Troy Andrews’ stage name, Trombone Shorty, starts to make sense once you discover he has been playing the instrument since he was 4. At that age, the trombone was probably taller than he was.
The 31-year-old musician has grown rather accustomed to his namesake instrument, touring with his band Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue since 2009 and collaborating with numerous bands musicians like Little Big Town, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Foo Fighters.
How were you first exposed to that instrument?
My brother James and my whole family – most of my cousins – played in brass bands in the city, in New Orleans. We had a couple of instruments around the house, so I gravitated toward that. Plus, my brother was a trumpet player and had his own band. In New Orleans, the trumpet is the leader of the band and (it needs) to have a sidekick trombone player. So I was that with him for a very long time.
Historically, New Orleans has always been a music-centric city. Was it like that in your neighborhood?
Yeah in New Orleans there’s music 24 hours a day. In my neighborhood, there were a lot of bands. It was really like a musician’s village or something like that. When I was coming up, there were a bunch of bands. A lot of ‘em. I just remember being able to walk around and there was a band playing in someone’s backyard. I’d walk down the street and there was a band playing in a bar and I’d look at them through the glass.
Sounds like it was almost inescapable.
Inescapable, that’s right. There was always music in the neighborhood. If I didn’t become a musician, it would have been really strange because of how much music we had in the city in general.
Which part of New Orleans did you grow up around?
Tremé. That’s where I was born and raised. It’s a block away from the French Quarter and was the center of a lot of cultural experiences in that neighborhood. It’s a very -- it was a very, very special neighborhood as far as music goes. And I’m just glad I was part of the last people to be able to experience that.
Do you think that place shaped you into the musician you are today?
Absolutely. We had neighborhood legends. We had people to look up to. We didn’t know if they were really famous around the world or not, but we knew what they meant to the neighborhood.
I had a lot of people to look up to – my brother James Andrews, my cousins in the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. We all looked up to them. We all knew they were on tour, going out of town and things like that. They were icons to us.
You play other instruments too, right?
Yeah I play a bunch of other instruments. When I’m working on an album, I’ll sometimes play all the instruments on certain tracks.
Why did you have more of an interest in the trombone?
My brother just placed it in my hand and kept me on his side. That’s what I knew. As I got older, I started to gravitate toward other instruments. Some on purpose, some not on purpose. When I had my band as a kid, we didn’t have a tuba player and no one wanted to learn how to play it. So I learned how to play the tuba. At one point we didn’t have a trumpet player, so I switched to the trumpet. Different things like that.
As far as the trombone goes, as I got older I realized the trombone was one of the hardest instruments to play. I stuck with the challenge.
Was there ever a point where you felt like you mastered the trombone?
I don’t think I’ll ever master it because there is so much knowledge and things I still have to learn. Every day I play, I’m always trying to get better and use my imagination also to create new sounds and discover some things on my own. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to master it. On the journey of trying to master it, which may be an infinity process, I hope that I can continue to get better at it.
Live: Saturday in the Park