In 2010, I did a series of interviews for NOLA Defender speaking with Richard Dreyfuss, Jeff “the Dude” Dowd (inspiration for The Big Lebowski character) and local band Gravity A, but it never occurred to me to an interview for this blog. Actually, the idea to start came from NOLA musician and spectacular showman Glen David Andrews who made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. The Andrews family is one of several musical legacy families in New Orleans and includes many of my favorites like Andrews’ Grammy winning brother Derrick Tabb (Rebirth Brass Band and founder of The Roots of Music) and their cousin Trombone Shorty. As the streets flooded and tornado warnings dinged on our phones, we met this week to talk about Andrews’ family, his city and his addiction and recovery.
In a city as small as New Orleans Glen David is as well known a face as our mayor and his talent is part of the fabric of our culture. His longtime addiction, his 2012 domestic abuse charge and his path to recovery are a local version of the trials and tribulations of wayward child actors like Todd Bridges. In the last year, Andrews has gotten sober, formed a new band, stopped a bank robbery and begun gardening. I’ve spent enough of my life around addicts and alcoholics to know that anything can happen, but Andrews seems rock solid and ready for a bright future.
He’s ready to spread his wings wider than before, reach more music lovers and literally bring his “soul” to the world. He participated in a global-band video with the song A Better Place with musicians from all over the world harmonizing from across continental divides. The heartwarming video (okay, I cried a little) received over 330,000 hits and Andrews realized he could do the same with his own music. After decades of playing music, he’s finally learning to read music, “It’s discouraging but exciting.” He’s working on a new CD, Redemption, inspired by his newfound clarity and hunger for life. His shows have gone from party-animal jams to well-designed journeys with razor-sharp highly trained musicians. The result is just as sexy and floor-shaking as before but with his potential finally being realized.
At 33, Andrews is now ready to be a grown-up and a role model to the next generation of his ridiculously talented family. He seems finally to have grasped the difference between pleasure (which is fleeting and usually leaves a hangover) and true happiness.
I’ve divided the video interview into 2 parts. The first video focuses on the Andrews multigenerational family legacy of music, being a musician in a musician’s town, playing with your idols, what it was like growing up in the Treme, why he quit the drums at 14, his new band, how his show has evolved, believing the dream, his biggest regret, rehab and what he wishes people knew about him. Listening to him was like taking a lesson in the history of brass bands, getting a peek inside the branches of his extensive musical family tree and spending an afternoon on the stoop of his childhood home in the Treme surrounded by Fats Domino, Ernie K-Doe and other luminaries as children “played second line,” rather than ball games, in the street.
The second video is about addiction and redemption. Andrews discusses sobriety, recovery, making amends, his 2012 domestic violence charge, handling the haters, who stuck with him, being a sober family member, what he’s most proud of, his rehab at Boston’s Right Turn recovery center, his upcoming CD Redemption, the upcoming Jazz Fest and gardening.
It was my privilege to spend time with Glen David Andrews. I’ve always had respect for his enormous talent and now I have respect for him as a man and a child of God walking his path. He’s playing all over town as we begin Jazz Fest and will take the stage of the Jazz Fest Blues Tent on Thursday, May 2 at 4:10. Many in the crowd will have no idea the rocky road that led Andrews to that stage, but they will all be treated to traditional NOLA standards, hip-shaking originals, gospel spirituals and bump-and-grind songs that would make Barry White blush. He doesn’t play his trombone as much anymore but his voice has always been his best instrument and it cuts through my soul and “melts my heart like butter.”
(apologies to Cosimo Matassa for the misspelling of his name on the video)
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