Big Sam talks new album and the ‘isms’ that keep crowds coming back for more

NEW ORLEANS -- If you've ever been to see Big Sam's Funky Nation, you know it's an electric show with a big sound and a lot of dancing.

Fronting one of the busiest bands in town, Big Sam Williams is the driving force.

He was a talented musician in high school, but it was the one day he spent washing dishes at Delmonico that really changed his path.

"I had one real job for one day," he said. " I was a senior in high school my mom was like, 'Baby, I want you to have a real job so you can know what it takes to earn money and you can help with your senior budget.' I said, 'Let's do it.' "

Williams soon figured out he could make the same money playing gigs with the brass band he formed, and the rest is history.

But getting to the top took a lot of studying and learning from the "who's who" of New Orleans sound, like the late, great Allen Toussaint.

"He would always say, 'Put some 'ism' on it, you know when you're making something hip, put a lil extra on it and make sure that the people know that you know that it's hip. If we're playing a horn line and it says bam pa dam daaaa, he'd say, just fall extra blaaaaaa."

Williams was young, but he was good enough to play with the big boys.

In fact, when he got the chance to roll with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, he had to call his mom and get permission to hit the road for three months.

The time he spent with Toussaint, Costello, the Dirty Dozen and even the Stooges helped to mold him into the leader of the Funky Nation, but like peers of his generation, he's firm in taking New Orleans music to another level.

"It's time for it to evolve. You have cats like Troy (Trombone Shorty), myself, Christian Scott, you have a bunch of cats coming up now that like, even like Tank & the Bangas. We don't want to play the same thing that's been going on. We love that style and we we still pay homage to it, it has to change, it can't be the same," he said.

Big Sam's latest project is "Songs in the Key of Funk." You can find it wherever you buy music, and you can catch Big Sam on the Jazz Fest Acura stage Thursday right before Lionel Richie.