In episode eight of "Treme's" season two, Annie and Harley join Susan Cowsill and her band onstage at Carrollton Station.
The band: Sam Craft, violin and vocals; Jack Craft, keyboards and vocals; Mary Lasseigne, bass and vocals; Russ Broussard, drums, vocals, husband.
Here's an edited email Q&A with Cowsill:
Are both "Just Believe It" and "Crescent City Sneaux" your compositions? If so, when did you write them and what are they about?
Yes, they are both mine. Russ cowrote "Crescent City Sneaux" with me.
"Just Believe It" was written for my first solo record, conveniently named "Just Believe It." This record was released around a month or so after Katrina. Thereby, she, Katrina, received way more press than my record. It was a huge disappointment because we had put so much time (two years), love, and hard work into the making of it and, well, the world just fell apart when it was supposed to be such a promising time in our lives.
"Just Believe It" is about being done with a certain way of life, finding the light, leaving the dark and negative behind.
"Crescent City Sneaux" was written about a few days into our evacuation from the storm. We were in Nashville at a friend's farm and had a nightly jam around a fire pit each evening. Upon going out to the circle one night, Russ turned to me and said, "I feel like a kite without a string." I got what he was saying loud and clear, and the song just came on from there. Our cell phones were useless for just about anything at the time, so I asked our host, the wonderfully talented Pat McLaughlin, if I could borrow his so I could record the new melody and words that were coming fast and ferociously to me that night.
The song is about the uncertainty of our situation and the most desperate desire to go home.
What's up with the spelling of "Sneaux?"
The spelling of Sneaux??? Where you from, cher?
How did the production decide that those songs would be used?
Pretty sure the guys from "Treme" listened to my two records and just new "Crescent City Sneaux" was a no-brainer as it was touted by many writers as being "the Katrina anthem." And "Just Believe It" was, well, it kept us going right after the storm, kinda like a mantra at that point, you know? You would have to ask them I guess.
What was the shoot like?
The shoot was amazing. To start with, it was at our home base, Carrollton Station. That is about as real as it gets for us. We were one of, and I am almost positive, the first band back to play at the Station, with electricity mind you, after the storm. Just being asked to be on the show was a heartbreakingly huge honor. Everyone from the "Napkin Ladies" (the wonderful women who do the makeup and hair for the show), right down to the guys trying desperately to herd all us kittens (meaning, coordinating and keeping in line a bunch of crazy musicians from NOLA), treated us with sweetness and respect. Unforgettable, that's what it was.
How cool is Steve Earle?
Steve Earle is a great American songwriter who I have had the privilege to know and hang with, and now make some music with! He was very supportive and encouraging, not unlike Harley from the show. Yeah, he's real cool. I'd love to do a record with Steve some day.
What's up with Carrollton Station? Looks like fun.
The Carrollton Station, Oh my God yes, it is the coolest place ever. The birthplace of the Covered In Vinyl series and home base for The Continental Drifters along with so many bands through years. It is my and Russ' favorite place to play.
Were you familiar with the show when they approached you to appear on an episode?
Of course I knew about "Treme." You would have to be from another planet to not know, here in town anyway. I really wanted to be on from the beginning. A lot went down here for me and for Russ. I lost a whole brother, we all lost so much. I didn't want to campaign for myself though, after all, I was not "technically" born here and that would have been awkward. And besides which, there were a lot more people who should have been asked long before me. But I secretly really wanted to be asked. This is my soul home, where my heart thrives and my dearest friend are. So, yeah, I knew...
How did you end up in New Orleans?
I moved to NOLA in 1993 with my then husband and now dear friend, Peter Holsapple, my then best friend and now sister-in-law Vicki Peterson, Mark Walton, and Robert Mache'. We had all joined up with a band of amazingly talented hoodlums known as The Continental Drifters in Los Angeles, whose founding members, of a sort, Carlo Nuccio and Ray Ganucheau, had tired of living in L.A. and wanted to come home. So home we all came. I have never looked back.
I've read that you're married to a drummer. Really?
Married to a drummer???? No, married to one of the best drummers in the city, and anywhere else if you ask me or anyone from here, for that matter. We were in The Continental Drifters together and frankly, if we hadn't gotten married, I would have hired him to play with me anyway. I think I got the better part of the deal because otherwise I would actually have to pay him and hire a manager to boot!! He is the best band mate and life partner a girl could ask for.
It appears from the group's website that the Cowsills still perform. What are those shows like and who attends them? Do you get to perform your own music, or is it just the hits?
The Cowsills still play together. Family bands don't break up, they just kind of take little breaks when needed. We are a great band and still bring in the crowds. There is the old hits and all kinds of new music with some covers thrown in cuz we like em!! I do a couple of my own songs in the show as well. We are getting ready to release a documentary that we have been working on for several years now. We will premiere it in Los Angeles at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills in July -- dang, that sounds so highfalutin!! My family band is near to my heart and I will always be proud to be a Cowsill. Oh yeah, and they hired that drummer I am married to.
If "Treme" viewers wanted to run out, or stay in, Monday morning and buy all of your music, what do you suggest they do?