For 35 years, two- time GRAMMY award winning artist Terrance Simien, 8th generation Louisiana Creole has been shattering the myths about what his indigenous Zydeco roots music is and is not. Leading his Zydeco Experience band, Simien has become one of the most respected and accomplished artists in American roots music today. He and his band mates have performed over 7000 concerts, toured millions of miles to over 45 countries during their eventful career.
2014 marked another milestone when Simien & his collaborators from the Zydeco Experience band were honored with their second GRAMMY award in Los Angeles on January 26, 2014 at the Nokia Theatre. This year was their 28th consecutive New Orleans Jazz Festival performance: an event that has become the gold standard for showcasing and celebrating all Louisiana music traditions.
2012 found Simien & his band mates seen performing their original song “Dance Everyday” in the Warner Brothers film “The Lucky One” starring Zac Efron and Blythe Danner, and directed by Oscar nominated director Scott Hicks. Simien’s version of zydeco standard “Uncle Bud” was also used in the film.
2009 signaled the release of Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog”, set in the city of New Orleans and featured their first black princess. Alas, history was made. Simien is the featured guest artist on “Gonna Take You There”, a zydeco flavored song penned by Randy Newman. Simien recorded the song with Newman in Los Angeles in late 2007. The song was inspired by Simien’s music and it became a favorite track for children everywhere! Simien’s student audiences all over the country sing along with him when he & his band mates perform it during their school time concerts. History was also made in a very big way for this genre as it was the first time Disney featured zydeco music in a film! However, what really changed the game was having the word zydeco spoken in the movie, introducing generations of young children and families to an indigenous American roots music that because of this film, many heard for the very first time! We are forever grateful to John Lasseter and the team at Disney for this rare opportunity to have this genre immortalized in a Disney film. Photo: Terrance and his manager/agent, Cynthia at the film premiere.
Terrance & Cynthia Disney film premiere
In 2005 Simien led HBO producers deep into Creole country for another high visible opportunity for the genre and he introduced them to the prodigious 5 year old zydeco talent, Guyland Leday. This gifted young musician was featured in the HBO doc “The Music in Me: Children’s Recitals from Classical to Latin, Jazz to Zydeco. This was a huge victory for his state, genre and Creole culture. It was also this yea r that they became the first zydeco artists to perform in Cuba for the US State Department. In 2006, Carnegie Hall presented them in Mali, West Africa as part of their unique Global Encounters program.
However, it was 2008 that proved to be one of the most memorable years of their eventful career as they were honored with a GRAMMY™ award, the first in zydeco since Rockin Sidney Simien received his in 1985. They also performed that day at The 50th GRAMMY™ Awards pre-Tel ceremony.
Simien was born in 1965 (appropriately) into the hippie folk and soul music era that still intrigues him today. He grew artistically being influenced and inspired by all of the music from that period. He was as influenced by Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel as he was by Sam Cooke and the Commodores. Since his family is documented in history books as one of the first Creole families to settle St. Landry Parish, his musical roots are firmly planted alongside the great zydeco pioneers like Chenier, Delafose, Chavis, Ardoin and that other Simien, Rockin Sidney, to name a few. He counts himself one of the fortunate few who hail from a generation with a direct link to these artists, some of whom mentored him as an emerging talent. He has assumed that same role to a new generation of young Zydeco hotshots because he understands how critical mentoring is to the success of his indigenous music that has become synonymous with the cultural identity of Louisiana and an important part of the musical landscape of this country.
In 1983 at the young age of 18, Simien began touring professionally and by 20 he was sharing the stage with Fats Domino and Sarah Vaughn at the Bern Jazz Festival. His career exploded after that and Terrance remains a pivotal part of Zydeco music history. In the early 1980’s there were only 2 emerging bands touring nationally; the young Terrance and The Sam Brothers were the only artists reaching a younger audience with their indigenous roots music. Simien was also vital to the “renaissance” of a genre that was becoming extinct with the passing of each pioneer starting with Clifton Chenier in 1987. By the end of the 1990’s, all of the other influential pioneers had departed. This placed Terrance at the forefront of an exciting period of growth and popularity for his genre.
Simien is blessed with an extraordinary talent that expresses the deepest human emotions through the original instrument: The Voice. He takes his audiences on a multicultural tour of the world as the many countries he’s visited while on tour have informed his musical language. He creates a hypnotic blend of New Orleans funk-reggae-flavored-world-blues-American zydeco roots music that beckons you to your feet and into the groove. He has found a seamless and artful way to deliver his eclectic music as a relevant, evolving artist who is clearly rooted in Creole tradition. Well known for his legendary live performances, Simien also helped change the vocabulary for his genre by introducing complex vocal harmonies, diverse repertoire and carefully crafted high quality recordings.
Terrance and his loyal and skilled band mates, together have shared studio & stage with Robert Palmer, Stevie Wonder, Los Lobos, Taj Mahal, Dr. John, the Meters, Alan Toussaint, Paul Simon and Dave Matthews Band to name a few. Their music has been featured in TV commercials and a dozen or more films, including the blockbuster “The Big Easy” which changed the game for Louisiana music in the late 80’s. His music has been heard on NPR syndicated radio shows like World Café, American Routes, E-town & House of Blues Radio Hour. Rolling Stone, Billboard, and other notable music industry publications, as well as major daily newspapers have praised his recordings. His extensive discography dates back to vinyl 45’s. In 1991 he was signed to rock label Restless Records by A&R rep Ron Goudie who brought the band Poison to the same label group.
Simien’s groundbreaking Creole for Kidz & The History of Zydeco for student, youth and family audiences has reached nearly 500,000 since its debut in 2000. This dynamic program is presented at performing art centers, schools and festivals. Simien is helping build a more culturally literate young performing arts patron who is more knowledgeable about zydeco roots music because of his program. Simien has received countless awards, grants and recognition for his work and artistic contributions as a respected Cultural Ambassador for his state and country.