Trombone Shorty and Changing Gears

Trombone Shorty, real name Troy Michael Andrews, has deep roots in New Orleans, his home town, but he’s also breaking new ground as a musician, singer, and song writer in contemporary jazz.

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In December, he earned his first Grammy nomination for his album Backatown. That’s where you’ll find Right to Complain, the theme song for Changing Gears. Andrews took time out from a recent appearance in Cleveland to talk with me for the Changing Gears podcast.

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I’ve been a fan of New Orleans music my whole life and began to hear about Andrews well before Hurricane Katrina. In fact, he’s been playing since he was four years old and his trombone was taller than he was (hence his nickname, now well out grown). Andrews, who turned 25 on Jan. 2, is the third generation of a family of New Orleans musicians and he regularly pays homage to them and his musical ancestors, such as Louis Armstrong.

Since the storm, however, his public profile has grown, due both to his music and to his fledgling acting career. This year, he and his band Orleans Avenue have traveled to five continents, and he is working with his mentor, Lenny Kravitz, on new music. But Andrews is more than just a trombone player. On stage, he also plays the trumpet, sings, dances and keeps his audiences on their feet.

He is finding an acting niche in television dramas. In 2005, he appeared in the memorable Christmas episode of the short-lived Aaron Sorkin series, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Here, Andrews plays O Holy Night as heart-breaking scenes from the city are projected behind him.

Andrews also has made regular appearances on the HBO drama Treme, created by David Simon, which has provided tremendous visibility to New Orleans musicians. He’s often in scenes with Wendell Pierce, a New Orleans native who plays hapless but endearing trombonist Antoine Batiste.

On Backatown, Andrews’ song writing skills come to the fore. He wrote the music for Right to Complain, then asked his friend, the musician P.J. Morton, to write the lyrics. The result is an anthem with meaning for both New Orleans and the industrial Midwest.

Everybody says they want change

But nobody wants to do what it takes

To make it better

Everybody complains

But nobody ever wants to take the blame

And nobody ever does anything

I wake up in the morning

And what do I see

I see my reflection in the mirror

Looking at me

Telling me what you gonna do

Now you say you want change

But if you don’t change yourself

You have no right to complain

So what we gonna do

To stop all this talkin’

And start to do some walkin’

We gotta practice what we preach

And not just look from sidelines

Lettin’ more time just pass by

I wake up in the morning

And what do I see

I see my reflection in the mirror

Looking at me

Telling me what you gonna do

Now you say you want change

But if you don’t change yourself

You have no right to complain

No right to complain

On our podcast, Andrews talks about lessons learned in his hometown that might help our hometowns. You can find the podcast on iTunes and while you’re there, check out the first Changing Gears playlist with music from New Orleans musicians, past and present.

Here’s a look at Andrews’ recent performance at the House of Blues in Cleveland.

2 Replies to “Trombone Shorty and Changing Gears”

  1. This podcast is quite disappointing. I have friends who are losing jobs in the manufacturing industry and the editor of this podcast has chosen to focus on “how I chose my theme song.”

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