Area band brings a bit of Cajun flavor to Montgomery County
by Cara Hedgepeth
Musician Chris Huntington has spent his entire life on the East Coast.
Growing up in New England, he started playing the guitar at 8 years old. By 14, Huntington was performing at live music venues in Boston and New Hampshire. By 16, he was studying with the Boston Symphony Choir and taking college courses at the University of New Hampshire. At 17, Huntington signed his first recording deal with Rounder Records, and began touring the East Coast with Boston-based band, the Sympeltons, eventually settling down in Baltimore where he still lives today.
It seems strange then, that this Northeast-bred guitar player would find himself the leader of a Cajun band.
“I’m from the New Hampshire and Maine area and probably didn’t predict when I was growing up that I would be playing in a Southern New Orleans band,” said Huntington.
But that’s exactly what he’s been doing for the last 18 years.
Huntington is one of the founding members of The Crawdaddies, a five-piece band, all of its members hailing from the East but whose music is largely influenced by the South. The Crawdaddies bring the Mardi Gras spirit to Montgomery County this weekend with a performance at BlackRock Center for the Arts.
While the band is known for its traditional Creole music — a combination of Cajun, Zydeco and Blues sounds, Huntington said he hasn’t completely abandoned his Northeast roots.
“Our music is certainly influenced by Louisiana but we also mix a lot of our Eastern/Northeastern influences in,” he said.
The Crawdaddies were founded in 1995 by the band’s accordion and piano player, Kraig Greff, as “an outlet for him to showcase the accordion,” Huntington said.
“[Greff] hired me into the band and we’ve had some personnel changes over the years, but it started off as a fun project for us to do on the side ... We kind of just said, ‘Let’s make this a party band that’s a lot of fun and make the accordion the base music.’”
What started out as a part-time gig has evolved into a full-time professional music career for Huntington. The Crawdaddies have recorded four CDs, “Accordions Are Cool,” “Spice It Up,” “Keep Lookin’ Up” and most recently, “Live From the Road.” In addition to playing with The Crawdaddies, Huntington also tours with Kicksville, an experimental music group that unites musicians from all over the world to play two or three week tours. When he’s not out on the road, Huntington runs his own music production company, “Head-On Entertainment.”
Despite his other commitments, Huntington said The Crawdaddies come first.
“Kraig and I have put a lot of time into it,” Huntington said. “Crawdaddies is a first priority these days.”
It was after the release of the band’s second album, “Spice It Up,” that Huntington said The Crawdaddies became more than a side project, That’s when the band started touring the college and festival circuit, which remain some of the band’s most loyal audiences.
“From 1999 to about 2006 we were doing a lot of college touring,” Huntington said. “Spring to fall [we were] just doing festivals, outdoor amphitheaters and stuff like that ... When some of that festival performing started to fall off in the winters ... [we] started branching off doing more theater work.”
Huntington added that while there are some major differences between a Crawdaddies festival-style show and an indoor-theater show like the one audiences can expect to see on Saturday, both are enjoyable for different reasons.
“Our festival shows are more catered toward being 100 percent dance floor,” Huntington said. “With the theater show, we are able to relax into our songs. It’s more about the music when you’re in the theater.”
After their stop in Montgomery County on Saturday, The Crawdaddies will head to West Virginia and Pennsylvania. As the weather heats up, so will the band’s touring schedule, with outdoor concerts and festivals already booked for the summer months.
Huntington said The Crawdaddies are in the process of writing new music and “tossing around songs.” Although there are no official plans for another record, Huntington said the band will likely be out with new music in late 2013 or early 2014.
“We like to play our songs live for a good while before we record them,” said Huntington. “We feel like they evolve best live.”