’m going to stop at other places, too.”
Ardoin calls the new genre, Kreole Rock and Soul, a roots-based sound that embraces and incorporates contemporary pop and classic rock. He lays it down on Kreole Rock and Soul (release: September 14, 2018), full of tasty accordion licks, catchy songs, and a brash, upbeat attitude that inspires as it persuades you to get up and dance.
Though it all pivots on Ardoin’s quicksilver accordion and earthy, expressive voice, Ardoin’s signature style ropes in acoustic guitar, fresh songwriting, and electronic elements--something Creole artists have been exploring for over a decade at Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas’ festivals and trailrides. “What you hear on the touring circuit is way more traditional than what you’d hear at current Creole events,” explains Ardoin. “Creole music, Zydeco and now Kreole Rock and Soul is just one part of that, it’s living music, and living music is always changing.”
However, by the time Sean took up the torch, taking over his father’s band, Zydeco often relied on the same basic songs, with a few new lyrical hooks here and there.“The old Creole songs were songs, they had lyrics and a hook, but Zydeco songs largely relied on catchy hooks. I wanted to write complete songs in order to advance the music” says Ardoin. “I started writing songs and borrowing from the pop music of the day. I went deep in and incorporated reggae, hip hop, R&B, gospel, and rock.”
Ardoin has played Carnegie Hall and major music festivals worldwide. His music was featured on MTV, BET, VH1, and most recently on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network and Bravo TV. To help preserve and promote Creole language and culture, he established a Creole language initiative and started the Creole Hall of Fame, which is about to announce its second round of inductees this year. An in-demand performer regionally as well as a Motivational Speaker, Ardoin’s plate is full.
But on the musical front, he felt restless. He wanted to take things further, to set what he does apart from what everyone assumes Creole music should be. His latest album is a calling card, a road map to a new Creole style that honors Ardoin’s deep rural roots in spirited cosmopolitan ways.
He heard a similar affinity in a range of songs on Kreole Rock & Soul, from The Cars’ “Just What I Needed” and Steve Miller’s “Abracadabra” to Estelle’s “Do My Thing.” “I’ll hear certain songs and think, that’s a zydeco song, just without the scrub board and accordion. They’ll have the right time signature and the basic beat. It’s in the consciousness of the music industry right now. I believe we’re poised to finally get our moment in the sun. We Creole folks have the swag, the food, the dance, and the language. We just need to reach people outside our community,” one reason the album’s songs are all in English.
Ardoin reaches out by blending what he heard from his first moments growing up in a musical family with decades of open-eared listening. He brings southern rock sensibilities into tracks like “Kick Rocks,” and that special R&B ballad vibe on tracks like “Butterfly,” a tribute to Ardoin’s wife that brings back the old tradition of the Creole slow dance, often called “buckle shining.” He keeps family tradition alive, co-writing with his son on tracks like “Ovedose,” while giving some love to close musician friends like fellow Southern Louisiana singer-songwriter Cory Landry on tracks like “What Do You Want to Do.”
To help shape the new style, Ardoin tapped respected colleagues, multiple Grammy-winning producer and songwriter Aaron Lindsey and engineer Carl Nappa, best known for his multi-platinum selling work with NSYNC and Nelly. For Ardoin, collaborating with people outside the Creole/zydeco box is a necessary part of his mission to keep the music vital and keep it moving forward.
“As a constant self-assessor and observer, you have to recognize trends. You have to ask how you can break through the rigid assumptions and get to the point where they will listen to you, so that you regain control of the narrative,” Ardoin reflects. “I thought about it a long time, and I was like you know what? Kreole Rock and Soul. That describes what I do, and that can bring people to what I do. Now, I can bring them to Louisiana, on our own terms.”
01 - Sean Ardoin - Kick Rocks
02 - Sean Ardoin - In It for a Minute
03 - Sean Ardoin - Abracadabra
04 - Sean Ardoin - Butterfly
05 - Sean Ardoin - Do My Thing
06 - Sean Ardoin - Keep on Moving
07 - Sean Ardoin - Overdosed
08 - Sean Ardoin - What Do You Want To D...
09 - Sean Ardoin - Just What I Needed
10 - Sean Ardoin - Mama
11 - Sean Ardoin - You Complete Me