Acadian singer-songwriter Lisa LeBlanc returns to Festival International de Louisiane this year, performing her trademark folk-trash songs with an Americana bent. Born in the tiny New Brunswick town of Rosaireville, the award-winning musician started playing music at an early age. Started young, like a lot of Acadian artists growing up with the kitchen party culture, LeBlanc said. Jammed a lot with my family who were into a lot of classic rock. Started playing guitar at 14, picked up the banjo at 19. LeBlanc now makes her home in Montreal where her self-titled debut album went platinum since its 2012 Canadian release and her mini-album Highways, Heartaches and Time Well-Wasted was released last fall. Highways contains five original tracks and one cover of Katie Cruel, a traditional folk song arranged by LeBlanc.
We caught up with LeBlanc on a world tour; she had just returned from three weeks in New Zealand, then a stint in Vancouver where both locations offered a warm respite from the Canadian cold. Since April remains within the confines of a Canadian winter, she was thrilled to be spending that time in warm Lafayette, Louisiana, for her third visit to Festival International. But thats not why the multi-talented musician she performs on guitar, banjo and vocals is looking forward to returning to Lafayette. I absolutely love this place, she said of Lafayette. Im extremely excited to be part of festival and Im super excited about coming back. Lisa LeBlanc After being asked to participate, LeBlanc compared the feeling to the anticipation of Christmas. She took on a smile that lasted for days, she said. Since her earlier trips south, LeBlanc has fallen in love with the culture, food and warmth of Lafayettes people and, most importantly of all, the Cajun music. You go to some places and you say, wow, OK, this marks me for life, LeBlanc described of her Louisiana adventures. Her first trip to festival was in 2011 where she performed a couple of sets with other French-speaking musicians. She returned in 2013 as a tourist and enjoyed the festivals bands hailing from around the world as well asLouisiana and learned to play Cajun music, jamming with local musicians. Lisa LeBlanc 2 Thats how I learned a couple of Cajun songs and it soon became one of my favorite styles of music, she said. It was also during her last Lafayette trip that LeBlanc took the opportunity to visit the great American music towns of Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans and Austin. All these experiences were incorporated into her latest album, Highways, Heartaches and Time Well-Wasted, which she will tap into at this years festival. Louisiana was incredibly inspiring, going back to Acadian roots and discovering traditional Cajun music was a big eye opener, she said of the trip. Gold Diggin Hoedown was inspired by a man I saw in a Nashville bar.
Doing a month and a half road trip, being my first, was just great and also had a lot of time to write and see shows, meet musicians. The albums a collection of Americana songs recorded in English with musicians Maxime Gosselin on drums and Jean-Philippe Hbert on guitar along with Brad Barr, milie Bernard, Pierre-Guy Blanchard and Franois-Rgis Pag. The album doesnt contain Cajun songs, but LeBlancs experiences in Louisiana are hiding in the shadows. Theres not a direct influence you can hear on the album, LeBlanc explained, but I think theres a couple subtle influences. Lisa LeBlanc 4 This year, LeBlanc is contemplating driving to Lafayette from Montreal so she can once again tour America. Like most festival musicians, she is taking the opportunity to perform at other U.S. venues and cities; after Festival, LeBlanc will perform in Nashville. Ive been on the go for two months now, she said in March. I love it so Im probably going to come down with my car. She will perform at Festival International beginning at 5:45 p.m. Thursday, April 23, at Scne Stabil Drill International and at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 25, on Scne Lafayette General Fais Do Do.
Chere Cohen Head ShotCher Coen is a Lafayette-based freelance travel and food writer and author of Exploring Cajun Country: An Historic Guide to Acadiana and several other Louisiana-based books.