Born, raised, and currently residing in Lafayette, Roddie Romero lives and breathes South Louisiana culture. His passion for authenticity shows in multiple aspects of his life, from his music with The Hub City All Stars to what’s cooking in his cast-iron black pot. But before the celebrated frontman had a Grammy nomination and multiple international tours under his belt, he was witnessing the magic of Cajun and zydeco music in his own backyard.
In a tradition that still lives on in the Romero family today, every Sunday they would visit their grandparents in the country. While the adults cooked and socialized, the children would climb fig trees and pick pecans until lunch was ready. After everyone’s bellies were sufficiently stuffed with rice and gravy, they would lovingly gather around to watch Romero’s grandfather play the few songs he knew on accordion. When he was finished, he would pass off the accordion to Romero, who would spend the rest of day teaching himself how to play the sounds he had previously heard.
“Accordion is my first and only instrument,” Romero says. “I just mess around on other things.”
Although he was underage, Romero sought out Cajun and zydeco performances at clubs and was enamored with local legends like Buckwheat Zydeco. His dedication paid off and Romero quickly became a local legend himself as a professional touring musician while still attending high school.
While he considers the accordion his primary instrument, Romero recalls a defining moment where he first discovered the slide guitar. In his late teens, he was in Canada for the Montreal Jazz Festival and heard an unfamiliar sound coming from a guitar. Following the sound, he found himself at the sound check for renowned Lafayette slide guitarist, Sonny Landreth. Hearing what Landreth could produce inspired Romero to embrace Cajun and zydeco music in a new way. “All my influences are within a 20 mile radius and they still influence me,” Romero says. Discovering a different take on the style of music he grew up with inspired him to develop his own spin on the genre. The timing was impeccable, as Romero was beginning to feel burnt out by his touring schedule and needed his own creative outlet.
“When Roddie really digs into a song vocally, it makes it very believable for the band, which hopefully transfers to the audience,” Adcock explains. “We’re all trying to play from a very soulful place. When you have a frontman like Roddie, who can not only play soulfully but also sings his tail off, it really makes making music that much more enjoyable.”
Bass player Chad Viator, guitarist Chris French, and drummer(s) Jermaine Prejean and Gary Usie were all introduced to the band through current members and a similar musical vision. “Even if we’re not playing traditional Cajun or zydeco, but we’re in Canada (or anywhere north of Ville Platte for that matter), the way we play and the way it sounds hopefully really feels like Acadiana and ultimately Lafayette, Louisiana,” Adcock says. “And that’s why we’re the Hub City All Stars, because Lafayette is the hub to all the surrounding Cajun and Creole music and culture, and it’s where we come from.”
Aside from producing a unique take on traditional Louisiana roots music, the band has an unconventional approach to live performances. Romero tailors each performance to the energy of the crowd—and nothing is off limits. There are no set lists. There are no guarantees that songs will be played in their original form. The possibilities are endless and it creates a truly memorable experience for both the audience and the band itself.
Adcock describes performing with Romero as an organically creative experience. “He lights the match when he starts the song and then he lets it burn.”
The band approaches recording in the same vein. They are set to soon release their highly anticipated new release since 2007s La Louisianne Sessions in the fall of 2015. Recorded at Louisiana’s own Dockside Studio, the originals on the album were written by Romero and Adcock, produced by legendary producer, John Porter from England, and recorded through a holistic approach that lets the songs come together through their own natural process. Guitarist Chad Viator explains, “Some of the ideas they had brought in completely did a 180 from what maybe they thought they would be to what they are actually are going to be.” The band plays through each song and experiments with every aspect until the right sound is produced.
Their upcoming release is a bit of a departure from their previous music, focusing more on individual songs than a specific genre. “Evolution is an appropriate term,” Adcock says. “It’s no holds barred, no apologies. This is what we’ve been writing.”
He continues, “The most common theme throughout all of our original material is sense of place. And that’s Lafayette, Louisiana.”