The State of Louisiana has long been known for its Zydeco music, so it is no surprise that famed musician Chris Ardoin hails from the Pelican State.

Chris Ardoin is fast becoming one of the best known and most accomplished Zydeco musicians in Louisiana State. He joins the legions of other pr actitioners of this unique art form.

Chris Ardoin had an early start in music. By the age of three, young Chris was already playing his beloved music, and he was performing on stage at the age of four. Chris Ardoin made his stage debut playing at NASA in Houston.

Chris may love to reminisce about that great show, but his age at the time means that the memories are somewhat fuzzy. Chris puts it this way, “The only thing I really remember about that show was that I had some red cowboy boots on and a red cowboy hat”. Chris goes on to say that his mom served as his dresser for the show, elaborating that “They took my cowboy hat and put it on the front of the stage. I collected like $400 in tips”. That was certainly an auspicious start to what would become a great career in playing and performing. Chris Ardoin even remembers the song he played at that first show. The tune was “Don’t Mess With My Tutu”.

A young performer at Carnegie Hall, NY

That premiere performance would not be the first for young Chris Ardoin. At the tender age of nine, he was invited to play Carnegie Hall in New York City, a rare honour indeed. Chris is humble when discussing his accomplishments and musical talent, putting it down to his family heritage.

As Chris says, “My family history rolls back over a century; my cousin Armede Ardoin was the father of Creole-located music, so it was kind of my duty to continue the family legacy, and now I’m 33 and I’m still doing it!”

While his family history and the accomplishments of his ancestors may have helped, the credit for his musical ability belongs to Chris. While the talent may run in the family, Chris has nurtured that natural ability and made the most of it.

Chris Ardoin & NuStep Zydeco at El Sido's Zydeco & Blues Club, Lafayette, LA.

Chris Ardoin & NuStep Zydeco at El Sido’s Zydeco & Blues Club, Lafayette, LA.

Role model and inspiration

Chris credits his grandfather for serving as his inspiration and for passing on his musical talent, but things were much different when the elder Ardoin played for the entertainment of local whites. He was often forced to play for endless hours, and one night a displeased crowd followed him and beat him badly. The results of the beating were long lasting, and Chris’ grandfather died a few years later in an insane asylum.

That tragic history was not enough to stop the family from pursuing their musical passions, however, and Chris’ father and brothers went on to form the Ardoin Brothers Band. Young Chris was fascinated by the music, often watching his father play and wanting to join in. When his father caught him playing one day, he offered to teach him. The rest, as they say, is history.

Continued musical development

By the early nineties, Chris was playing well enough to be featured on an album. While released under the name of his father’s band, that album featured a 10-year-old Chris Ardoin playing on all the songs. That early release was classified as Zydeco, but it also incorporated gospel and R&B elements.

That first album was just a shade of things to come. To date, Chris Ardoin has released 15 albums. With so many recordings to his credit, it is hard for Chris to pick a favorite, but he definitely has a soft spot for 1998’s Turn the Page, as well as VIP and MBP. As Chris says “VIP was the album that really brought in the R&B influence, with the heavy keyboards and music, and that was the one that sparked Zydeco”.

Chris cites a number of influences on his musical life, including David Ruffle of the Temptations and Sam Cook. Those artists are surely running through his head when he enters the studio, but he often goes in without anything specific in mind. For Chris Ardoin, the creative process usually involves sitting at the drum set, playing around and picking up the guitar.

Relaxation and family

In his spare time, Chris Ardoin admits to watching TV and just relaxing. He is a big fan of ESPN, while his wife enjoys watching reality TV. The birth of his little boy might mean less time for watching TV, but the youngest Ardoin is already a big music fan. In fact, the little tyke banged on his chair so much with his drumstick that he put a hole in his seat.

Getting Zydeco music into the mainstream

While thrilled his son is already into music, Chris is careful not to force things. The little boy loves to come into the studio and watch his father play, however, and for now the pair are having a great time.

As for the next step in his career, Chris Ardoin hopes to make his beloved Zydeco music accessible to more fans. As he says, “Part of my reasoning for adding the keyboard and all the vocals and stuff is because I’m trying to get Zydeco into the mainstream”.

Chris Ardoin urges his young fans to “Keep pushing the limits as far as you know, trying to reinvent the music and learn the tradition”. He also hopes that young people will learn the history of their favorite music and let that history inspire them. While many young people enjoy music, they do not necessarily know the history of the style or how it evolved over numerous generations.

Chris Ardoin has embraced social media and regularly engages with fans through Facebook and Twitter. He still finds it a bit odd that so many Facebook fans feel that they know him personally, but he loves talking to fellow music lovers through these new media outlets.

Chris feels blessed to be able to play the music he loves. When asked if he makes a good living playing music, he responds “Yea. I do”. He feels truly lucky to be doing what he loves to do, and he looks forward to many wonderful years engaging with fans, releasing new albums and enjoying his friends and family.