Terrance Simien (born September 3, 1965 in Mallet, Louisiana) is an American zydeco musician, vocalist and songwriter. He and his band won the Grammy Award for Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album for 2008.
Simien is an eighth generation Creole from one of the earliest Creole families documented to have settled in the Mallet area of St. Landry Parish. He was introduced to music via the piano at home, the Catholic Church choir, and in school band programs where he played trumpet.
While in his teens, he taught himself to play accordion and formed his first band Terrance Simien & The Mallet Playboys, and began to play the regional zydeco club and church hall circuit. In the early 1980s, Simien was a youth in his early 20's and one of only two (Sam Brothers was the other) emerging zydeco artists leading a band and performing their indigenous zydeco roots music. This was a pivotal time in zydeco music history since the pioneers of the genre were aging and the music was in jeopardy of dying off without the critical presence of emerging artists perpetuating the traditions. Upon being asked about his opinion of his debut album in a 1991 interview, Simien said: "I think we've done what we set out to do, and that is catch the energy of the live performance. Also give the audience something new that we couldn't do live. But we basically stayed true to what we were doing; we didn't try to make a hit song. We just put out what we've been doing for the past five years on the road, and it couldn't have come out any better than it did. There are some disappointments. You always wish you had more time, more money, more everything."
Simien and his band have toured internationally, presenting over 7000 live performances in more than 40 countries, and released dozens of solo recordings and collaborations. He has shared studio and stage with the likes of Paul Simon, Dr. John, The Meters, Marcia Ball, Dave Matthews, Stevie Wonder, Robert Palmer and the roots rockers Los Lobos.
Simien has appeared on screen and contributed to the soundtracks of multiple movies, television films and commercials. He appears on the soundtrack of the Disney film, The Princess and the Frog set in the French Quarter of New Orleans, featuring authentic Louisiana music scored by Randy Newman. He has also contributed to the soundtracks of movies, such as, The Big Easy, Exit To Eden and A Murder Of Crows.
Simien and his business partner/wife, Cynthia, are active in Creole music education and advocacy. They created the "Creole for Kidz & The History of Zydeco" performing arts program, which provides informational performances to K-12 students, teachers and parents. Since it was created in 2001, Creole for Kidz has reached nearly 500,000 students, parents and teachers in more than 20 states, Mali, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Paraguay, Canada and Australia. The Simiens understand the importance of mentoring emerging artists and created MusicMatters, Inc., a non-profit for education and advocacy.
In 2007, the Simiens helped establish a new Grammy voting category, Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album. His group, Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience, were the first ensemble to win a Grammy in that same category in 2008.
He is considered to be one of the most gifted vocalists, engaging performers and innovative recording artists in American roots music.
Terrance Simien homepage
Terrance Simien profile, from Louisiana State University at Eunice