Now in their thirty-third year, Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas are a topflight zydeco band with a signature style that’s closer to Buckwheat Zydeco and founding father Clifton Chenier than anything nouveau hip-hop contemporary. Over the course of eight albums on Rounder and 2013’s self-released A New Road, Nathan Williams has written a bevy of originals ranging from bluesy to rollicking that have weathered the test of time.
Your brother Dennis Paul Williams tells me that when you were a teenager, you were sick and dreamt you would become a zydeco accordion player. Is that what happened?
I dreamed I was playing accordion but it wasn’t an accordion like I wanted to play. It was a little single-row accordion, but I knew I wanted to play music. I was fooling with it before, but then the reality set in and after that, I knew what I was going to do: play music.
When you started your band in 1985, did you have a vision of what you wanted to be as an artist and the style of zydeco you wanted to play?
Yeah, I wanted to come out with my own style. I was influenced by Clifton Chenier and Buckwheat, but I came up with my own style. I wanted to do it the way I feel like it should be, but it had to be me. My style can accommodate different crowds of people. I got a little bit of everything in my music so it can fit anywhere.
Do you ever worry about your style disappearing with so many of the young cats playing the smaller, single-row accordion?
No, I don’t really worry about that because if people want to listen to it, they’re going to listen to it. Good music will always be good music and somebody is going to come along and do what we do.
I recently saw your older brother Sid play accordion at his club El Sido’s. Have you ever considered making an album with him?
Well, yeah, we considered it. We can help him out. If he wants to do it, we’ll do it for him.
Lil’ Nathan started playing rubboard with you at age three and now he fronts one of the hottest zydeco bands and he’s also your record producer and collaborator. What is that like?
I’m glad I was able to help him along the way. That’s what they say in life—whatever you do comes back to you. If you do good, good comes back to you. If you do bad, bad comes back to you. So I’m getting the goodness to come back to me because I did good all my life and I try to be the best I can.
Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival
Sunday, June 24, 4:15 p.m.