The first thing I noticed about John Michael Rouchell, lead singer and songwriter of the celebrated local band MyNameIsJohnMichael, was his name. This is partly because his band is called “MyNameIsJohnMichael” and partly because, like me, he has a double name! “Everyone thinks my last name is Michael,” he said. “It can be frustrating.” I know how he feels. If I got a dollar every time someone calls me “Ms. Marshall,” I would be a very wealthy girl.
When John Michael Rouchell was 10 years old, his dad bought him a guitar. Up until then, he had dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player. “But once I had that guitar in my hands, I became obsessed. Next thing I knew I was this 15 year old kid playing on stage at one of the best venues in New Orleans!” John Michael told me. “That was when I knew I wanted to make music my life.”
John Michael went on to enroll in the Music Industry Studies program at Loyola University. As part of that program, he started a web project where he wrote and produced 52 songs in 52 weeks of the year. The website was called MyNameIsJohnMichael.com, which later became the website for the band that grew out of the project. MyNameIsJohnMichael has been touring since 2009. If you’d like to check out their music, visit their website mynameisjohnmichael.com and download their new EP “Orphans & Elders.”
At the end of our chat, John Michael told me he wasn’t quite sure what 2013 had in store for him. “But I’m working on some new ideas,” he said with a conspiratorial grin. I think we can certainly expect great things from a guy with a name like John Michael!
20 Questions With John Michael Rouchell
1. Who is your favorite New Orleanian, dead or alive, real or imagined?
Blanche DuBois from A Streetcar Named Desire. In some ways, she is New Orleans embodied in a person.
2. What first brought you to New Orleans?
I was born and raised here.
3. In your opinion – what’s the best neighborhood in New Orleans?
I grew up in Old Metairie and have also lived in the Warehouse District. But I recently moved to the Bayou St. John area, and I love it! The creativity is organic, not contrived, and it feels more “New Orleans” than any other neighborhood.
4. City Park or Audubon Park?
City Park – it’s right in my neighborhood!
5. Describe the best meal you’ve eaten in New Orleans.
My good friend owns Sylvain in the French Quarter, and I was there late one night hanging out. I got to watch Chef Alex improvise a meal. It was so cool to see him at work!
6. Where’s your favorite brunch spot?
Surrey’s in the Lower Garden District. It was really the first spot in NOLA to do the juice thing.
7. What’s your favorite po-boy? Where do you go to get it?
I have a theory about po-boys: New Orleanians always like the po-boy shop closest to where they grew up. So for me that would be Radosta’s in Old Metairie. My favorite sandwich is called “The Joan” – grilled shrimp with buttered herbs and spices. But po-boys are also convenience sandwiches, so a close second is Parkway, the shop closest to where I live now.
8. You’ve got friends visiting and it’s their first time in New Orleans – where are you taking them?
I always start the visit in Louis Armstrong Park. It’s where American music began!
9. What’s your favorite neighborhood bar?
10. What is your favorite New Orleans cocktail and where do you go to get it?
Go to Sylvain, find the bartender called “Murph,” and order a Sazerac.
11. Snowball or Daiquiri? Where from and what flavor?
I like the ice cream snowball from Pandora’s.
12. Best spot to see live music?
13. Favorite New Orleans musician or band?
14. Favorite New Orleans Festival?
15. Favorite Mardi Gras parade?
16. Where do you shop in New Orleans?
This great men’s boutique called Friend just opened up on Magazine.
17. What is your favorite New Orleans museum?
NOMA – I live very close, so it’s the one I visit the most.
18. Where do you go to watch The Saints play?
I don’t watch football. (Shoot me.) But I do have season tickets to the Hornets. They are a young, growing team and a lot of fun to watch!
19. Describe New Orleans in one word.
20. When was the last time you fell in love with New Orleans and why?
Every Mardi Gras Day, when I am a foot away from the Mardi Gras Indians, I just get swept up in the rhythm of the drums and tambourines. The beading on the costumes is just so intricate – it’s insane! Being that close to such beauty, tradition, and spirit will change your life.
Discover other notable locals and their New Orleans in the complete 20 Questions catalog.