Fifteen years ago, in 1997, I was literally planning to leave New Orleans. I couldn’t make a living designing business cards and ads. I had a master’s degree in underwater archaeology and I finally got back on the phone to my advisor in Texas trying to figure out how to go back to work on my Ph.D. so I could become a “real” archaeologist. I had moved to New Orleans in 1989 temporarily to be with my great uncle Bill Russell (of Preservation Hall) during the last years of his life. I had already stayed longer than I planned, mostly because I was playing music (there is just something about this city that grabs musicians), but it looked like it was time to move on.
And then, suddenly, I was starting Crescent Music Services with mastering engineer Parker Dinkins (MasterDigital). One day I’m planning to leave the state, and the next I’m starting a company – in the music industry, no less. It’s all rather surreal as I look back on it.
Parker and I both had the same vision – that New Orleans needed a CD design and manufacturing company. I had produced my own album a few years before and was astonished that there was no company in New Orleans that specialized in album design and manufacturing. So, we created Crescent Music Services to fill that gap – and it worked.
Some of my very first clients were Ellis Marsalis and Basin Street Records (including Kermit Ruffins and Irvin Mayfield). And, with a little luck, some connections, a lot of word of mouth, and a monthly Offbeat ad, the musicians started finding me. Everyone said “I’m so glad you’re here.” And so was I.
Katrina hit me hard, but I fared way better than most. I did lose everything in my office – even things above the waterline were infused with grey sticky mold – but I didn’t lose anything irreplaceable, except maybe a piece of my psyche. I had evacuated with my harddrives, my guitar and my animals. I was insured, and my living space on the second floor was spared. But even though I could rebuild, doing business in New Orleans was rough – no gas, no landline, Fedex wouldn’t deliver to my address, and life was a challenge in New Orleans for the first year.
So I gutted the office and moved “temporarily” to Picayune, MS, with the intention of rebuilding and returning to New Orleans when things began turning around. But once I got settled in the quiet countryside just an hour’s drive from New Orleans, I had already figured out how to connect to my clients long distance. Indeed, Katrina taught us all how to work via internet and fedex, and it’s part of our new normal.
15 years, hundreds of album covers and two Offbeat Awards later, I’ve made it past Katrina with only a few scars, and working with the region’s most amazing musicians has kept me going through it all. And lately I’m starting to connect with the area film industry, which has been great fun and a long time coming.
As I write this I realize how wrapped up in work and life I’ve been, especially since Katrina. Ironically, since I started to “make my living” in the music industry, I rarely even go out to listen to music, and sadly don’t play or write songs anymore. But I love what I do, and Crescent Music Services changed my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. It’s been an amazing journey.
Thank you to all the people who have helped me get this far. First, to Parker Dinkins, who had trust in me and the dedication to the area’s music industry to get me and Crescent Music started. To Mark Samuels and Jason and Ellis Marsalis, who turned to me right out of the starting gate to design their CDs. To local music industry professionals like Michael Paz, Scott Aiges, Jan Ramsey and Reid Wick who encouraged and advised me. To Connie Zimmermann, Betsy McGovern and Beth Patterson, always there for me. And, of course, to every indie artist, local label and filmmaker I’ve had the absolute joy and honor to work with. I appreciate your trust in me.
Thank you everyone for your loyalty and help, and for inviting me to help you achieve your dreams.
I’m glad I stuck around.
Here’s to 15 more years.
Happy New Year