VAIL — After evacuating New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, Aaron Wilkinson and Chris Mule found themselves in San Francisco. Meeting fellow evacuees and musicians Sam Price and Garland Paul, they formed a bond that resulted in the formation of Honey Island Swamp Band. They released their first seven-song album and after the success it brought them among Californians, they went back to New Orleans to put even more music in motion. Trevor Brooks joined the group in 2010, and in 2011 the band won the award for the “Best Roots Rock Artist” at the Big Easy Awards — New Orleans’ most prestigious arts and entertainment honor.
Blending soul, country, R&B and blues, Honey Island Swap Band has a unique sound reminiscent of the remote and wild swamp that gave the band its name, which lies between the boarder of Louisiana and Mississippi. Performing “Bayou Americana” music for audiences everywhere, the group draws on a variety of influences within the scope of roots music including artists like Jerry Garcia, Johnny Cash and Little Feat.
The band performs at the Gerald R. Amphitheater in Vail Tuesday; the free concert begins at 6:30 p.m. as part of the Hot Summer Nights series. Aaron Wilkinson, who plays the acoustic guitar, mandolin and sings for the band, took some time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily:
1. Vail Daily: How did you guys adopt the “Bayou Americana” style?
Aaron Wilkinson: We just kind of play what comes natural to us, and that has a lot to do with what we hear day in and day out in New Orleans. It’s a place that’s always been influenced by lots of different musical styles and I think being immersed in that culture has left our ears open to a lot of styles that find their way into our songs.
2. VD: What do you hope your fans get from your performances?
AW: We hope they have a great time obviously, and that they get to relax in the moment with the music. Hopefully they’ll walk away with a good song stuck in their ears; and that they’re smarter, better looking, and have lost weight.
3. VD: How did it feel winning the award for “Best Roots Rock Artist”?
AW: It’s an incredible honor to even be mentioned alongside your peers in New Orleans, because of the level of musicianship and song writing is so high. It’s also pretty cool sharing a drink with Dr. John at the bar at an awards show.
4. VD: Have you performed in Vail before?
AW: We all have with other bands, but this will be our first time with Honey Island Swamp Band. This is a great concert series and we’re really excited to be playing it.
5. VD: What’s your favorite thing about being on stage?
AW: Probably those moments when something unexpected happens musically, and the band gets to a new place in a song we’ve never discovered before — everybody on stage and in the audience gets the vibe. It’s like something really powerful moving through everyone at once.
6. VD: What’s something embarrassing about another band member?
AW: Our drummer Garland was dying to see Billy Joel this year at Jazz Fest and was really disappointed that he didn’t play “Uptown Girl.” Seriously.