American Routes Shortcuts: Joel Savoy

Jan 11, 2019

Joel Savoy
Credit American Routes

Joel Savoy is a renowned fiddler and producer, and the son of Cajun music greats Marc and Ann Savoy from Eunice, LA. Joel has worked to preserve and revitalize Cajun music through his playing as well as his label, Valcour Records. He started Valcour in 2006.  Joel has recorded south Louisiana artists such as Doug Kershaw, Steve Riley, Bonsoir Catin, Cedric Watson, and the Pine Leaf Boys, and has produced collections of drinking, love and holiday songs.

 

Joel Savoy: I had always been interested in recording and producing music, so I called up some friends from college and an old friend of mine from Mamou, and I said, “Hey guys, you all want to start a record label?” And they were both like, “Well we don’t know anything at all about that but sure, why not?” And that was 2006, and we just started putting in some phone calls and asking all of our friends in the business how it works and what you have to do and bringing different things together, creating new projects, that’s been kind of a thing we’ve been trying to do in 43 records now, 12 years later. 

Nick Spitzer: Why a record company in your generation? 

JS: Cajun and Zydeco music only comes from Southwest Louisiana really, I mean the real stuff comes from here. We’re the main export of that music in this area, and there was no one doing it. We wanted to realize some new ideas and get some new music out there, get some of the younger people who were playing kind of progressive music out there into the world, and so we just decided that we can market this music, we can package it nicely, and we can kind of put the Acadiana sound back on the map. 

JS: In the South, people really want to Americanize, and that’s been a big part of the history with Cajun musicians and Cajun music and the Cajun language throughout the whole 20th century and continues today. People would get in trouble for speaking Cajun French in schools even though that’s all that they knew. This was in the ‘30s, maybe in the early ‘40s, but kids grew up speaking French, and when they went to school, everybody wanted them to speak English, they didn’t want them to play Cajun music, so Cajun became a stigma. It wasn’t until the late ‘60s probably, or the mid to late ‘60s when Cajun music went out into the world again into a place, for instance the Newport Folk Festival where you had these old guys like Cyprien and Adam Landreneau, the Balfa Brothers, Bois-Sec Ardoin playing Cajun and Creole music up against people like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez and getting standing ovations that people actually decided that, “Okay well I guess Cajun’s alright, I guess it’s cool.”

NS: I never did ask you—Valcour, what’s the name from? 

JS: My great great great grandfather was Pierre Valcour Savoy. It represents my connection to the past and to the place where I come from because Valcour lived on the same property that I live on, barely a quarter mile from my house, maybe less, and I think that using the name “Valcour” connects me to the family that has always helped me move forward and become the person that I want to be and to do what I want in this world. 

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