Yvette Landry grew up in Louisiana she is a musician and writer playing a variety of instruments in several Cajun bands, She is also an educator and teacher. Yvette released her debut album titled Should Have Known in 2010. She also fronts her own band. Yvette has played numerous festivals and played and toured outside of the U.S. She has performed with the Red Stick Ramblers, Pine Leaf Boys, Bill Kirchen, Cindy Cashdollar, Darrell Scott and many more. Yvette co-produced her new No Man’s Land with some of those friends including Bill Kirchen, Cindy Cashdollar, Geno Delafose, Dirk Powell, Richard Comeaux, and Joel Savoy. Not content with that Yvette also published her first children’s book The Ghost Tree. She kindly agreed to answer some questions for Lonesome Highway.
It says "Musician, Author, Educator, Interpreter" on your website. That sounds like a pretty rounded full on life style. How do you make them all fit without compromising any of these aspects of your life?
It's not easy, but if you keep things organized and learn to manage your time wisely, it's very doable.
You grew up in Breaux Bridge in Louisiana and growing up must have absorbed the music and atmosphere of the area which has filtered through to your music. What was the overriding influence and how did country music fit into the overall scheme of things?
Well, growing up, I was involved in music in school. I took piano lessons and played in the school band. Unfortunately, my parents were not into the cajun music scene. We mostly listened to records and the radio. The one record that my parents played over and over again was Willie Nelson's Stardust album. I guess that's where I my first taste of country came from.
The songs on Should Have Known and No Man's Land have a pretty timeless quality that suggest you have listened to the some classic songs. How do you set out to write your songs?
Interesting question. I don't really "set out" to write songs, they just sort of write themselves. It's hard to explain, but I get this feeling and when it comes, I pick up my guitar, grab my paper and pencil, and before you know it, I've got a song.
Do you have a preference for writing over performance or as you do both is it more of an integrated process?
I love the performance aspect of music. It's something I can sort of control. Writing just comes. I never know when it's coming or even what is coming!
Did you find writing your book The Ghost Tree very different from your song writing?
The story about "how" the book was written might be even better than the book itself! Short version, I told a story to the four-year-old son of a friend. Just sort of made it up on the spot. I never had any intension of writing a book, it was just a story - but before I knew it, I had an illustrator, a publisher, and this thing was going to print!
You produced both your albums Joel Savoy and used some fine players. Where both what you expected them to be or did the process change the songs in any way?
For the first album, I had no expectations. Matter of fact, I never intended to record an album. I had written some songs and had played them only for my parents. My dad was battling brain cancer at the time and he would always tell me I needed to record the songs, but I insisted that I didn't know what I was doing and was not going to record. A couple of months later, he passed away and in his memory, I recorded the album. I just phoned a few friends, explained the situation, and we went into the studio, unrehearsed, and laid down the tracks. It was magic! For No Man's Land, I was scared to death! I knew that this album needed to be a strong one to follow up Should Have Known, but I didn't really know how to do that. So I took my ideas, called up some friends and thought, "well, if it worked the first time, it'll probably work again!" Went in with no expectations except for wanting to do my best. I figured if I had that attitude, then I couldn't be disappointed with the product. Most of the songs came out just as I had heard them in my head. The one song that changed was "Yea, You Right." Once we got in and started recording, I knew that I needed Geno Delafose and his bass player Pop Esprit to lay down the grove. Other than that, not much changed.
Your albums are self released does this give you the freedom to record and release exactly what you want with the obvious financial constraints?
Pretty much. Because I work full time as a teacher, I don't go on tour. I think most labels want someone who can be on the road to "market the product" so I really didn't focus on that too much. Just wanted to put it out there as quickly and easily as possible.
You play locally and have toured internationally. Do you find the audience reaction and expectation changes with the territory?
Yep. At home, we're a dance band. People come out and dance, drink, talk, have a good time. It's very social. When you get outside of our little area of "Acadiana", especially out of state and overseas, people tend to sit and listen. It's got more of a concert feel. That's a really strange feeling for me, to have people just watching. But, the more I do it, the more comfortable I get doing those type of shows.
Having played with other artists do you enjoy the break of being less in the spotlight as happened when it's your show?
Absolutely! I love the variety that I have playing with different bands. When I'm playing bass, I'm just sort of along for the ride. I love holding down the rhythm section. When I'm on accordion, I'm sort of in the front, but my guitar player does most of the vocals, so they're the ones in the "spotlight." Then every once in a while, I get to be up there. It's scary, but I love being able to have my own voice.
As a teacher and as a musician you have exposure to different aspects of life. Do you draw on that for your songs?
A friend of mine once told me that song writing was easy - all you have to do is pay attention. I took those words to heart. It was absolute genius, because if you truly open your eyes and pay attention to everything that's happening around you daily, you have plenty to write about. So whether it's in school, or in a bar, or walking to the mailbox, there is always something happening that you can potentially draw from.
Perhaps the best know country musician from your home state is Webb Pierce is there a lot of country music there now?
There's a small country scene around my hometown, but as far as the state, not so much.
When you record your next solo album will you continue in the direction of your two albums or do you see yourself moving from that?
Wow, that's a tough one. I take things day by day, so we'll just have to wait and see on that one.
Do you see your music as a reward in itself or is there a desire to reach a wider audience. If so would that make you compromise given that mainstream radio is moving towards a heavy pop/youth bias?
When I started playing music, my one goal was to play at Mulatte's in Breaux Bridge (my home town). It's a famous cajun restaurant and I thought, "Man, if I could just play there..." With that said, (and I did play there), everything else is just lagniappe! I'm along for the ride. I make music and play music because it lights up my soul. I love seeing the smiles on the faces of people who come out to dance or to listen. If my music reaches a wider audience, I would be ecstatic for sure, but I can't see me changing what I'm doing.
With all that you have done and achieved what's next for Yvette Landry?
I never know what the universe is going to throw at my doorstep next. I do have another book in the works, I'm continually writing songs, trying to be a good mother, daughter, sister, friend and teacher. Right now, that's enough, but I'm always ready to travel along new paths, so time will tell.
Finally, who are you favourites artists from the past or present?
Right now, I just can't get enough of Darrell Scott and Tim O'Brien. I was fortunate enough to play with Darrell several years ago and have been a huge fan ever since. As for Tim, well, who doesn't like Tim O'Brien?!