When the coronavirus pandemic forced restaurants and bars to close and festivals to be canceled, local recording artist Ben Labat couldn’t help but think of his peers who make a living performing for live audiences.
“This virus is putting a strain on so many different things. All of a sudden, the brakes got put on anybody who’s playing live,” he says. “For quite a few of my friends and fellow musicians, that’s their only source of income.”
“Everybody wants to try to do their part to help somebody,” The Raceland native continues. “Well, I know music: I’ve been doing it for the better part of my life…So I reached out to a few guys I know who can sing or play an instrument at the professional level onto some recordings.”
Thus, “The Bayou Fever Sessions” was formed, combining the talents of some local favorites to create some “quarantunes” for everyone to enjoy.
Local musicians Travis Thibodaux, Josh Garrett, Jeff McCarty, Seth Stogner, David Guidry Jr. and Steve Junot have contributed to the project so far, recording their vocals or instruments at their respective home studios and then sending them to Labat to piece together.
“It’s a neat way to do things. It just might be, I don’t want to say the future of music, but it’ll certainly be a part of it,” Labat says. “You’re still going to be doing live performances; you’re still going to want to go to a recording studio. But it’s nice to know that we can do this if we have to.”
The community supported the group in its infancy, Labat notes, with people donating nearly $2,000, allowing him to give each of the five full-time gigging musicians (Garrett, McCarty, Junot, Thibodaux and Stogner) $350 so far.
“That’s just a super cool thing to do,” Garrett says. “He was able to pay us for that recording and there’s a product that comes out of it too. So that’s kind of a neat way to hold everybody up.”
Junot also commended the efforts of Labat: “He’s raising all the money; he’s doing all the promotion. Basically, we’re just recording some tracks. To me, he’s doing all the dirty work, and I’m super grateful for that. That’s awesome on his part.”
The collaboration was twofold, in a sense, as it also helped Labat complete some tracks he had previously written. “I had a bunch of songs: acoustic demos in various states of completion that I needed a spark or something to push them forward,” he says. “Sometimes when you hit a song, you can knock it out in a day. But some of them kind of sit around for a little while, and you need that extra bit of inspiration to finish it and make it complete.”
“I’m flattered that these guys, when I reached out to them, were like, ‘Hell yeah, Ben, we want to sing on those songs. Those are cool,’” Labat shares. “Everybody in here has been the front man in their own band at some point. We got some good voices, so if everybody sings, it can be pretty powerful.”
He is also extending the invitation to other local musicians, Labat says, encouraging them to submit their recordings after receiving the raw files to possibly join the project. “It’s almost a way to rethink how music is created to some degree…It’s almost like a remix competition,” he says.
To keep up with the group and learn how to donate or join, visit the The Bayou Fever Sessions Facebook page. Fans can also support the musicians by purchasing their custom T-shirts as well.
At press time, the first singles from the project, “Tough Love” and “Bring on the Pain” have been released on all streaming platforms and iTunes. “Everybody that listened to it, loved it. Some people said they streamed it all day long, which is good,” Labat says about “Tough Love,” which he shares was written during quarantine. “I’m just glad people were able to what they donated for, allowing these musicians put their talents down on a recording.”
The third scheduled release is “Born to Cross Lines”
“These songs are inspirational, hopeful songs that kind of poke fun at the current situation,” Labst says. “A couple of the songs are written, recorded and released during this quarantine period. Some of the songs are a little bit older that just didn’t have a place in any one of my albums I’ve released before. They’ve been sitting in song purgatory for a little while waiting for their moment — and I think we’ve found their moment.” POV