Cowboy Mouth's Fred Leblanc on Being Born Deaf and New Orleans
Pete Townshend once claimed, "I have terrible hearing trouble. I have unwittingly helped to invent and refine a type of music that makes its principal proponents deaf."
But there's a drummer/singer out there right now who was born deaf but learned to hear. He's performed more than 2,500 concerts for about 9 million fans and released nine records. When asked whether he's ready for the Phoenix heat, he said, "I hope the Phoenix heat is ready for me."
Enter Fred LeBlanc of Cowboy Mouth, described as "a guy who wants to use rock 'n' roll music as a way to transform peoples' lives . . . loud and crazy . . . like a rock 'n' roll preacher." Which is a pretty damn good description of the band's music.
For more than 15 years, the members of Cowboy Mouth have put on fantastically intense shows, displaying a crossbreed of southern rock and New Orleans attitude — which is exactly why they appeal to an array of pure Americana, jazz, blues, and rock fans.
Cowboy Mouth's lineup is a mix of diverse talents. Founded by maniacal drummer/singer LeBlanc and vocalist/guitarist John Thomas Griffith, the band also includes Matt Jones, on rhythm guitar and vocals, and bassist Casandra Faulconer, known as one of the best players in New Orleans. The band's been touring almost constantly since the release of 2008's Fearless.
"At every Cowboy Mouth show, we create special moments and the audience helps us do it," LeBlanc says. "I enjoy pulling people out of themselves. And it's a good feeling knowing what you do is a catalyst for something positive."
Cowboy Mouth is known for putting forth positive energy: The band's 2006 record, Voodoo Shopped, supported Renew Our Music (formerly New Orleans Musician's Relief Fund), and Cowboy Mouth also raised money for the St. Bernard Project, which rebuilds disaster-stricken New Orleans homes.
Currently, Cowboy Mouth is working on a new album. "It combines the familiar Cowboy Mouth kickass rock 'n' roll with the story of a band on the road. It's bluesier and very reflective," LeBlanc says. "When I don't find anything currently moving me, I go back and remember what I loved before" — which makes sense, considering he worked in a used-record store at age 11, listening to all the old classics, country, and blues.
The band's live show is a mix of its past, present, and future. "We'll definitely play the classics, but we've also been playing a new song called 'Drama' from our in-the-works album that is getting a good response," LeBlanc says. "Every band knows they have to play the songs the fans want to hear. You know, you get a lot of these musicians that are just like, 'Oh, my God, I can't stand playing my hit song; it's such a burden' . . . My instinct is to say get over it; McDonald's is hiring."
And Cowboy Mouth's vocalist has a reason to love everything he sings. LeBlanc was born deaf, and his lungs were underdeveloped. "I didn't hear until I was 3, when my folks laid my head on stereo speakers, just to pull me out of my own little world. And I started to sing . . . before I could talk. So singing and drumming to me is the most natural thing in the world. My lungs eventually developed, and I eventually got my hearing," LeBlanc says.
Maybe the reason Cowboy Mouth garners so many fans is because of that overcome-all mentality. "The Civil War created an underdog spirit, an appreciation of love and [the] ability to cherish what you have while you have it. The south gets a bad rap because of a few bad apples. One way we express emotion and freedom is through music," LeBlanc says. "Living in New Orleans is where life and death walk hand-in-hand. I mean, we practically live underwater." Cowboy Mouth represents that concept well, and thrashes it outward on stage, leaving fans almost as happily exhausted as the band themselves.
As LeBlanc has said in the past, "If The Neville Brothers and The Clash had a baby, it would be Cowboy Mouth."
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