At 27, Rusty Metoyer is experiencing success unknown to many zydeco musicians twice his age. His gigs stretch from the French Quarter Festival to shows in France and Holland.
Tourism officials in his hometown of Lake Charles, Louisiana have used his words and image in marketing campaigns. About to release his third CD since graduating from high school, Metoyer has scored hits that celebrate bayou country life (“Louisiana Summertime”) and his time in the spotlight (“In Due Time”).
His latest single and first music video, “Riverbank,” tells the story of experiencing romance for the first time. Between gigs, Metoyer is a school bus driver who is also studying heating and air conditioning at a local community college.
How does songwriting work for you?
I can sit down and try to come up with something, but it won’t be anything that I would try to put on a CD. So it’s usually when I’m concentrating while doing some manual labor, working outside, cutting grass or driving— that’s when the songs come to me. I have to record them in the voice memo on my phone real quick.
Music runs in your family. How did you start with it?
Both of my grandfathers were Creole musicians—Louis Metoyer and Cornelius Papillon. On holidays, everybody would pull out their instruments. I have uncles, cousins, and other relatives that play music, too. By the time both of my grandfathers had passed, I was about 15. I picked up my accordion. I just wanted to learn it to keep it in the family. One thing led to another and I formed a little band. I started getting gigs and started writing songs. Before I know it, I’m on a plane going to play in France, Holland, on the East Coast and West Coast.
You’re still pinching yourself?
When I play these festivals and there’s a big sea of people, I’m thinking, Man, is this really what I’m doing? I’ve always dreamed about something like this since I was a kid. But I never really thought I would do it.
Was there a moment when you said “I want to do that?”
My family has old pictures of me. It would be all older people in my family playing music—my uncle, my grandfather, my great uncles. I’m the only kid, in the background, with my eyes just focused on them. I was five or six years old. My cousins are outside playing basketball, and I would play with them, too. But when they started pulling out the instruments, that’s where I was.
How is it being a band leader at 27?
There’s a lot of moving parts. But it’s fun. I can handle it. It’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding.