Last season, Wendell Pierce took up the trombone so he would be more credible playing a trombone player on Treme. This season, he’s had a new musical challenge as Antoine Batiste is trying to front his own R&B revue, Antoine Batiste and the Soul Apostles. At the Louisiana Music Factory signing of the box set of Treme: Season One, I asked Pierce about singing:
Last year, I had two songs—one in the hospital (“Touro Infirmary”)—but the one on the street was different (“I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You“). I worked so hard on that, I was like, “Cool. I got over that.” I thought it was going to be a rare thing; I didn’t know that it was going to be a perpetual thing.
It’s terrifying for me. We work so fast that I have a short amount of time to get comfortable with a song, then David (Simon) and the guys put in two or three [laughs]. Then I’m with real musicians too: “Hey, let’s play a pick-up basketball game with Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul.” It’s very nerve-wracking to be singing this year.
You sound like a comfortable singer.
That’s some of the best acting! I’m so nervous, but I say to myself, “Antoine can sing.” I have to believe that. I have to create that reality so strong that I can do it. And I like to clown around with the background actors so that I’m comfortable with them instead of feeling like they’re all these judging eyes.
How’s your horn playing?
My horn playing has suffered because of all the damned singing! [laughs] I don’t have time to ‘shed the way I need to ‘shed. Just when they gave me this one thing, they lump this other thing into it. My horn playing – I’m still at an elementary level, but I’ve played in public. I played with Rebirth (Brass Band) at the opening of the Hornets’ season. That was cool. I was onstage yesterday with Glen David Andrews (at Jazz Fest). I didn’t play the horn, but I felt comfortable enough performing in front of audience.
Paul Sanchez told me the story of John Boutte coaching you through your part for the Nine Lives album.
It’s John Boutte, so I can ‘t tell you how nerve-wracking that is. I want to be able to go in a cave somewhere completely blacked out and sing it, but having John come to work with me was very helpful because he made it so personal. He relaxed me.