Interview: John Schneider

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“I look around and all I see is flood,” says iconic entertainer John Schneider, whose latest album chronicles his experiences during the devastating flood that ransacked his southern Louisiana community last August. “We received 36 inches of rain in 10 hours; the ground was saturated, and there was no where for the water to go. It just kept rising.” The record was titled Ruffled Skirts, named for trailer wheel covers ruined by flood waters.

“Natural disasters happen everywhere and at any moment,” he adds. “Someone told me last week that a flood is the worst thing that could happen—when there’s fire, it wipes everything out. A flood, gives you false hope; water gets into everything—drawers, storage bins—and you keep finding reminders for years of things you didn’t even know you’d lost.”

Several years ago, Schneider established his business, John Schneider Studios, on 58 acres of land to give independent filmmakers a place to make movies. Known for starring as Bo Duke in “The Dukes Of Hazzard” and Superman’s father, John Kent, in “Smallville,” as well as other television shows and movies, it was the flood that got him behind the microphone again. “We’re a mom and pop entertainment company in a world of box store entertainment companies. People know me from ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’, and the Dukes were always fighting the system. This business model is about fighting the system on every front,” he explains. “There is lunacy in Hollywood at the moment, and there’s never been a better time to buck the system.”

Inspired by the resilience of his neighbors in the face of devastation, Schneider crafted his most honest work yet, and recorded it with a band assembled in the twisted mess and buckled wooden floors of his living room. “In a very real way, you can actually feel the music, not only because the songs are all true and written from observations made as people’s lives were being swept away, but also, there’s joy,” he says. Schneider sings of neighbors fishing from floating lawn chairs and rooftops, and power outages that inspired spontaneous barbecues to share smoked delicacies with passersby. He also sings of flood casualties and tremendous loss.  All of the stories are true. “They made the best of a terrible situation,” he says. “It’s a testament to the people who live here.”

The album also features a song dedicated to notorious government entity FEMA. “FEMA can’t help it, it’s a flawed system,” he says with a laugh. “They come into a disaster area where thousands of people have lost their homes and have nowhere to go, and the first thing they do is snatch up all the hotel rooms. That just doesn’t make sense. There are homeless folks having to trek sometimes 100 miles to find a hotel or somewhere to stay while they clean up the mess that’s been made of their lives. There are absurd rules and arbitrary regulations that get put in place—our friends who have a restaurant, lost all of their equipment and food, but according to the reports, they were denied FEMA assistance because the flood didn’t actually destroy their business, it was destroyed by the wake of the boats going by on what used to be the road, so they were denied assistance. There were people who were living in tents for a month because the steps on the FEMA trailers (delivered a month after the flood) were on backorder for six more weeks. It just went on and on,” he continues. “Down here, people say FEMA is an acronym for ‘Fix Everything, My Ass.’”

Schneider also brings to our attention the civilian rescue brigade known as the Cajun Navy. “The Cajun Navy was all over this disaster; a lot of them had lost their homes and everything they had, but they had a bass boat attached to the back of a pickup truck, and they went out to see if they could help anyone who was in need. They saved dogs, cats, young people, old people, it was remarkable,” he says. “They were in the motorboats going down what used to be Highway 190, looking for anyone who need help. I thought a great tribute to these amazing men and women, who were really like Minutemen, would be to name my band after them.”

At 10 songs strong, Ruffled Skirts is a twangy tribute to perseverance and fortitude in the face of tragedy. “I’ve done music before—this is my sixteenth record—but this is what I would consider my truth. I’m so proud of it, it’s the best record I’ve ever made. People are fed up with b.s. more than ever before,” he declares. “And this record is no b.s.”

Listen to Ruffled Skirtshttps://open.spotify.com/album/3YQ7NeuLzcOmYrquldQvkL

 

Purchase Ruffled Skirtshttps://itunes.apple.com/us/album/ruffled-skirts-feat.-cajun/id1196562180

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Susan Hubbard

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