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20 Questions

My New Orleans: 20 Questions with Charm Taylor

“My music is influenced by the overall human condition; our personal truths, our history, the emotions we project, the communities we are a part of, the lives we lead,” said Charm Taylor, lead singer and songwriter for The Honorable South.

Taylor first moved to New Orleans in 2007, attracted by the stories of the city’s musicians. After making a documentary to capture some of these stories, Taylor met guitarist/composer Matthew Rosenbeck. “We began working together almost immediately,” she said.

At first they were just planning to put together the Dirty in the Light EP. But then Taylor and Rosenbeck met Jamal Batiste, Danny Kartel and Charles Lumar II. “All those special parts became a whole,” Taylor said. That whole became The Honorable South.

Charm has always loved to write. “Journal entries became poems became stories became speeches became songs,” she said. “Finding my voice and deciding to use it in my way has been one of the most liberating expressions of my existence.”

She has also always been a performer and has loved to sing from an early age. “As a small girl I would dress up in my grandmother’s mink coats, completing the look with jewelry and perfume, then storm into the kitchen or living room to perform original songs and soul classics. I learned very early that style and originality were essential and that songs are for the people.”

The Honorable South released their second album, Faithful Brave and Honest, and will be performing at this year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Taylor is also excited to announce her first solo project, The Road Within, produced by Saint Rock. “The Honorable South is still a creative unit and we are currently exploring other worlds so as to come back and enrich our shared one,” she said. Learn more about Charm Taylor’s unique NOLA below.

20 Questions with Charm Taylor

1. Who is your favorite New Orleanian, dead or alive, real or imagined?

Baba Luther Gray, the Cultural and Community Coordinator at Ashé Cultural Arts Center. He is a master percussionist, community leader, and a role model to many. He’s the leader of the dance and music ensemble Bamboula 2000 and spearheaded the effort to claim a spot on the National Register of Historic Places for the historically rich Congo Square! He’s the president and founder of the Congo Square Preservation Society. Would you believe when we were still figuring what was what in The Honorable South, Baba Luther played percussion on a song called “Last Time,” from our first EP Dirty in the Light, back in 2009? The man is down to earth!  His community work tells you he’s of the people and for the people of New Orleans. He’s my favorite because he believes in something and his art is a reflection of that.  

2. What first brought you to New Orleans?

I came in late 2006 to gut homes in the Lower 9th Ward. My hair was fire truck red back then! I made a documentary capturing the experiences of local musicians post Katrina, many of whom were traveling back and forth between Texas and New Orleans to gig or play fundraising benefits for homegrown community organizations. That year I made several trips back to NOLA, each time with a group of volunteers. I peeled my first crawfish and marched behind residents of the St. Bernard Projects during the HANO lockouts. The wonderful folks of Stewart’s Diner aka “ The Spot” on Desire Street fed me and remembered me each time I came in. I fell in love and made it official in 2007.

3. In your opinion – what’s the best neighborhood in New Orleans?

Bayou St. John hands down. The bayou. Parkway Bakery round the way. You can sit with yourself and read or write songs all day or powwow with friends among all the smells and colors of the city. Also, you have easy access to the rest of the city by bike or car from Bayou St. John.

4. City Park or Audubon Park?

City Park, especially the hidden groves. I have a special sitting tree. I’d like to think it’s my tree but it may be yours, too!

5. Describe the best meal you’ve eaten in New Orleans?

The first hot meal I eat after I’ve been Mardi Gras parading all day and the night before!

6. Where’s your favorite brunch spot?

Patio parlaying at Mayas on Magazine. That’s when you order the chile relleno plate with a fresh coconut mojito and Sunday brunch for hours.

7. What’s your favorite po-boy? Where do you go to get it?

Shrimp, dressed. No mayo. Add Creole mustard and onions from Domilise’s Uptown, baby. Every time.

8. You’ve got friends visiting and it’s their first time in New Orleans – where are you taking them?

To Jazz Daiquiri Lounge then to the Mardi Gras! To Dannys #1 or Castnet Seafood for crawfish. To a second line. To Coop’s Place for dinner then to dance with DJ Soul Sister, the Queen of Rare Groove, till dawn. To the Congo Square drum circle for the healing and then to the airport. They always come back!

9. What’s your favorite neighborhood bar?

Twelve Mile Limit. Something about that Huhu’s Ginger Brew.

10. What is your favorite New Orleans cocktail and where do you go to get it?

I only drink on very special occasions. I love every mocktail and cocktail ever invented at Casa Borrega.

11. Snowball or Daiquiri? Where from and what flavor?

Cream of nectar snowball stuffed with vanilla ice cream from Hansen’s Sno-Bliz.

12. Best spot to see live music?

I say get your brass at a second line and everything else at Gasa Gasa. That place has great sound and there’s always a local or touring band of interest.

13. Favorite New Orleans musician or band?

Every marching band in this city. You are the heartbeat of Carnival and the soundtrack to some of the best memories of my life! I also enjoy electro-folk pop band Saint Bell and roots cellist and songwriter Monica McIntyre.

14. Favorite New Orleans Festival?

Jazz Fest for the music and art. French Quarter Fest for food!

15. Favorite Mardi Gras parade?

Oh, how I love my Muses. Muses is the parade version of The Honorable South. In a sea of masculinity, Muses is everything foxy, electric, radiant, magical, passionate and fiercely rock ‘n’ roll!

16. Where do you shop in New Orleans? 

Originality is very important to me, so I have most of my clothes custom made. Lucky for me, New Orleans is home to some seriously talented designers. A couple of my favorite designers to shop with in NOLA are Janese Brooks-Galathe of Aya designs or Denisio Truitt of DOPEsciety. If I have to grab something fast and unique I’ll go to Fairy or Oya Market.

17. What is your favorite New Orleans museum?

The McKenna Museum offers a great mix of art and history. It’s located inside a historic Creole mansion in Central City.

18. Where do you go to watch The Saints play?

Last season I watched at Chickie Wah Wah with Blue Oak BBQ and friends. The season before it was with friends at my bandmate Matthew’s house. This season it was in my dreams, because in my dreams we actually made the playoffs, ya’ll.

19. Describe New Orleans in one word.

Timeless.

20. When was the last time you fell in love with New Orleans and why?

Dancing to Alexey Marti Trio swinging on New Year’s Eve. He shouted out the people of Honduras, Cuba, Africa, Russia and Gentilly. We have it all here.

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