At 29, Ryan Foret is decades younger than many of his fellow swamp-pop musicians.
“Not many younger guys play this type of music,” the Westwego-based leader of Foret Tradition said last week.
Foret formed Foret Tradition in 1999, when he was a senior in high school. At that age, he was more likely to play rock, pop, country, rhythm-and-blues, hip-hop or any combination thereof. Nonetheless, swamp pop came naturally to him.
“Yeah, that’s where my heart’s at,” he said. “That’s the kind of music I love. We was raised up on it.”
Foret’s early musical inspiration came from an uncle and cousins who played in swamp-pop bands.
“When we were younger we went out listening to them guys,” he said.
His other inspirations include soul great Otis Redding, New Orleans’ Fats Domino, swamp-pop favorite T.K. Hulin and zydecajun performer Wayne Toups.
“All them cats,” he said. That’s who I grew up listening to.”
Emotion being a prime swamp-pop ingredient, Foret especially admires Otis Redding.
“He has so much energy and so much heart,” he said. “Everything that he gives is from the heart. I never got a chance to see him perform because he died so young, but I have watched DVDs of his performances. He’s just got it.”
Swamp pop, Foret said, is a gumbo of multiple musical styles, including Redding’s Georgia-meets-Memphis soul.
“Country is definitely a big flavor,” he said. “And Fats Domino-type music. Back then it was called R&B, but today they classify that as swamp pop. And soul, that’s all incorporated in swamp pop.”
Local audiences came quickly to Foret Tradition, a band that originally featured Foret’s younger brother, Brandon, playing drums.
“We were like the new, young talent,” Foret said. “We weren’t great, but we had a good little band.”
Hurricane Katrina, as it did to so many south Louisiana musicians, disrupted Foret Tradition’s then-busy local performance schedule.
“We lost a lot of work, because a lot of things were shut down,” Foret said. “People were out of their homes.”
The Katrina effect compelled Foret Tradition to perform beyond its home turf.
The band’s range expanded throughout Louisiana, including Baton Rouge and Alexandria, and into Texas and Mississippi.
Simultaneously, the group’s 2005 CD, Tee Nah Nah, caught on more than any of its previous CDs.
“The crowds just started flocking to us,” Foret said.
Six years later, Foret Tradition still plays away from home more often than it appears at home.
“We play local casinos, a couple of festivals, but we don’t play anywhere near like we used to in the local market,” Foret said.
Wherever Foret Tradition appears these days, it’s a band that knows how to please a crowd.
“When people get up and dance to your music, it’s just a good feeling,” Foret said. “I can be playing a club with 900 people. If nobody dances, I don’t even wanna be there. If I play in a club with a hundred people and everybody’s dancing, I’ll have more fun there. It’s just the atmosphere. When people are dancing and having a good time, I like it.”