ENDURANCE OF THE FITTEST: Cowboy Mouth brings faith in self and rocks The Reel in downtown Wilmington

If you gotta eat a turd, don’t nibble.”

Words to live by from the song “Broken Up” off of Cowboy Mouth’s 12th studio album, “The Name of the Band Is…”, released in July 2016. Though lead singer and drummer Fred LeBlanc wishes he could take credit for the sage advice, it actually came to him from a friend a couple of years back when LeBlanc was going through a tough divorce.

POSITIVE ROCK: Cowboy Mouth is going strong at 27 years and counting with a new album and more songs in the works. Courtesy photo
POSITIVE ROCK: Cowboy Mouth is going strong at 27 years and counting with a new album and more songs in the works. Courtesy photo

“It was really painful,” LeBlanc tells. “But I still had to get up there and do what I do, and I was very cognizant of not using the divorce as a center of energy (in terms of being angry or hurt), but I used the energy from that and turned it around to make the shows more intense. That energy has to go somewhere, and I could use it for something negative to bring me and the audience down or do something celebratory that would bring me and the audience up.”

His quips and colloquialisms are nothing new to Cowboy Mouth’s percussive, garage-rock and pop-hook blending. For 27 years, LeBlanc’s drive onstage has been fueled by pure enthusiasm for the music and audience. Performances are often cathartic—even healing at times. If nothing else, LeBlanc is a master of redirecting negativity with sound. He’s a firm believer in getting back what’s put into the world.

“There’s a lot victim mentality in the world,” he says. “Life’s to be enjoyed not endured. . . . You can’t always control what happens to you but you can control what you do about it,. Taking that energy and focusing it into something positive and uplifting as opposed to something destructive. I had my drunk feeling-sorry-for-myself nights offstage but when those feelings were there and I was confronted with it, I took it and put into something that would make me stronger, make me better, and in a lot of ways, this band saved my life.”

“Broken Up” is one of three new songs featured on their album, which also showcases some of Cowboy Mouth’s biggest hits, like “Love of My Life,” “Tell the Girl You’re Sorry,” “Jenny Says,” and “Easy.”

“Bad Men” is one of the new tracks and the only time LeBlanc has gotten a little political (though, not partisan) in his work. Beyond senators and presidents, or any level of government, the song acts like commentary on a larger issue of corruption and money: “Trying to make us all deaf and dumb / Trying to blow us all to kingdom come.”

“The truth of the matter is ‘left’ and ‘right’ is all just kind of an illusion,” he says. “They’re just different heads of the same snake. I think it’s becoming apparent to people—with the way things have gone in the last few years—that the different political parties are just BS. The people at the top who run things with all the money just keep us stirred up; finding different ways to distract us with stupid issues or things that don’t matter.”

Nevertheless, no matter how seemingly heavy the topic, songs like “Broken Up” and “Bad Men” are delivered with raw enthusiastic beats and rhythms indicative of Cowboy Mouth tunes. They also reflect LeBlanc’s general attitude about life: a celebration and everyone’s invited.

“We’re all much bigger in the broad scheme of things and focusing on what divides us is just foolish and plays into the hands of people that just want to keep us stupid,” he continues. “People are people. Period. Nobody in this world has it easy—some people have it easier than others and some have it a lot easier than others. But everybody struggles and everybody experiences doubt and fear. How we deal with it is one of the things that divides.”

LeBlanc and company are known for lively shows and powerful audience engagement. LeBlanc has to read a room of anywhere from 200 to 200,000 people within 10 seconds. For him, their mood guides his course.

“I just have to put my own emotions or whatever I’m going through aside,” he continues, “and get out there and figure out whatever it is they want or need and give it back to them.”

There’s a lot of emphasis put upon faith in his music onstage, too—not in a religious sense but the power of faith in self. “We had a fan recently come up and say, ‘Man, I love you guys. You guys are like a gospel tent revival without the religion,’” he recalls.

LeBlanc’s invigorating spirit is contagious. It’s not surprising he is working on becoming a motivational speaker. He sees it similar to his role in Cowboy Mouth— just without the drums. He always has juggled multiple jobs, including writing a children’s book, “Fred: The New Orleans Drummer Boy,” in 2016. Though LeBlanc has two young children, Sebastian and Evangeline, the notion to write the book originally came from his aunt from Baton Rouge, LA.

“She’s one of those elderly Southern types that doesn’t pronounce her ‘R’s,” he describes. “And one day she tells me, ‘I have an idea: I think you should write a children’s book, and I think you oughta call it ‘Fred: The Drummer for New Orleans.’”

He approached a local bookstore with the idea and before he knew it, River Road Press picked it up. “Sometimes you just go the way the wind blows you,” LeBlanc notes.

He isn’t the only one in the band delving into to new creative outlets. John Griffith, who has been playing guitar alongside LeBlanc since Cowboy Mouth’s inception in 1992, is now getting into photography. Matt Jones (guitar) is also managing their summer tour, and bassist Brian Broussard (bass) owns a brewery.

“He makes wonderful beer and I love the way he plays because he plays every song like it’s AC/DC,” LeBlanc continues. “He’s a great bass player, a great performer, but I just got him in the band because he owns a brewery (it’s very convenient).”

A possible docu-series about the New Orleans-born rock band is also in the works with LA-based producer Andrew Arnold. While LeBlanc is writing more new songs, he’s not sure if Cowboy Mouth will cut a full-length album anytime soon. Though, folks may see a digital EP. It’s a matter of figuring out creative ways to make new music while also making money in the digital age—an industry trend he saw on the horizon back in the mid- to late- ‘90s when Napster started to come into play.

“Now it’s all about the road performance,” he says. “Honestly, if you can’t cut it live then the music’s not going to sell.”

Cowboy Mouth
The Reel Cafe • 100 S. Front St.
Thursday, June 8 at 7 p.m.
Tickets: $25-$30

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