Cowboy Mouth is an energetic, fun-loving, pure-hearted New Orleans rock band with a twist of cajun and blues influence. Since the release of their first album, Word of Mouth, in 1992, the band has gained notoriety nationwide. With a current string of shows and a new album, Go, the time was perfect for us at Murfie to get in touch.
Below is a transcript of a phone call between Cowboy Mouth frontman Fred LeBlanc and myself (Kayla), from a few weeks ago in January. Fred is an entertaining fellow with a lot to say about the 90s music era, the changing music scene, the influence of big labels, and the vibrant energy in the southern United States. Read on and enjoy!
K: Right now I have Fred Leblanc on the phone from Cowboy Mouth.
K: Welcome! Where are you calling from today?
F: I’m calling from my house in Mississippi.
K: How’s the typical winter in Mississippi?
F: Well, seeing that you’re calling me from Wisconsin, I really have no reason to complain about anything as far as winter goes, ‘cause I could sit here and whine about the temperatures in the 40s, and you guys would probably think, “Oh, what a puss”—and you’d be right about that! But I get to do the same thing during the summer. As you sit there and complain about temperatures in the 70s and 80s, I’m sitting here, you know high 90s early 100s, or something like that, and I could call you a puss back. So I’m not gonna complain, it’s beautiful, every day above ground. Right?
K: Absolutely. You guys are doing your thing down south, and Cowboy Mouth has been in action for two decades at least, so it’s cool to talk to you because you have all this perspective on rock music and the industry—
F: Haha! That’s a nice way of saying, “Gimme what you’ve got, Grandpa!”
K: Haha! So it’s really valuable, and I’m sure you’ve seen a lot, which leads me to something I was wondering about—the rock scene, and how it’s changed over the years. I know it was kinda grunge-y when you got started. So how have you seen things change?
F: Well we were kind of like, not the antithesis to the grunge thing—it’s more of a matter of timing. In fact, we were around a couple years before that burst forth on the national zeitgeist. In fact, we would see a lof of those bands in the same clubs that we played. I played at a club called Raji’s in L.A. a bunch of times, and then I saw that club on the back of Nirvana’s first album Bleach. There’s a picture of them performing at Raji’s. So it was all kind of bubbling under, and then it just kind of took over for a while. You had big bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, other bands who got notoriety like Mudhoney. They had all been around a while. Then a few years later, we were kind of lumped in with some of the other 90s bands who weren’t quite as angst-ridden, bands like Better than Ezra, Hootie & the Blowfish, Matchbox Twenty, all these bands who had just been touring around the same time. So for me, in terms of changes, a lot of the big changes came close to later in the 90s, when everything changed and went either hard-hard-hard rock, or obscene hard-hard-hard pop. And for me, I was kind of glad to see the whole major label game disappear because, as their influence became a lot more…unable to shake off—the music got kind of worse. You had the emergence of things like Britney Spears and Fred Durst [Limp Bizkit] at the same time. You know, it’s just not my cup of tea because musically they were both so extreme. This music fits comfortably into this box. I call it “McDonald’s Music”, in that it’s designed to be eaten, and crapped out, making room for the next musical Big Mac. And there’s a place for that—that’s fine, but that’s not why I wanted to play music. I always wanted to be a more creative person, take a chance with styles, learn new ways to perform, and ingratiate those. I didn’t want it to be just one thing continuously over and over and over again. But that’s me.
K: Sure, that’s some truth about the industry. And yes, there’s a consumption element to it all, that maybe wasn’t there when music was more pure…