A Feeling About Brown County
by Bill Weaver
photo by George Bredewater
“I’ve never been interviewed before so I have no idea where to start,” says Lou Stant after his recent performance at Borders bookstore in Bloomington.
For two hours Stant has been performing for an audience of mostly college students. The young couples seem more interested in each other but some are listening and reward Lou with warm applause.
I ask him how he got his start in music.
“I’ve been playing guitar since ’68. I started performing in the early ’80s, first with a rag tag eclectic sort of acoustic band called the 75th Street String Band. There was a cello player, a classical guitar player, my steel six-string, and a stand-up bass. We played at the Hummingbird in Indianapolis.
“We got our first big break opening for David Grisman. We were rehearsing when two weeks before the show he decided he didn’t want an opening act.” Stant laughs. “My friends were disillusioned enough to go back to graduate school.
“I played in a blues band in the mid-’90s. We played private parties, wedding receptions, and that kind of stuff. But that band was jinxed.
“It was around that time that we moved from Indianapolis. I’ve been playing solo ever since. Up until late November I was playing fairly regularly at places like the Fig Tree in Helmsburg, the Harvest Moon in Nashville, and another little place called The Bird’s Nest.”
Two days after Thanksgiving Lou fell off a ladder breaking his arm. “This is my first performance since the accident,” he confides.
Stant, who has recorded two cassettes of original music, recently completed his first CD, Out of the Blue, with producer Grey Larsen.
“I first met Grey at a party at my Mother’s house. He had heard one of my cassettes and to have him compliment something I had done was really gratifying.
“I got in touch with him a year later and started working on this CD. I’ve spent these last three years on it and we finished in November of 2000.”
Stant loves the local music scene. “Chris Little is a musician whose work I admire. His cassette Bellydancing in Unionville is one of my favorite things to plunk in and listen to. Little Merrie Simmons, the folk trio, gave me a chance to open up for them at the Daily Grind. They’re marvelous musicians.
“I met Robbie Bowden and he played blues harp on one of my songs. He’s a great harmonica player in addition to a great all around musician. I also feel gratified to be a part of Bloomington Folk Live. I performed with them at the Buskirk-Chumley back in November. Beth Lodge-Rigal, Jeff Cannon, and Kara Barnard, who’s just an astounding musician. All the folks with that organization are great. Jamey Reid, the percussionist, plays on my CD. He’s another incredible talent. I feel gratified to have the opportunity to meet and play with the people here.”
Like most musicians, Stant must work to make ends meet. “I work for the Family and Social Services Administration. I’m a licensing consultant. I travel all over southern Indiana and visit residential facilities for troubled youth, ages 6 to 21. Kids that have been taken out of the home for abuse and neglect, or because of delinquency. I monitor their programs to make sure that they’re in compliance with state regulation. I have a real soft spot for kids who are troubled,” he adds.
“I was once an advocate for people with mental illnesses in state institutions. I answered complaints from the patients about their treatment. They would talk to me because I was someone through whom they could get their voices heard. That was the foundation for the song Wile E. Coyote.
“There were a lot of colorful characters. I talked to Jesus, the Queen of England, Shirley Temple….Some of that has really influenced my song writing.”
Continuing to sing and write has not been easy.
“There was a period of time in the ’80s where I did some recording but for the most part I didn’t perform and I even thought about giving it up. I felt a lot of pressure to make a better living. We had our first child and there was just this feeling that `You know, I need to grow up,’” he laughs.
“Then sometime in the very late ’80s, it just hit me like a ton of bricks. I started writing songs again, the best
things I’d ever written. I never looked back.
“I find that songs are like therapy, a way for me to come to terms with things that I don’t feel I can change.
“Having kids,” he continues, “was a profound experience and it influenced my song writing. I got a lot more serious, a little less whimsical. There’s nothing that I’ve ever tried to do that is more difficult than to be a parent.” Stant and his wife Miriam have three children: oldest son Zack, daughter Marina, and five year old Gabriel.
I ask him how he came to live in Brown County.
“My parents first bought property about 1959. We spent summers here and decided to move. There was just a feeling about Brown County, that this is where we wanted to rest our bones. Everyone lives here with the exception of my brother Jeff. The irony is that he is an environmental activist. He’s the one who loves the great out of doors and yet he’s up in the middle of Indianapolis.”
Like Merle Haggard, Lou has had his fill of the big city. “We lived in Talbot Village, a real rough area, crack houses, gangs, guns going off at night. We really wanted to get out of there. We had young children and wanted to raise them somewhere other than the inner city.
“My father died on New Year’s day of ’96. He left my mother, who is a retired schoolteacher, rental properties. I had the opportunity to come down and run that business. It was quite a strange transition, moving from the inner city to Brown County. We went from waking up to the sounds of cars driving by with blaring basses to standing on our deck looking out into the woods, deer coming up to the back of the house. I remember going out in the morning and rubbing my eyes to make sure it was really true.”
Lou Stant will be performing at Starbucks in Bloomington on March 2, from 8 to 10 p.m., March 23 from 10 p.m. until midnight, and The Fig Tree in Helmsburg on March 31 from 7 to 9 p.m. His CD, Out of the Blue, is available at Mountain Made Music in Nashville and in Bloomington at Borders, Bloomingfoods, and All Ears.