“I’ve been going by the name Sassyfras since my husband [Johnny Donald] passed away, so that was in 2013. We travelled together and played music for a long time. He was my inspiration. The name came about because that’s what we called our band back when we performing together. Me being Sassy. So I decided to keep the name and use it like a last name.
We met in the ’80s, back when I was playing backup to my sister and brother-in-law. Johnny said, ‘This guy ain’t no good. Why don’t we start our own band? You be in the front.’ He told me to start playing the accordion, because we were doing Cajun and zydeco. And I had been doing Cajun and zydeco on the keyboards. He said, ‘That ain’t gonna work.’ He said, ‘I’ll learn all the string instruments.’ Well, he did, and I did, and we took it from there.
We had all these great festival gigs. Not too many club gigs. We worked for Pete Fountain Productions here; we worked as a four- and five-piece band and we kept it going for a quite a while.
The title of my new album, Sassquake!, comes from my consiglieres: Scott Sibley, Will McMains, Mario Palmisano. Scott produced the album at his studio.
They’ve been my saviors since Johnny died. They’re young. They’re hip. They’re musicians; they know what’s going on in the music scene. And I was coming back from not doing it for a long time when I met them. They came in several times to see me play at the Piccadilly on Jefferson Highway. After Johnny died, they invited me over to watch Saints games and we just became buddies.
All sorts of things inspire me: people, places, events, songs. I never know where inspiration is going to come from. It depends on my mood. I’m inspired by artists that really have their stuff together. That can really put on a good show and be theatrical. That’s what I look for when I go see people play. I want to see them do more than just stand there and play their instrument.
After I opened for Boyfriend last August at Tip’s, I thought, ‘I’ve got to step up my show.’ I’m in my third year [as a one-woman band]. I’ve got the sound down and pretty much taken care of, so why not have dancers and make it a more theatrical thing? I’m hoping to keep it going with the Sasshay Dancers. I like it—it adds another element to the show.
In addition to the Sasshay Dancers, I’ll probably add in some visuals, some video, to my show. Just keep expanding its theatrical aspect. That’s my intent—to keep stepping it up.”