For nearly 30 years, Grammy award winning artist Terrance Simien, 8th generation Louisiana Creole has been shattering the myths about what his indigenous Zydeco music is and is not. Leading his Zydeco Experience band, Simien has become one of the most respected and internationally recognized touring and recording artists in roots music today. He has performed over 5000 concerts, toured millions of miles to over 40 countries and reached at least a million people during his eventful career that spans 3 decades.
Born in 1965 (appropriately) into the hippie folk and soul music era, Simien grew artistically being influenced by all of the great music that has defined our country’s musical legacy, including music from that period. His was as influenced by Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel as he was by Sam Cooke and the Meters. Since his family is documented in history books as one of the first Creole families to settle St. Landry Parish, his musical roots are firmly planted alongside the great Creole zydeco pioneers like Chenier, Delafose, Chavis, Ardoin and the other Simien to name a few. He counts himself one of the fortunate few from the last generation with a direct link to these artists, some of whom mentored him as an emerging talent. He has assumed that same role to a new generation of young Zydeco players. He understands how critical mentoring is to the survival of this indigenous music that has become synonymous with the cultural identity of Louisiana and an important part of the musical landscape of this country.
At the young age of 18 Simien began touring professionally and by 20 he was sharing the stage with Fats Domino and Sarah Vaughn at the Bern Jazz Festival. It just exploded from there and Terrance remains a pivotal part of Zydeco music history. In the early 1980's there were only 2 emerging bands touring nationally: it was simply the young Terrance and Sam Brothers who were perpetuating the traditional zydeco roots music of their forefathers. He is critical to the "renaissance" of a music genre that was in jeopardy of dying off. Clifton Chenier had passed away in 1987 and by the end of the 1990’s all of the other influential pioneers had also left us, leaving Terrance as one of the most gifted and knowledgeable artists to carry the Zydeco music torch.
Simien is blessed with an extraordinary talent that expresses the deepest human emotions through the original instrument: The Voice. He takes his audiences on a multicultural musical tour of the world as his musical language has been informed by many diverse styles. He creates a hypnotic blend of New Orleans funk-reggae-flavored-Afro-Caribbean-world, roots zydeco music that will force you out of your seat grooving all the way to the dance floor! He has found a seamless and artful way to deliver his eclectic music as a relevant, evolving artist who is firmly rooted in Creole tradition. He is known internationally for his legendary live performances and his relentless touring around the globe has enabled audiences everywhere to become more Zydeco Experienced than ever before!
During the past 27 years Simien has shared studio and stage with Robert Palmer, Stevie Wonder, Los Lobos, Taj Mahal, Dr. John, the Meters, Alan Toussaint, Paul Simon and Dave Matthews Band to name a few. He has been featured in dozens of films, including the blockbuster hit “The Big Easy”, TV movies and commercials. His music has been heard on public radio, FM and NPR syndicated radio shows, Voice of America and satellite radio heard by millions worldwide. His recordings have been praised by Rolling Stone, Billboard, other notable music industry publications and major daily newspapers. His extensive discography dates back to vinyl 45’s! Since his debut on a major rock label in 1991, he now has a total of 8 full length CD’s and dozens of compilations and guest appearances.
In 2005 he became the first Zydeco artist to perform in Cuba for the US State Department. In 2006, Carnegie Hall sent him and his group to Mali, West Africa to present “Creole for Kidz & The History of Zydeco” as part of a unique distance learning program entitled Global Encounters. 2007 offered another global opportunity and a rare Creole cultural exchange and tour with the US State Department to Mauritius, Rodrigues and Seychelles where he connected his own Creole culture with the indigenous Creole population of these countries. He and his band mates were the first American artists to perform in Rodrigues, a country of 40,000 people with a Creole culture still intact.
He has received countless awards, grants and recognition for his artistry as well as his contributions to help raise the professional standards by mentoring his fellow and emerging artists about the music industry. He navigated HBO producers deep into Creole country to film “The Music in Me: Children’s Recitals from Classical to Latin, Jazz to Zydeco”, in which he was also seen. In 2008 Simien became a spokesperson for the State of Louisiana Office of Tourism and is featured in national television commercials and print ads. In the Oscar nominated Disney classic film “The Princess & The Frog”, set in New Orleans, featuring their first black princess, Simien plays accordion on “Gonna Take You There”, a zydeco tune penned by Randy Newman and inspired by a Simien original. This is the first time Disney features zydeco music in a film with onscreen images and the word zydeco even spoken in the script! Terrance is currently working on a nonfiction book for students about Creole culture and zydeco music.
Simien, along with business partner/wife was successful in establishing a new Grammy voting category in 2007. In 2008 he opened the Grammy pre-Telecast awards ceremony with a 10 minute performance. Later that day he received his own Grammy for “Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album” at the 50th annual awards!