Honey Island Swamp Band is a New Orleans-based band. They are playing Crossroads KC September 26th, opening for Dr. John. It will be a wonderful evening of real deal New Orleans music. Mandolin player, guitarist and harmonica player Aaron Wilkinson recently discuused his musical upbringing, Honey Island Swamp Band’s creative process and his love of the NOLA music scene. For more info on Honey Island Swamp Band, check out http://www.honeyislandswampband.com
Did you come from a musical family? Were your parents musical?
Yes, my grandmother was a professional opera singer and sang for the episcopal church. My dad played the guitar – it was just a hobby for him but it got me hooked.
What was your earliest musical memory?
Listening to my parents records – Kenny Rodgers, Jim Croce, Lynard Skynard, the Beatles – it was a wide range. i used to write lyrics in my head walking to my elementary school.
What was the first album you bought?
What do you remember most about your first time onstage?
My FIRST time? I don’t 🙂
How did the Honey Island Swamp Band first come together?
We ran into each other in a bar in San Francisco after we all were marooned there following Hurricane Katrina.
How does the creative process work when writing songs in Honey Island Swamp Band?
Chris Mulé and I write most of the songs. Sometimes one of us will bring a complete song to the band to get their input, other times one of us will have maybe half a song and the other will help finish it. It happens in all kinds of different ways.
How often do you find yourself writing songs?
It’s a constant and ongoing process.
What inspires you lyrically?
Anything from a story I read in the paper to something I overhear someone say. Inspiration is everywhere all the time.
What was the first track written foe Cane Sugar?
Probably Chris’ song “Miss What I Got.” That one dates back to before we were even a band.
You tour a ton. How do you approach writing a set list?
Typically we don’t. We have blocks of songs that flow together well and we tend to arrange them on the spot depending on the vibe we get from the audience. We try to improvise our sets to what works best in the situation at hand.
You’re playing Crossroads KC this year. What do you enjoy most about playing Kansas City?
Probably the dedication of your typical KC fan – they are passionate about their music! The radio stations have been really supportive too – KKFI has been great to us.
What do you enjoy the most about the NOLA music scene?
Really just the endless amount of incredible musicians. It’s a great place to learn and to grow.
What is your favorite venue in NOLA?
There are too many to pick just one – some favorites are DBA, the Blue Nile, the Maple Leaf, and Tipitinas. Of course the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is the highlight of the year.
What is your NOLA dive bar of choice?
Again – way to many to name 🙂 the Saint, Le Bon Temps, the Rendezvous are some where I might be on a first-name with the bartender any given night.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career?
Just sticking to it – it’s hard being on the road year after year and still keeping your band, your friendships, and your families together.
What advice would you give to musicians just starting out?
Take risks, and embrace change. Don’t be afraid try something new and go in a totally unexpected direction. Keeping things fresh is the key to keeping your music inspired.