Last February, Amy Nicole left Opelousas, La. on cloud nine. She was headed to Boston, Richmond and other cities on the first East Coast tour of her two-year music career.
Nicole had no idea four snowstorms and record cold temperatures were waiting. Three-hour trips between gigs turned into eight-hour nightmares.
Ice caused her truck to spin out on I-95 in Maine, damaging two fenders and bashing in the band’s trailer filled with equipment. Later, the key to the trailer broke off in the lock.
Amy had to buy expensive snow tires and later had a flat. Four hours into the trip home, the spare went flat. When a mechanic wanted $450 for roadside repairs, the band decided to wait until morning and slept in a truck stop parking lot.
“But the shows were absolutely great,” joked Amy. “At this one gig, they had to put four chairs in front of me. One woman was too happy and kept knocking my microphone into my mouth and on the ground. It was an experience.”
Amy Nicole and Zydeco Soul are happy to be back in warm, muggy St. Landry Parish after going on the road to promote their debut CD, “Just a Little Taste.” The 10-song disc of zydeco standards also includes an original, “Hey Lil Daddy,” and a playful rendition of the Lee Dorsey R&B classic, “Ya Ya,” done with Amy’s ever-popular mentor, Geno Delafose.
The CD also establishes Amy as the first white female to head a homegrown zydeco band. Females remain rare in the male-dominated world of zydeco. White females are virtually nonexistent.
Amy said she’s felt nothing but open arms.
“I was wondering how the black female population would take to me,” said Amy, 39, a mother of two girls. “That would make my knees shake a little bit, when I’d see some black females in my crowd.
“They have been the most loving and supportive group that I’ve got. They’re always at my stage and rooting me on.”
Life on stage is a dream fulfilled for Amy, who’s been surrounded by music since childhood. She has memories of sleeping under the bar as her mother, Frances Woodruff Fontenot, managed the Town and Country Bar in Riceville and the Lakeshore Club in Lake Arthur. When Rockin’ Sidney came to town, Amy, then 9, helped him sing his million seller, “Don’t Mess with My Toot Toot.”
But in 2012, the loss of her mother and cousin to cancer, and her sister’s accidental overdose, changed Amy’s life. She lost 76 pounds and learning to play the accordion became a priority.
For six months, she followed her favorite, Geno Delafose, to all his dances and she became a family friend. After church on Sundays, Amy brought her iPad to Delafose and recorded him playing a song. She played the song slowly on her home computer and practiced until she learned it.
After three songs, Delafose had her performing on stage.
“Geno told me to just appreciate zydeco for what it really was. Over some time, I learned the simplicity of it is the beauty of it.
“I learned a bunch of simplified songs to cover my little show. I’m just now getting to the point of advancing my method of playing. I’m having to put up or shut up at this point.”
Amy is already planning for another CD. She’s even considering another East Coast tour – in the summer, this time.
She credits zydeco with helping her gain a new outlook on life.
“When I lost my family, life became more than just bills and daily responsibility. I was so wrapped up in raising my kids and doing the family thing. My kids are loving it and learning a whole new culture.
“I’m loving it. The people are making it easy for me. They’re coming at me with such welcome arms. There’s no way not to feel comfortable.”