Joshua Encinias


This article was written on 20 May 2014, and is filled under Arts.

Current post is tagged

, , , , , ,

Hard to Reason with Hurricane Season: Interview with Allen Toussaint

The whirlwind of media coverage from WEAR to Financial Times shows us just how important Jimmy Buffett’s concert is going to be. On one front, it’s bringing a lot of joy to an area that’s in the dumps. Then there’s the economic reason — if we’re going to lose our fishing and tourism industries, then naturally, young entrepreneurs will come up with new ways to generate income.

Allen ToussaintAJ Niland from Huka Entertainment is one of the few who has brought a successful idea to Gulf Coast beaches post-oil spill. It’s Huka Entertainment that planned the Hangout Beach, Music & Arts Festival in May, and they are behind Buffett’s newest soiree into Gulf Coast philanthropy.

Controversy has surrounded the event from day one. When tickets became available last Wednesday, many locals were disappointed to find out they were gone in 10 minutes. Others were outraged when the news broke that 12,500 of the 35,000 tickets were reserved for rental management companies. However, Buffett’s concert has raised national and international awareness about our local scene, and incentives were created for non-residents to rent from local hotels, condos and campgrounds who’ve drastically reduced their prices and added the extra bonus of the much sought-after Buffett tickets.

But now even those with a ticket have to wait to see their beloved coastal crooner. Buffett’s concert in Gulf Shores was postponed until July 11. Promoters are concerned that tropical surf conditions would disrupt their fun. Thankfully, Huka Entertainment is able to honor every ticket for the Sunday, July 11 show.

Before it became widely known that the July 1 show was postponed, I called Allen Toussaint, pianist and extraordinary human being from New Orleans. He’s famous for writing the songs “Working in the Coal Mine,” “Fortune Teller,” “Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues),” “Southern Nights” and others. I first heard of him when he recorded “The River in Reverse” with Elvis Costello, a protest/celebration album of all things New Orleans post-Katrina.

At 72, Toussaint is in the midst of one of those famous American second acts. He’s worked with Costello and hundreds of your favorite artists — you just don’t know it yet. And on July 11 he’s bringing his music, wisdom and joy to Gulf Shores.

Josh: You are famous for your charity work to rebuild New Orleans. How did you get involved with Jimmy Buffett and his concert for the Gulf Coast?

Toussaint: His people called and asked me. When Jimmy Buffett calls you say yes. It’s such a worthy cause, and I’m all for people helping people. I’m a yes man, I’m a working man.

Josh: There are some pretty big differences between the flooding in New Orleans and the oil spill on the Gulf Coast. Do you think the federal government should be in charge of this mess, or should the local government?

Toussaint: I don’t know if it’s a government issue at all other than they should always do what’s right and support its citizens. I’m not sure what government expertise can do to get this right any more than the people who are in charge now. I can’t say who should be in charge. I guess the experts should be the ones who are fixing the mechanical problems. I don’t think the government should oversee fixing the problem. I don’t know who’s best suited for that.

Josh: Do you think we can create something beautiful from this disaster?

Toussaint: I think it will draw attention to places people don’t normally pay attention to. When something this major happens it draws a lot of attention there. When a lot of attention is drawn to a place good comes out of it. Now we can get to know the whole of our country better. Now everyone knows about New Orleans and other things about it. Good heavens, we’re like plants in the garden of our cities. In New Orleans the ambiance just feels right. The charm, the architecture is there. It’s all a luxury for us and that’s because before Katrina the Gulf Coast was not known worldwide. Now they visit. That is because they are a part of us, as the world community. It’s like being introduced to a cousin you didn’t know.

Josh: Tell us about what you plan to do for your performance with Jimmy. I hope you play “Yes We Can!”

Toussaint: I’m playing songs with Jimmy and Jesse Winchester. I’m playing my song “Jimmy Buffett,” and aside from that, that’s my only original. For one thing, Jimmy Buffett’s music is so uplifting. And Jimmy Buffett has such a spirited attitude, his music makes you feel like you’re friends with him, and it makes me feel that way too.

Josh: What’s the best part about your job?

Toussaint: We (musicians) are blessed to be in an industry that causes so many collaborations to make a joyful noise and touch people’s hearts. We have a voice to say something, and we have the mic, so we have the ear. It’s the best industry in the world.

Josh: Do you have an encouraging word for us?

Toussaint: So many wonderful people care to do what they can for the people. I think the biggest lesson in all of this is that people care for each other, and will rise to the occasion.


Leave a Reply