Louis Michot, fiddler, songwriter and lead vocalist for the Grammy-winning Lost Bayou Ramblers, is going solo with a new album entitled Rêve du Troubadour (Dreams Of The Troubadour). Born into a musical family in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1979, he was raised in Lafayette. Louis’ dad was part of a family band called Les Frères Michot (The Michot Brothers). So it would come as no surprise that he fell in love with Louisiana folk music given his roots. On top of that, his family is Creole.
Or is it Cajun?
“There’s some fine lines and intricacies and some complexities there,” Louis says. “I can definitely be categorized as Cajun. But I can also be categorized as Creole. There are different identities to each part and I kind of fit in both of them.”
The surname Michot is Creole, he explains, and comprises a large part of his DNA, but he is 1/32 part Acadian and that is where Cajun comes from. “It’s so complex so both work,” Louis said with a laugh.
In 1999 Louis, along with brother Andre Michot, formed the Lost Bayou Ramblers. The band found great success singing exclusively in Cajun French. English is Louis’s natural first language so how did it come about that he sings almost exclusively in French? He had played Cajun music with the family band but he also has played rock and roll.
His musical epiphany came about when he was about 18 or 19. Louis was hitchhiking across Eastern Canada with his grandfather’s fiddle, and learning French as he went. He was busking on street corners, recalling melodies and lyrics from music his days playing with Les Frères Michot.
“It was when I picked up the fiddle and started singing that I found my voice – singing and playing Cajun music,” he says. “I have chosen it and it has chosen me to sing in Cajun French, Louisiana French,”
Louis says Louisiana French is a term that encompasses Cajun, Creole, and other dialects of the French language native to the state. It is so much a part of him now that he not only sings in Louisiana French but writes his songs in Louisiana French as well. “I really feel the French,” Louis told me. “I really feel my creative brain works in French, which is crazy because it is my second language, you know.”
Louis has done a few things here and there in English. He has not really been inspired to record a lot in English, however, although he does provide English translation of the lyrics for his new album.
When it comes to why he is devoted to recording in French, he confesses he is a man with a mission.
“I feel like I’m trying to fill in and further the language,” he states. “Because what the language meant to me when I first learned it was like something I should know but I don’t. So that is part of the inspiration for why I continue (to record in French). I want it to be there for other people. For the media.”
Public outreach is something he would like to do more of to raise awareness of the wealth of Louisiana folklore. The Lost Bayou Ramblers have done some public outreach events. Louis has also started work on a curriculum to help make the genre more available.
Rêve du Troubadour is part of that effort.
“One thing I really get into is deeper lyrical content, deeper lyrical meaning,” he says. “Breaking away from the traditional styles. Thinking about a lot of different subject matters and using words that are not traditionally found in most music.”
Rêve du Troubadour will be released on September 22, 2023. It will be available on CD, various streaming platforms and digital download, as well as on a 12″ LP vinyl. These songs tell their stories in much greater depth than he’s achieved before and utilize words peculiar to Louisiana French that seldom appear in musical compositions. Numerous special guests appear on the album including Nigerian Tuareg guitar wizard Bombino, and critically acclaimed singer/cellist Leyla McCalla.
A review and exclusive premiere of Rêve du Troubadour will be published on American Blues Scene in the very near future.