5 Questions with LEAF performer Jeff Thompson

Photo by Natasha Meduri/What's Her Face Photography
Photo by Natasha Meduri/What's Her Face Photography

In advance of this season’s LEAF, the 41st bi-annual iteration of the festival, we’re talking to performing artists from the LEAF lineup about the festival’s New Orleans-meets-Western North Carolina theme. LEAF takes place Thursday to Sunday, Oct. 15-18, at Camp Rockmont.

First up, local singer-songwriter Jeff Thompson, whose recent tour included shows in the Louisiana city and whose New Orleans roots go even deeper, as he explains.

Thompson performs at Eden Hall Thursday, Oct. 15, at 7:30 p.m. and at The Barn Friday, Oct. 16, at 6:45 p.m. He leads a songwriter workshop at the Jam Tavern Saturday, Oct. 17, at 10:30 a.m.

Xpress: Tell us a little bit about the performance you have planned for this season’s LEAF.
Jeff Thompson: I couldn’t be more excited about the set my band and I have put together for LEAF this Fall. We are calling this project “SouloNOLA,” since it has involved a return to my New Orleans roots. I grew up there and still return as often as I can, so it’s been really cool to intentionally put together a set that honors my hometown.

Will you be incorporating any New Orleans elements or inspirations into your performance?
We will be performing a number of traditional New Orleans songs and also doing a few covers of some of my favorites. Dr. John, The Neville Brothers, etc. In addition, I’ll be incorporating a number of spoken-word pieces I’ve written that are about the city. I’m also very grateful to have Marcel Anton adding his talents on lead guitar. He is a guitarist of nearly legendary stature in New Orleans, but relocated to Asheville post-Katrina. Having him in my band has deepened the whole thing tremendously.

Can you share a New Orleans memory?
I cut my teeth as a performer busking in Jackson Square in my teens and 20s. I used to take the cash I made and go sit in French Quarter coffee shops and work on song lyrics. The vibe of that little area of the city is forever intertwined with my creative process.

Can you share a favorite memory from a past LEAF?
I love LEAF. Fall and spring LEAF festivals have been the high points of my year for about 20 years now. I’ve heard so much amazing live music there, and I always love the poetry slam and, really, so many other aspects of the festival. But I’d have to say my favorite aspect is bumping into so many friends from Asheville out at Camp Rockmont. It feels like summer camp for all ages.

If you could collaborate with any other performer at this month’s LEAF, who would it be?
Oh man, if anyone from Rebirth Brass Band wants to get up and take a horn solo on one of my tunes, I might start crying.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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