Carrier’s career started at age 12 when he played drums in his father’s band. Three years later, he picked up the accordion, which led to gigs with Terrance Simien and the formation of his own band in 1989.
Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band have 10 CDs under their belt, and the band currently plays nearly 200 shows a year. We’re happy they’re returning to Beachcomberland for performances at Destin’s Funky Blues Shack (Friday, Feb. 17), Seaside’s Mardi Gras celebration (Saturday, Feb. 18) and the Funky Blues Shack in the Village of Baytowne Wharf (Feb. 18).
First, congratulations on your 2010 Grammy Award (for the Zydeco Junkie album).
Thank you, man. It’s been a real honor. That one was definitely for my daddy, my granddaddy and all the pioneers in Zydeco music who paved the way.
That’s actually the last time they bestowed the Zydeco/Cajun award on anyone. The Grammys got rid of a bunch of categories for 2011—now, Zydeco and other genres are lumped into one category.
Polka, Latin, Hawaiian… they’re doing all those together as Best Regional/ Roots Album. I’m not for it, but I’ll take anything right now. I hope they recognize the popularity of Zydeco music and put it back on the map.
How has winning the Grammy affected you?
In good ways. First and foremost, we got some recognition. The New Yotk Times calling and asking, “What’s this Zydeco music about?” We don’t have hit records and mainstream publicity. Being recognized in our own category helped us keep Zydeco on the map. With that Grammy category gone, we have to keep that going. We’re kind of sad, but we’re gonna keep fighting for it.
I just listened to a live FestivaLink recording of you and the Bayou Swamp Band from Meadowgrass from May 2011. Is this indicative of your set list?
You’re gonna hear a lot of that. You’ll hear a lot of the newest songs off the Zydeco Junkie CD. I’m promoting that since it won the Grammy. We’re looking forward to get back there. I’m packing my Grammy so people can take pictures with it.
The cover of “Movin’ on Up (Theme from The Jeffersons)” is a standout cut from Zydeco Junkie. What made you want to take on this song? I’ve always loved The Jeffersons, and I thought we could “Zydecofy” that. I’ve done (covers of) “Rockin’ Robin,” “Squeeze Box,” “The Cisco Kid.” I want to keep it fresh—what’s Chubby gonna pull out of his hat next?
Would you be willing to cover the theme from Good Times at some point?
(laughs) You never know about me, man. I might be watching the show and going (sings) “Good Times!!!”
Do you feel that Zydeco could use a boost from a mainstream act— say, similar to what Paul Simon did with African music on Graceland?
Paul Simon fell in love with the Louisiana music. George Strait did a Zydeco song. That’s what happens with the Grammys. They recognize stuff like this, and for me to sit there and come up with something new…you never know what the next move will be for Zydeco.
Tell me about the current band lineup.
Earl Sally on the rub board has been with me for 12 years. Randy (Ellis) and I have been playing 17 years. But we definitely fight like brothers and cousins sometimes. Nobody’s perfect. We get fed up sometimes, but that’s just the nature of the business. We work it out. When we get together and write some music, we write some good music.
I met you years ago when you played at Funky’s. What’s taken you so long to get back here?
You bring in bands, and you can only lose so many dollars. The gas was really kicking my butt going back and forth to Florida. The economy plays a little bit of a role. (This time) we put a package together where I can stay put and not have to travel so much.
What’s next for Chubby Carrier?
I’m gonna keep writing songs. I’m not done yet. This isn’t the final chapter. I’m going to take it as far as I can ‘til I’m ready to hang it up. I’m gonna keep pressing on. As a matter of fact, I’m working on stuff now. I may put out an album, hopefully by 2013.
Would you consider running for president on the “Gumbo for Everybody” platform?
(laughs) Wow! I think I’m a good speaker. People say I’m preaching the gospel of Zydeco. I’ll leave you with that.