BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – The year is 1963 and the town is Pierre Part, Louisiana. It’s a place where kids play outside, neighbors are friendly and many still speak Cajun French.
It’s also host to legendary musicians. The artists flock to a nightclub called Blanchard’s on Highway 70.
This is where we find the owner’s 10-year-old son, Nelson Blanchard. He started playing on stage and graduated from “pretend performer” to “real musician.” By that time, it was clear that music was Blanchard’s calling.
Ever since he was a toddler, Nelson watched famous artists come to the club and play. Some of the musicians included Dolly Parton, Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino.
As a little boy, he’d imagine he was with the bands on stage. Tapping on a stand, he’d sway to the music and play an imaginary drum.
Six decades later, Blanchard has earned a Grammy nomination. He’s worked alongside many legendary artists. And he collaborated with Louisiana’s LeRoux, Kenny Neal, Britney Spears, Jamie Lynn Spears, the Goo Goo Dolls, Kenny Rogers, Sammy Kershaw and John Schneider.
He recently released a new album called “Nelson Blanchard.” The 11 tracks are catchy and heartfelt.
“I’ve always had the desire to do the CD, I’ve just never really had time for myself. I’ve produced, I would say, well over 150 CDs for other people through the years. Since the mid-80’s I’ve been in the recording business,” Blanchard said.
A happy accident
“This CD kind of came about kind of by accident, you might say,” he said.
Blanchard was asked to record a voice-over and send it to Austin-based artist Lloyd Maines.
When Maines heard Blanchard’s voice, he asked the producer, “Who is that singing on there?”
“That go the ball rolling,” Blanchard explained. “So, a producer in Nashville said, ‘We’re going to do something on you, we’re going to do an album.'”
“Of course, people have different tastes and there is a little bit of something for most people on this album,” Blanchard said. “It is kind of wide in its range of style. It kind of revolves around rhythm and blues, but there’s a little touch of country in the rhythm and blues part of it. And there’s also a little rock.”
One of the most popular songs is “Free Bird in the Wind.” It’s about the 1977 Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash. Blanchard developed the track with his writing partner, Scott Innes.
“It talks about that particular place where they crashed, and it has kind of a little rock edge and sounds like Lynyrd Skynyrd a little bit,” Blanchard said.
The secret to success
Blanchard has been in the music industry for nearly 60 years, and he’s frank about what it’s like.
“It is tough,” he said. “Honestly, you know, I’m really choosy about what I get involved with because of my faith. I draw the line at certain things. What makes it easy is just basically my love for music and I appreciate that it is a gift. I also know that if I make it as accurate as I can and make it as good quality as I can, the music will speak for itself.”
“That’s what I’ve kind of lived by. Just do my very best. I love the music anyway, so why not make it the best that I can make? And it’s turned out pretty well for me.”
He also has advice for budding musicians.
“Well, I would say, just be yourself. Learn the instrument of choice. It’s good to know an instrument because then you can write music with it. Some people don’t play an instrument at all so they need another person to write with. That’s okay too. Just be true to yourself. Write and play what you feel. Don’t compromise that for anybody. And again, do your very best. If you just do that, success will come to you.”
What songs does the musician listen to?
Blanchard said if he could only listen to two songs for the rest of his life, he would likely choose “From the Beginning” by Emerson Lake and Palmer and a heartfelt song that he wrote called “My Soul Was Sound Asleep.”
Blanchard studied music at LSU and Nicholls State University. He plays a variety of instruments including the guitar, tenor saxophone, alto saxophone and several woodwinds. But his first love is the keyboard.
Click here to buy his new album.