Sharon Leger Interview

Evangeline formed in 1988. This New Orleans based band is now the first act on Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Records, a new label marketed through MCA Nashville.

Sharon Leger plays bass and washboard for Evangeline, and we spoke with her about the group.

Q. You and two other members of the group, Rhonda and Kathleen, are original members. What happens when you bring in 2 other people into the group? Do they share the same goals as you?
A. We just really went out on the hunt to find people who had the same motivation and goals and wanted to achieve what we wanted to achieve. When Rhonda, Kathleen and myself started out, it was kind of just a coincidence that we found each other. But for Nancy and Beth, we actually hunted for them. We went through people. We went through different piano players to find the right one. It was a search to find those people who had the same goals in common. And, we had quite a "buzz" about the band, at that time when they came in the band. We already had propositions from record companies and interest from record companies. So, with that kind of buzz it's not really that hard to find people who want to jump on the bandwagon, per se.

Q. For this group, entering talent contests was the key to your success.
A. Yes.

Q. Who else went on to greater fame from entering these same contests as Evangeline?
A. Ronnie Dunn, from Brooks and Dunn. Ronnie was the winner of the Marlboro Talent Roundup contest that we were in. So he did eventually get a record deal.

Q. And how about the other contest you entered, the True Value Country Music Showdown. Anybody ever come out of that, and go on to bigger and better things?
A. The Sweethearts of the Rodeo. They won that contest years ago, and they also have a record deal. So, it's just a way to get yourself known. It gets people looking at you. Most of these contests do have the right people in the industry to judge. So it gets a nice buzz going for the group or whatever you're doing.

Q. Since you're the first signing on Margaritaville Records, are you feeling any unusual pressure?
A. I don't feel the pressure, because of the fact that Jimmy feels it was an opportunity to have a record company to offer new artists that are coming into the business something that he never got, and that is, a break. A place to do their own music. And that's what he's given us. So it's not like, hey I'm going out there and I wanna make a million bucks, and you're the band that has to do it for me! He never put that kind of pressure on us. It was just an opportunity for him to give something that he's gotten from the industry, his experience, his knowledge, and to pass it on to new acts that are coming into the business. And so for us, we feel we've been really blessed because we have his experience, and his knowledge. He's so giving of that.

Q. A recent report has it, that Jimmy Buffet's popularity just keeps growing. Why do you suppose that is?
A. He just keeps coming out there. He's been doing this for over 20 years. Every year he comes back to these same towns, whether he has a hit on the radio or not. He's always out there in the public eye. He's out there performing for the people. A lot of artists will have a hit or two, they'll stay on the road, a year or two or maybe three, and then get off. They're out of sight for maybe four or five years. Then they try to come back. For Jimmy, he's just out there every year, year after year, always giving the people something for their money. His shows are exciting. You always go to the show thinking what am I gonna see this year, that's gonna blow me away, that's gonna make it really fun and make it worth the money I spent. He always fulfills that for his audience. I think because of that, that's why his audience grows.

Q. Sharon, how did you learn to play the washboard?
A. (Laughs) That was just something I picked up on Bourbon Street. I was playing with the Cajun Band and got bored, would pick it up for a song or two and just started playing on it. It's not something that I sat back and said, 'Hmmm.. let me learn the washboard.' It was just a fluke.

Q. Just how small was the small town you grew up in, in Louisiana?
A. Population about 5,000. My graduating class was 100 students.

Q. Do you remember the first 'live' group you ever saw perform in concert?
A. Actually it would have had to have been a local band; because the town was so small that they didn't have any major acts come in. You'd have to go to Alexandria, a medium size city, in the state of Louisiana. That was still, like 40 miles away. We didn't really do that much in my family. We depended on ourselves for entertainment. My father played guitar, my uncles and cousins. We always had a family kind of band, and for entertainment, we occupied ourselves that way. So, we never went out to see music. But, we had local street dances, like for the Fourth of July. They always had local bands come out and play. I think that's about the earliest I can recall.

Q. How did that affect you? Did you set out to become a musician?
A. For me, this is really, in the true meaning, a dream happening to me, because I never set out to be a musician! I moved to New Orleans to go to college. I played bass just a little bit, and a friend of mine had a Cajun band, and his band broke up, and he needed a bass player, right away to sit in for 2 weeks until he could find a replacement. I did that, and we just clicked so well that he just asked me to stay on, and never found another bass player. For a college student, that was good money, you know. So all of a sudden it was like, 'hey, I can play music, and put myself through school. And, that's what it was all about for me, until I met the girls.

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