AUSTIN DAZE: How does the Austin music scene compare to the New Orleans music scene?
CYRIL NEVILLE: Let me put it like this: there’s a lot more activity here after the storm than there was before the storm. I’ll just put it like that. The city is a lot bigger than I thought it was, really. Mechanisms here that allow musicians to help themselves have been in place for awhile now so it’s kind of easier for you to basically make a living doing what you love to do here in Austin. Another part about being in Austin is that you can get connected to a lot of different things. It’s more widespread. New Orleans is really a small place so the difference in the number of clubs is huge – just on sixth street there are more clubs just in that area than in one concentrated area in New Orleans.
AD: Why did you choose Austin to be your new home?
CN: My wife and my daughter had come here before. The last 5 or 6 storms that came I was on the road. She made the decision to get out of the city and everything so I just went. We had come here before and it was really nice – it’s nicer than New Orleans in many ways: the music scene here and the different cultures of people that are here and that’s kind of what made our minds up to come here.
AD: How do you feel about Austin? How does the music scene here compare to New Orleans?
CN: We had been here only two days before we heard from Marcia Ball. So that’s one of the reasons that we decided to stay. The total community of Austin reached out to us. I’d say that we are here now so we’re pretty much Austinites. In saying that, you can take us out of New Orleans, but you can’t take New Orleans out of us. The music and everything that we are is New Orleans. But at the same time there are a lot of things here that remind me of New Orleans. One thing is that the average musician here loves New Orleans music and loves New Orleans culture that’s why it wasn’t hard to find musicians that could blend in and make it feel the way it’s supposed to feel.
AD: How has the displacement from New Orleans affected the Neville Brothers getting together?
CN: We are scattered all over the place. Not just the brothers but everyone that plays with us. It’s pretty much a trip getting everybody together. The last time we went out everybody just met up in Atlanta from different points then flew to wherever we were going together. Art is still in New Orleans, Willie Green is still in New Orleans, Nick, myself, and Ivan are in Austin. Ian is in New York and New Orleans sometimes. So it’s like people are scattered all over everywhere. Whoever has to sit down and put all those logistics together it probably makes their job a lot harder.
AD: Tell us about the new band, Tribe 13.
CN: Actually Tribe 13 grows out of what I was doing with my uncle Big Chief Jolly and the Wild Tchapitoulas. We had another band called Uptown Allstars. Maybe about a year before we left New Orleans we started doing this and one of the main characters in it was Papa Mali who I’ve been knowing for over 20 years–since he was with the Killer Bees. And we were doing this thing but we had never gotten the chance to do it in Austin. So when we got here we started doing it a little bit more and I wound up getting 3 really great musicians from here to join forces with us: Courtney Audain on bass, Mr. Brown on guitar, Jimmie Dreams on guitar, and my two nephews, Ricky and Norman Caesar -The Caesar Brothers, my wife Gayniellle and myself. That’s essentially what the Tribe 13 band is now. And then Kevin Goodman of the Mardi Gras Indians comes out and sits in with us sometimes too. We are basically carrying the real spirit and cultural essence of New Orleans music.
AD: Did you have a chance to catch up with the Spike Lee movie?
CN: We saw it. Wow, I’m just glad that somebody did it and the way that he did it because it’s in the voices of the people and it’s actually the people expressing what happened to them. It’s hard to watch. Then again at the same time it’s essential that you do watch it because then you know what really did happen. Just think about how painful it is to watch it and how much more painful it is to actually have experienced it.
AD: What advice would you have for someone who is new to the music business?
CN: Know your business. Like they say, it’s 99% business and 1% show. ***