Music is as much a part of the framework of New Orleans as iron balconies and levee walls, so it only seemed right to plug into the music scene while visiting the city. We caught up with Eric Heigle, a New Orleans native who’s been in his hometown’s musical trenches for years. He’s an engineer and producer, as well as a drummer for the Lost Bayou Ramblers, a raucous, French-Cajun powerhouse group that opened for Arcade Fire on their recent tour. Eric’s also the creator of Bloody Sunday Sessions, the Crescent City’s very own on-the-move music project.
For each session, musicians pile into the back of a carriage and take off on a meandering mule-drawn voyage through the city, belting out a tune along the way. The results are often a disarmingly personal but incredibly enjoyable plunge into the musical talent pool that is New Orleans. We sat down with Eric to learn a little more about how these sessions got started. As a bonus, we also found out how it feels to have Win Butler from Arcade Fire walk up to your conversation. Spoiler alert: It’s pretty awesome.
How did the Bloody Sunday Sessions project come about?
I lived in the French Quarter for three years. My roommate was a filmmaker, and I was an audio guy. Our apartment was right on Decatur Street, so I could literally spit off my balcony onto a mule’s head as they lined up for buggy rides. So it was a very simple, no friction, Taoist way of stumbling upon an idea or concept. At the time, I was making records for an artist right in our house, and when you finish a project it’s always helpful to have something to help promote it. I was invested creatively in his project, and wanted to find a way to help him succeed after we finished. So the idea of him going and performing on a buggy was a no-brainer. We paid a buggy driver like $100, and told him we didn’t want a tour—all he had to do was drive.
Who performed in your first official sessions?
Kristen Diable, Blake Hunter, Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes and Feufollet. They were all part of the proof-of-concept initial shoot, the first to get behind the mule.
Was there a session where you felt like you’d really hit your stride?
The most popular one by far is with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes—I think it’s popular because they are, but also because it’s special. Sometimes the shoots get interrupted, sometimes there are technical issues, sometimes the band messes up, sometimes the route is too bumpy and it just doesn’t look right. There are a lot of variables that have to come together for it to go well. And for that one, they did.
Do you always try to get a song in a single take?
Yeah, always. From start to finish, one take, always a live performance.
Who do you have coming up that people should look out for?
We recently released a five video series with Live for Live Music— we did two with Taj Mahal, two with The Wood Brothers, and one with Ozomatli which was the first session we ever did at night. But I would definitely say the best is yet to come. I’m always looking for something that hasn’t been done before, and how to not repeat ourselves. It’s never going to be perfectly structured, it’s just going to be what it is—fun, uncontrived occurrences. And that’s why I think it’s a good series, because the music is good, the bands are good—and I choose them all. That’s one thing I will never compromise, because you have to be a real musician to pull off that sort of performance.
What’s your mission for the project going forward?
Just to continue to do it. I don’t care how popular it is. As long as I can continue to provide artists with a free way to help their careers move forward, that’s a double thumbs-up.
So, who’s in the buggy for your dream session?
Velvet Underground—they could do “Sunday Morning.”
Words by Jessie Magee. Jessie Magee is a copywriter living and working in New Orleans. Photos courtesy of Bloody Sunday Sessions and Adam Ewing.