With my band – excited, childlike, half-broke and full of anticipation – I set out on the road to the Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, with a car stuffed with instruments, clothes and snacks. I had heard tales of New Orleans for years – voodoo, people never sleeping, music that never stops. I had no idea that I would find all of that and more, and that I wouldn’t understand what the city was like until I was immersed in it.
We made a pit stop in Nashville to join our friend and fellow songwriter, Brian Craddock, for a songwriting session. We piled into his studio and started brainstorming ideas. Our song, which began with, “Lead me now to New Orleans”, envisioned ourselves being pulled down the country by a force larger than us to follow our passion for playing music. Our song took us down the highway paralleling the Mississippi River, to New Orleans, (the mouth of Louisiana) where we found ourselves soaking in music, love, passion, and inspiration. Our song ends nestled below the Eìtienne de Boray Oak, “The Tree of Life”, in the heart of New Orleans.
Our song, “Into Temptation,” plunged us forth to follow the rest of our path down the country in real time. Too excited to wait until morning, we departed at 8:00 PM and drove straight through the night until we arrived at 3:00 AM, delighted by the illuminated streets of the French Quarter – still buzzing with music pouring out of the open windows of the bars and people dancing and conversing in the streets.
Dreams Come True
The next seven days were filled with more excitement, inspiration, and connection than we could have imagined. We lived in a hotel for a week with as many as 12 people at any given time. The refrigerator was crammed with food, beer, and wine. We had the privilege of performing two nights at The Howlin’ Wolf Den and sharing the stage with three other Virginia bands – The Southern Belles, Jouwala Collective, and Choose Your Own Adventure. Bravely approaching the stage, we sang and played our hearts out. We danced in the sunny streets while barefooted brass bands played for the bypassers. Our nights lasted until at least 5:00 AM, every night, drinking in the sounds of New Orleans – jazz, funk, soul, and blues – dancing until our feet were sore, making friends, laughing, and roaming free. When the sun came up we fell asleep; until a few hours later when I awoke to find my friends in deep sleep wherever there was space.
The magic of New Orleans is mysterious and indefinable. There is an underlying pull that seems to bring together people of all ages, colors, cultures, and walks of life. There is an excitement in the air that allows you to continue through the night without being defeated by exhaustion. The city produces a sense of overwhelming intoxication that is filled with such beauty and vibrancy that it sways one to fall in love with a city that was waiting for her or him all along.
We ended our trip at the foot of the Tree of Life. We climbed the branches and sat among the Spanish moss, exhausted, and triumphant. Reflecting back to the song we wrote in Nashville seven days prior, we were speechless at the fact that the song seemed to have a life of its own that led us the entire trip, delivering us right to the end. We unhesitatingly trusted in the pull of the moment and the inspiration: and that, I believe, is the true magic of New Orleans.
Emily is a full time musician in the making. Working part time for a live music space, she spends her days writing songs, practicing, and connecting with fellow musicians; and her nights performing whenever she can, jamming with others, and traveling the region whereever the pursuit of the gig life will take her.