Keyboardist, John ‘Papa’ Gros, is global music ambassador

New Orleans-based musician John “Papa” Gros was sidelined by the pandemic in 2020 and had a tree crush part of his house in 2021 during a hurricane but he considers himself lucky to be on the road and performing, which includes a show at The Brightside in Dayton on Wednesday, Sept. 14. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

New Orleans-based musician John “Papa” Gros was sidelined by the pandemic in 2020 and had a tree crush part of his house in 2021 during a hurricane but he considers himself lucky to be on the road and performing, which includes a show at The Brightside in Dayton on Wednesday, Sept. 14. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Q: Is the repair work over?

A: We’re still rebuilding. We’re in the house now and functioning but the work is not done. We’re about 85 percent done so we’re functioning in the house but we’re not living well there yet. We get a little bit closer every week so we’re making progress. We’re just taking the good as it comes.

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Q: What else can you do?

A: Absolutely, because the music business was never easy for me. I’ve run into brick walls left and right. The most common word I ever hear about everything is ‘no.’ It’s ‘no, no, no.’ It’s difficult but the pandemic was a different version of hard. Survival takes hard work, perseverance and being dedicated to not giving up. I definitely believe musicians are like cockroaches, we can survive just about anything in some kind of way and that was my mentality. The good news is, I was able to be home to take care of things with the repairs.

Q: How did you handle the absence of live shows during lockdown?

A: I was completely lost. I was stunned and shell shocked because I spent the previous year writing, recording and planning the release of my third solo record. It was a big deal and, for the first time, I had it all done. I had all my ducks in a row and actually planned a release instead of rushing to get it out and then just throwing it out there. We actually hired a publicist and had all of this different stuff scheduled. The release date was mid-April of 2020. By mid-March, everything was shut down and I was out of money because I put everything I had into the record and the release. We had a great summer schedule booked so 2020 was going to be my year. That was going to be it and, boy, it couldn’t have been further from the truth. So, I pressure washed my house and the backyard. I just did manual labor and tried to forget about it as best I could.

Q: How did you move on from that?

A: A couple of friends called me and said, ‘Dude, you’ve got to get on this livestreaming. People out there want to hear some music.’ I dove into live streaming and the response was great. The support was great and that’s what got me through it. I figured it out at a decent level and was able to keep my band working, although not all of us at the same time. We did different groups of three or four of us at a time.

New Orleans-based musician John “Papa” Gros, who released his album, “Central City,” in April 2020, performs at The Brightside in Dayton on Wednesday, Sept. 14. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

New Orleans-based musician John “Papa” Gros, who released his album, “Central City,” in April 2020, performs at The Brightside in Dayton on Wednesday, Sept.  14. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

New Orleans-based musician John “Papa” Gros, who released his album, “Central City,” in April 2020, performs at The Brightside in Dayton on Wednesday, Sept. 14. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Q: How did that work out?

A: It was great because we learned new songs, we got tighter and we worked up better arrangements of songs. A lot of bands couldn’t play but we actually played a lot. I was streaming every week so we’d do a rehearsal the day before and work on the music. Then, we’d have another technical rehearsal for camera angles and a sound check. It got to be almost like a mini TV studio operation. My studio was damaged by the tree but we’ll start doing more livestreams once we get that up and running again. The good thing about doing them over the course of the year is the band got stronger and better. Once we were able to start playing, we sounded pretty good. In hindsight, it worked out really well for me and my guys. I was able to keep money in their pockets and food on the table and, socially, we helped each other through it. When you can’t do what you’re supposed to do, there’s a big void in your life. Musician depression was huge during the pandemic so this really helped us get through it on the emotional side.

Q: How did it feel when you got back out in front of people?

A: It reminded me this is what I was meant to do. After Hurricane Katrina, I went from being a musician, overnight, to being a cultural ambassador for New Orleans. During the pandemic, I was just a musical ambassador. Our number one job description is bringing people together through music. When you can’t do that, there’s a big void. We’ve done many gigs where people come up and say, ‘This is our first time hearing live music. Thank you, thank you, thank you.’ That really solidified that playing music is more than a job, it’s my calling. I am an ambassador for music. It’s fulfilling and I’m so lucky I can be that guy.

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at [email protected].

HOW TO GO

Who: John “Papa” Gros with Solistic

Where: The Brightside, 905 E. Third St., Dayton

When: 8 pm Wednesday, Sept. 14

Cost: $15 in advance

More information: 937-410-0450 or www.thebrightsidedayton.com

Artist info: https://johnpapagros.com

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