Fred LeBlanc knows how to rock and roll. The lead singer and drummer of the band Cowboy Mouth said he likes to make his shows something for the audience to remember.
LeBlanc demonstrated this in a performance at the Chicago House of Blues when his invitation to a few members of the audience to dance on stage with the band resulted in the entire performance area shaking.
“I said, ‘OK, on the count of four, we’re going to start playing and everybody just dance like your life depends on it! Dance and scream!,'” LeBlanc said in an in-person interview with The Beacon. “And I counted to four and the stage just shook. I loved it. My hair stood up, my heartbeat raced…the stage was literally wobbling.”
Occurrences like this are not unusual for the Louisiana-based rock band, which has been performing together since 1991.
Cowboy Mouth, which consists of LeBlanc, keyboardist John Thomas Griffith, guitarist Paul Sanchez and bassist Mary LaSang, has performed shows where people dance on the bar and tables and chairs fly through the air.
In the past 13 years, the group has released 10 albums and toured both the United States and Europe extensively, promoting their albums. And they love it.
LeBlanc, who has been involved in the music industry since the 1980s, said writing music has always been an emotional outlet for him.
“Our songs pretty much tell the story of where we are at the moment,” he said. “The last album had a song called ‘Uh Oh’ about someone I was dating at the time. And ‘Disconnected’ was about me feeling a certain amount of dissatisfaction about where I was at the time.
All of the albums are basically journal entries in what songs we’ve written at the time. It lets us know where we are at this time at our lives.”
All of the band members possess strong musical backgrounds and are involved in the songwriting process. LeBlanc said this has resulted in some creative conflicts, but they are always able to compromise.
“There are some albums where certain voices are stronger than other voices, or certain songwriters are represented,” he said.
The four musicians are writing together as a group for their upcoming album, a first for Cowboy Mouth. In order to pursue this productively, the band did a retreat seminar where they talked openly and resolved past conflicts with each other.
LeBlanc said the result was very successful and the group is performing better than ever. He described the band as a very tightly knit group.
“It’s a constant challenge; it’s like a family atmosphere,” he said. “When you’re mad at someone but still love them. When you play 175-200 shows a year, that’s 250-275 days on the roads. Just like anything, it can wear you down. We’ve always wanted to be about spreading something positive, making our small world a better place by virtue of what we do. We had to try to look for that in ourselves.”
The positive atmosphere LeBlanc mentioned has Cowboy Mouth’s signature trademark. The band is known for its extreme energy and enthusiasm during their performances, which LeBlanc said he attempts to spread to every member of the audience.
“We do our best to make it an experience for the audience,” he said. “We want to take them on a journey where it’s not just a matter of entertaining them. We want them to feel what we’re feeling on stage, get them to sing and dance and act like five-year-olds. To just forget their troubles.”
LeBlanc’s focus on positive energy comes from his own experiences. As a self-described “angry punk rocker” during his earlier years, he decided he had spent enough time being angry.
“I got to the point that I got tired of feeling all that rage and that angst,” he said. “And I realized that nobody was going to save me except myself.”
According to LeBlanc when Cowboy Mouth got together they made a very conscious decision to be a band that had a positive influence on their audience.
“I believe strongly in the power of celebration,” he said. “As a band, we try to get the audience to find that in ourselves. We’re very confident in the fact that we’re a strong and powerful band. From that angle, it’s not about us saying, ‘Look at us, we’re wonderful.’ It’s about everybody in the room, whether they’re standing in front of the stage or over by the exit sign, having the time of their lives, finding that part of themselves inside themselves that they forgot existed.
LeBlanc said the band’s future plans include continuing to tour and write music, but nothing definite is set for the future.
“I didn’t think this band would last one month, and it’s lasted 13 years,” he said. “It just came together-it was a total accident. So I try not to make too many plans, just take thing as they come. I have things I want to accomplish, goals for the band. If we achieve them, great. If we don’t-we’ve already done so much. I think the ability to play music is blessing enough, and that anything else after that that comes along-anything-is just gravy. Whether it’s success, being able to tour…it’s all just gravy.”