Despite the “nouveau” in its name, Nouveaux Cajun Xpress has years of bandstand experience. Most of the Cajun music-rooted group spent more than decade with Rodney Thibodeaux and Tout Les Soir.
In 2014, guitarist John Ortis, drummer Butch Golsan, bassist Butch Landry and fiddler Clyde Thompson left Tout Les Soir to form the Baton Rouge-based Nouveaux Cajun Xpress. They wanted to expand from Cajun and zydeco music to blues, The Eagles, Bob Dylan, The Beatles and more.
“We had been doing the same thing for 14 years,” Ortis said. “We all wanted to get into something different.”
But everything Nouveaux Cajun Xpress does keeps a Cajun flavor, performed with the traditional fiddle and accordion. The group, featuring newest member Jesse Deroche on accordion, will perform Friday at UCT Hall for the Cajun-French Music Association dance.
The differences between Nouveaux Cajun Xpress and other Cajun and zydeco bands include its lack of an individual leader.
“We do everything democratically,” Ortis said. “If three of us agree on something, we’ll do it that way. We’ve been doing it like that and had no problems.”
Nouveaux Cajun Xpress is also registered in Louisiana as a limited liability company. It’s owned equally by the band’s four original members. Each of the original members also invested in new equipment for their new band.
“If we are going to make it, we are going to make it as equals,” Ortis said.
Nouveaux Cajun Xpress played its first show in April 2014 at the Crawfish Festival in Biloxi. It has since performed throughout the Gulf Coast region, including more festivals, at Mardi Gras World in New Orleans, on the American Queen riverboat and events for Chef John Folse.
The band released its self-titled debut album in May 2014. The album received five Le Cajun Music Awards nominations this year. It features traditional Cajun music, original songs in French and English and classics by Hank Williams and Rockin’ Sydney.
“We were in competition with Doug Kershaw, Steve Riley, Kevin Naquin, Bruce Daigrepont, Lee Benoit,” Ortis said. “All these big hitters in Cajun music. We didn’t win, but just to be nominated was humbling.”
Ortis and Landry are of Cajun descent, but Landry is the band’s only fluent French speaker.
“The rest of us have just loved the music and picked it up as we went along,” said Ortis, who learned French songs phonetically.
Having started from scratch after leaving Tout Les Soir, Nouveaux Cajun Xpress hopes to build on its early successes.
“We’re a really tight-knit group of guys who’ve been playing together a long time,” Ortis said. “We’re proud of what’s happened, especially in our first year as a band.”