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RICHARD TURNS CAJUN ROOTS INTO MUSICAL GUMBO

SHARE RICHARD TURNS CAJUN ROOTS INTO MUSICAL GUMBO

Music has always been in Louisiana rock artist Zachary Richard's life, said the accordion-playing guitarist/keyboardist.

"From the time I was 8 and singing in the Bishop's Choir at church (he was raised a Catholic), to where I am now, I've always been around music," said Richard - pronounced Reeshard - from a stop in Evergreen, Colo. "I trained in piano until I was introduced to the devil's music at 14."Richard will perform his special blend of Cajun, rock, blues and folk to the Red Butte Garden Amphitheater Sunday, Aug. 13. Gates open at 5 p.m., and the music begins at 6:30 p.m.

During his formative years, Richard absorbed the music of Simon & Garfunkle, the Byrds, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Crosby, Stills & Nash.

"I was interested in the blues and, basically, American folk rock," Richard said in his laid-back Louisiana drawl. "All through high school I was in bands. After I landed a recording contract, I decided to find myself - redefine myself - as to where I came from and who I really am."

To do this, Richard looked to his roots.

"My grandparents didn't speak a word of English and were bona fide Cajun," he explained. "I began to reach for my heritage and attempted to integrate Cajun with rock."

But since these two styles were so definite, said Richard, he couldn't blend them together as one.

"You might hear Cajun hints and nods in my rock stuff and rock influences in my Cajun work, but there is not really a hard-sounding `Cajun-rock' sound," he said.

Richard began his professional career in Paris around 1976. He recorded eight albums in French and enjoyed a 10-year streak of success in France and Canada before deciding to refocus his approach toward the United States.

His songs revolve around Louisiana but are full of emotions and events that everyone can relate to.

"Lately I've been focusing on problematic social issues," he said. "But at the same time, the romantic side of things does inspire me, too.

"I like the idea of pirates, vagabond outcasts and love. If I were to be anyone else it would be the pirate Jean La Foote. He was a gentleman and had a Robin Hood aura about him. He's the man."