Interview: Trombone Shorty Talks New Album, Working With The Meters, and Life On The Road

Growing up on Treme set the tone.

Not Available Lead
Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

Not Available Lead

Trombone Shorty, one of today’s most prolific musicians, just released his third solo album, Say That to Say This, yesterday, which will also features his band Orleans Avenue under the Verve Forecast label. Trombone, whose given name is Troy Andrews, is currently touring and set to depart for the European leg of his tour in early October. Although he is in the chaotic throes of finishing the U.S. leg of his tour, we were able to catch up with the trombone prodigy for a bit to discus his upcoming album, creating history in the studio with famed funk legends The Meters, and being mentored by Lenny Kravitz at only 18 years old.

Interview by Zoy Britton (@ZoyMB)

Growing up on the famed Treme street, can you tell us a little bit about that experience and what role it played in the making of your new album, Say That To Say This?
Well, I grew up right in the heart of Treme so it was a real music neighborhood, and there was a bunch of bands like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band around. My family played music growing up, so I’ve been playing and marching around the streets in the parades since I was four. Everything I do is influenced by my musical upbringing there—it’s my life. Without Treme, I don’t think I would have my sound or be where I am today.

I saw a picture of you circa 1991 when you were about six years old, marching with all these grown men in a band with this huge trombone…
Yeah, that experience was wonderful. I had a lot of older musicians looking out for me, teaching me, and showing me things when they saw how interested I was in music from a young age. They would take me to the side and just play some things in my ear and I would try to play it back to them.

Those moments clearly played a poignant role in your musical development. I wanted to get more into your new album. Is it a concept album, and if so, what story is it telling?
Well, basically we just want to put out great New Orleans music, and it’s also a timeline of my music and life. I’ve played in different settings and music genres all throughout my career, and on this record you can hear the influences of rock, funk, hip-hop, and blues. We just wanted to put all those things in, make it a little stronger, and just continue to grow.


The album includes a contemporary remake of The Meters’ song “Be My Lady,” which included a reunion with Cyril Neville. Additionally, this experience was their first studio recording since 1977. What was that near-historical moment like?
I grew up watching them and seeing them play in different bands and variations of The Meters like The Funky Meters, but it’s very rare that we get to see them play live as The Meters. Getting the opportunity to record with them didn’t happen easily, but it was a dream come true because those guys are some of the original funk music makers in New Orleans. I was very honored and nervous to play with them.

I purposely didn’t play and do my part that day because I just wanted to see them work and see the magic that they were creating when they used to work in the studio and create all those records from the ’70s and ’80s. I just wanted to be a fan, and you could see that even though they hadn’t been in the studio since 1977, they still had an amazing connection.

Did you find that the experience of working with older musicians like The Meters differed from working with some contemporary musicians like say, Kid Rock?
Well, the only reason why this experience was different is because I was a witness to history—something that hasn’t happened in 30, 40 years. But when we’re talking about music, it’s just one language and everybody communicates like that.

Are there any other greats that you really want to work with, like top of the list?
Oh yeah, Jay- Z, Dr. Dre, Lil Wayne, Stevie Wonder, Nine Inch Nails, people like that.

Your single “Fire and Brimstone” is relatively up-tempo and funk based, which is how you pretty much described the album yourself. But since that’s the only single released thus far, how would you compare it to the rest of the album?
To me it’s mid-tempo. We have some things that are really up-tempo, and on that song and on the rest of the record you can hear all the elements like the rock, the funk, and the hip-hop. You know it’s hard rock, it’s in your face, it’s moving, but the other tunes are in your face also, and that’s been my sound for a long time.


You shared production duties with Raphael Saadiq for the album. Tell me a bit about that partnership.
That experience was unbelievable. I’ve been a big fan of his for a long, long time, and I love his solo records. Just being in the same studio with him we learned a lot. He’s a great musician, songwriter, and producer, so he just added himself to my band (Orleans Avenue) and we jammed out and worked out some things and took each other to these places.

You’ve worked and performed with a lot of people. Do you have an unusual moment from any of those moments over the years? Like one particular moment you think about often?
Everyday, it has to be my experience with Lenny Kravitz. About two or three months after I graduated high school I got a call to play with his band. I don’t know what my music would sound like today without that experience with Lenny and having him as both a mentor and friend. We still play together, meet up if we’re in the same city, and that definitely comes up everyday in my mind when I perform.

You’re currently touring, which has pretty much been a staple of your musical life for the past nine years, but tell us a bit about your current tour. Any city you’re particularly excited to hit?
Well, the touring life has been like a ladder, I’ve been blessed to see our audience numbers grow over the years from a couple hundred to several thousand and things just keep getting bigger. Australia is one of my favorite places to play—it’s a crazy experience. Also Paris, we just played there and the response we get there is just unbelievable.

Latest in Music