Cowboy Mouth


The musicians from New Orleans were downgraded in priority when their former label, MCA, merged with Universal. They’ve been guided by different managers and represented by their share of booking agents. Through it all, the outfit has managed to tour incessantly since 1991, put out seven CDs and develop a loyal fanbase.

Last month, the band’s label, Blackbird, was folded into Atlantic due to the AOL Time Warner merger. In the process, the imprint’s seven acts, including the Mouth, were dropped, Blackbird President William Lehman explained in a phone call to POLLSTAR.

Enter the band’s confidence and sheer tenacity.

“A lot of this business, a lot of what we do is based on pure and simple faith faith in what we do, faith in yourself, faith in your abilities and faith in your passions,” Fred LeBlanc, the band’s frontman and drummer, told POLLSTAR.

“There is that moment where you have to step into the abyss and take that leap of faith. I’m not trying to be dramatic but this is my life and I’m going to keep doing it as long as the law and the Lord allow me to.”

So far, the group has plowed ahead for 11 years. It tours 275-plus days a year and is traveling the country on its four-month 4th Annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Tour, which ends April 21st.

“The whole show is like a big, huge celebration and that’s what it’s supposed to be,” LeBlanc said. That outlook is shared by bandmates Paul Sanchez (guitar), John Thomas Griffith (lead guitar) and Rob Savoy (bass). Each of them also writes and sings.

The rockers held their heads up when they opened for Hootie & The Blowfish and Barenaked Ladies after the two acts originally supported them. They’ve headlined the Jazz & Heritage Festival and played the Voodoo Music fest. Over time, the group has also fine-tuned its show.

“For the first couple of years, we didn’t use a set list. We just made ’em up as we went along,” LeBlanc said. “The show’s become a lot more focused.

“You don’t come to a Cowboy Mouth show to sit there and listen and go, ‘Hmm, those are some really good songs,’ or, ‘Hmm, that’s an interesting performance.’ You go to a Cowboy Mouth show to become 5 years old again, to be that little kid inside of you, to find that part of yourself that you might forget exists and to celebrate the hell out of it, to find that angel inside of yourself that tells you that you kick ass.”

Relying heavily on its infectious stage presence, the foursome places less emphasis on airplay. “We’ve had our share,” LeBlanc said. “‘Jenny Says’ got a lot of airplay. ‘Easy’ got a lot of airplay. … We took the advantages that those things gave us we’d play some radio shows and some big amphitheatres or arena-type places and basically do our best to make sure people didn’t forget us.”

At press time, about 50,000 units of the album Easy had been sold, group manager Jon Birg‚ told POLLSTAR. The CD the Mouth’s first and apparently last on Blackbird was released last June. By summer’s end, the title track had jumped onto the alt radio charts.

Airplay “can make a band an overnight sensation, but can burn their career out very quickly,” Birg‚ said. “I really started focusing on grassroots artist development for the band and relying much less on what the labels first, MCA and more recently, Blackbird/Atlantic were supposed to do.”

“Our focus is on the band’s show ’cause that is what has kept people coming back and bringing their friends,” he said. “Airplay gets more fans to the show but the band knows that touring is the way to keep them.”

Besides recognizing touring’s relevance, LeBlanc and company have learned to survive by rolling with the punches.

Fred LeBlanc
John Thomas Griffith
Rob Savoy
Paul Sanchez

“Here’s the thing,” he revealed. “We don’t really think about [goals] too much and that’s what makes it good. … I never thought this thing would stay together two weeks much less 10 years. I had faith in us; I just didn’t know if anyone else did. Being in a rock band’s tough but it’s just kept going.”

Striving to continue the momentum he helped build since 1998, Birg‚ said, “We’d love to hear from any label who would be interested in the band.” In the meantime, “We have been told that Atlantic wants to keep the latest record, but we know nothing past that.”

As far as touring, however, the group’s responsible agent at Monterey Peninsula Artists, Kevin Daly, knows what the future holds: summer festivals and headlining the Hurricane Tour in the fall. Routing for the Southern Comfort-sponsored club outing will include the Southeast, mid-Atlantic and Northeast, he told POLLSTAR

“Their ticket sales increase because of how great their live show is,” Daly added. “There are very few bands that can do that.”

And even fewer that find themselves in merger-fallout territory just two years after their first stroll down that same path.

“Life has a way of throwing you curve balls left and right, and the best thing we can do, like our manager, Jon, says, is control the controllables,” LeBlanc reflected. “I spent awhile being frustrated with record companies and then I decided to let it go, get over it and do the very best at what I could do.”

And so Cowboy Mouth keeps roping in the fans. “My goal is to go out there and play the best show I possibly can, to leave the stage covered in sweat and to leave pieces of my heart all over the United States of America,” LeBlanc said. “That’s why I live.”