For Marc Broussard, it all started with Back to the Future.
He first saw the film as a kid while growing up in bayou country outside Lafayette, Louisiana. That’s where Marc’s father, Ted Broussard, recognized that his 5-year-old could really sing.
“There’s a scene at the end of the movie where Michael J. Fox breaks into a Chuck Berry song on a cherry-red guitar that looked a lot like the guitar my dad got as a gift from my grandfather in 1968,” Marc recalls. As Fox belted out “Johnny B. Goode” on screen, Broussard couldn’t contain himself. He kept repeating the words, “Go, Johnny, go.” “I quickly learned all the lyrics, and a week later, Dad put me on stage with him.”
Ted, now 68, worked as a civil servant in the housing department in Lafayette but says his true calling was music. He played that red guitar in the Cajun swamp-pop band the Boogie Kings, which earned him a place in the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
“On weekends,” Marc says, “Dad would drive up and down I-10 playing Top 40 cover tunes at dance halls. I learned early on that what you do for a living isn’t necessarily who you are.”
Today, at 38, Marc Broussard is fortunate to have turned his own passions into a thriving career as a recording artist and touring act. Known for his husky lead vocals, Broussard’s blues-tinged Southern rock and soul has spawned hit albums, including S.O.S.: Save Our Soul, and he’s a fixture on the global festival circuit — or was, until COVID-19. Broussard says he’s canceled more than 50 shows since the pandemic began.
“The toughest thing for musicians is not being able to perform together, which is why this music project for AARP is a godsend at a time most of us aren’t able to work very much,” Broussard says.
“It was such a privilege performing with someone who is essentially a prince of Louisiana music,” Broussard says. Neville has four solo albums and is best known for a Top 30 Billboard hit, “Not Just Another Girl,” from his debut solo album If My Ancestors Could See Me Now. “Just being welcomed into the gravity of that orbit is a gift I could never take for granted,” Broussard says.
Broussard says his personal highlight was the bonus session he played with his dad. The Broussards filmed their segment while cruising the bayou channels near Carencro, the small city that is the family’s ancestral home. “Both my fraternal grandparents were born on houseboats in that swamp,” he says. Being in that environment “was literally tapping into our familiar roots. It blew my mind a little to think about the first Broussards who saw these inlets and alligator waters and said, ‘Yeah, this is home.’ But those decisions made me who I am.”
As father and son strum their guitars on the back of a boat in the video, you sense how much music is part of their bond. “As far as musicianship, Dad helped me with everything,” Marc says. “Dad’s an elite player who taught me chords and got me started, but he was also the voice inside my head guiding me on how to conduct myself and knowing what pitfalls to avoid.”
For instance, Broussard remembers standing on the side of a stage with his father watching a famous musician sing his heart out. “I thought, Man, that guy can sing, and my dad said, ‘Yeah, and he’s going to die a poor and lonely man because he’s drunk himself silly and he’s squandered everything.’ Whenever Dad passed along an observation like that, it definitely registered.”
Parental wisdom wasn’t the only thing that Ted handed down. When Marc turned 30, his dad gave him the cherry-red guitar that reminded Marc of the one Marty McFly played in Back to the Future. It remains one of Marc’s most cherished possessions.
“Dad gave me a great core foundation in music and in life,” he says. “When I think of all my influences, he’s the biggest, single-handedly, by a wide margin.”
On two select Sunday nights, Oct. 25 and Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. ET, Broussard is hosting an AARP mini-concert series on Facebook Live with his musical heroes, including Creole vocalist and drummer Warren Storm and New Orleans singer-songwriter Ivan Neville. As a bonus for AARP Members Only Access, Ted and Marc shared an exclusive never-seen video of them playing together as they fish on the bayou.
“Making music is a bit strange right now since everyone needs to be at a safe distance from one another, but it worked out beautifully in this case,” Marc says. “Once we got together and started playing, we were all so excited, we felt like schoolkids.”
Each concert includes songs and stories about the musicians who made a mark on Broussand’s sound and career. The session with Storm, 83, which took place in isolated recording booths at Dockside Studio in Maurice, Louisiana, was a dream fulfilled, Broussard says. “Warren’s been putting out music since the 1950s and is easily one of my favorite singers of all time,” he says of the Louisiana rhythm and blues pioneer. “He’s a Sinatra-esque kind of front man. You hand Warren a song and he’s going to sing the lights out.”
What was particularly inspiring to Broussard about playing with Storm is how animated and engaged the veteran musician continues to be, even after seven decades of stomping out swamp music. “Warren pointed out that all of his classmates from school appear to be aging at a much faster rate than he is,” Broussard says. “Music keeps you active and that keeps you younger.”
Ivan Neville, the son of Grammy-winning artist Aaron Neville, is a staple on the New Orleans music scene, both with his own band, Dumpstaphunk, and for his collaborations with greats such as Keith Richards, Bonnie Raitt, Don Henley and Robbie Robertson. A multi-instrumentalist and go-to studio musician, Neville, 61, recorded the AARP concert with Broussard in a converted 1920s church that’s now a studio in the heart of New Orleans’ historic Tremé neighborhood.