Galactic vet Maggie Koerner ready to visit ‘old friends’

Maggie Koerner arrived in New Orleans by way of Shreveport and quickly made friends and fans with her pristine vocals and soulful power. After releasing her album “Neutral Ground,” her fan base expanded across the Gulf Coast. Eventually, her talent and infectious stage presence earned her a spot as the lead vocalist for legendary funk band Galactic. Today, she is preparing for a set at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and working on her solo material.

But before she takes the stage at Jazz Fest, Koerner will give the Azalea City a preview of her new material as the SouthSounds headliner Friday night. Last week, Koerner spoke with Lagniappe and discussed her recent work.

SC: You’ll be returning to Jazz Fest this year. Many know what it’s like from the audience’s perspective. What’s it like to be an artist playing that event?

Maggie Koerner will play at the Cathedral Square stage April 10 at 8 p.m.

Maggie Koerner will play at the Cathedral Square stage April 10 at 8 p.m.

MK: It’s been different every year. The first year was with my band on the Lagniappe Stage (no relation to this publication). The second year was with Galactic, and this year will be with my band again. The first time I played Jazz Fest, we almost got our set cut, because of the rain and the flooding. I was so nervous and totally a ball of nerves. With Galactic last year, I wasn’t nervous at all. I was like, “Alright, this is a moment, and you’re in control. You can go out there and show them what you’re capable of. This is your chance.” It was one of those dream-come-true moments. I always wanted to play a big stage at Jazz Fest, ever since I was a kid. Jazz Fest crowds at the Lagniappe Stage really listen to the music. They’re sitting down in the shade, and it’s a refuge from the sun. I look at it as an opportunity to have these songs heard and give an intimate performance. Everybody is there to hear the music, but the Lagniappe Stage is more of an intimate crowd.

SC: I’ve noticed over the past few years that there is this feeling of camaraderie with the newer generation of New Orleans bands coming around. What’s it like being in a scene like that? Would you say there’s more camaraderie?

MK: I don’t know. I was living in Shreveport, and I had some amazing musician and singer-songwriter friends in Shreveport. I knew Kristin Diable and David Shaw of The Revivalists. I was like, “Well, those are two friends in the music business down there.” So, that gave me the courage to move. Then, once I moved down here, I realized that Andrew Duhon is here, and I went to college with him. We used to do the open mics at Mellow Mushroom. Then, I met The Cardinal Sons and David Shirley — the drummer — started playing with me. We’re all really good friends, and we’re all connected through each other. It’s this really great family. I feel like I have a lot of brothers in this town between The Cardinal Sons and The Revivalists and Galactic. I have one hell of a sister in Kristin Diable. There’s no competition. There’s way less ego than there is in other cities. Everybody is just happy to hang out with each other. We’re living this life like we’re in high school. New Orleans is this really fun city that we get to live in and play together. Like tonight, The Revivalists are playing, and I was texting David. He was like, “Hey, why don’t you come on stage and do a song with us.” We’re all friends, and we’re all chasing our dream. It’s magical that we get to hang out and create.

SC: What was it like touring with Galactic? Do you miss it?

MK: Of course! It was like going to stage/singer college. You have to step up your game, and you have to front a band that’s been playing for 20 years. They have loyal fans, and you’re playing in front of one of the best drummers in the world. I had to step it up and be better than playing at the dive bar for four hours and making $100 and playing for 20 people. It was a completely new opportunity for me that helped me grow so quickly in such a short period of time. I’m so grateful for the opportunity. I miss the energy and the crowds. Galactic fans are some of the best people. They’re so sweet. I miss the guys so much. I formed some incredible friendships with some of them, if not all of them. They tour all the time. Eight times out of 10 they’re gone. The whole experience was so lovely and so wonderful.

SC: Now that you’re back concentrating on your own material, what have you been up to? How have you been spending your time?

MK: I’ve been writing my new album and traveling and writing. I’ve been going to Los Angeles and Nashville and New York. I’ve writing in New Orleans with friends like The Cardinal Sons and David Shaw. I’ve been chilling out and working on myself and being present and being cool and being still.
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SC: When can we expect the new album?

MK: I don’t know. I wish I could tell you. Everything is in the works. Nothing is official yet. We’re putting ducks in a row right now as far as scheduling for studio time and all that good stuff. There are a lot of festivals that I will be playing this spring and this summer. We recently played our first couple of gigs in Florida and Mobile. It was really incredible to hear those songs come together live for the first time, and the audience reacted so beautifully. They loved the songs. We’re kinda just testing it out right now, and I’m taking my time. That’s the beauty of this. Before, I was always controlled by time and doing it alone. I had my father help me and my band members help me. I didn’t have a manager at the time, and now, I have a wonderful manager. I’m cool with taking my time. It’ll all happen. I’m not in fear anymore. The songs are good, and I’m excited to get them out as soon as possible.

SC: How does it feel to be getting back to the Mobile crowd?

MK: I always love coming back to Mobile. It doesn’t matter where I play or who I’m playing for. The people in Mobile always come out and support. Honestly, it feels like I’m hanging out with old friends from back in the day. I’ve gotten to know a bunch of people and gotten to know their faces and names. It’s cool. I really have been playing predominantly for the Gulf Coast for the past three or four years. I had a fan come up to me at Callaghan’s and tell me, “You know, we’ve really watched you grow up over the past three or four years. It’s been pretty incredible to watch you play the shows that you used to play, and now, look at this crowd tonight.” It’s so incredible.

Band: Maggie Koerner
Date: Friday, April 10 at 8 p.m.
Stage: Cathedral Square Stage

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