Stories » Jon Batiste conducts npr: FRESH AIR interview sitting at the piano, demonstrating his style and influences

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Jon Batiste conducts npr: FRESH AIR interview sitting at the piano, demonstrating his style and influences

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npr - FRESH AIR segment

Music came naturally to Jon Batiste, the leader of Stay Human, the house band for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Growing up outside of New Orleans as part of a large musical family, he says, "I picked up on all of these things that are integral to who I am as a musician without necessarily studying them." By the time he was 8 years old, Batiste was fronting and singing lead for his family's band. Looking back, he says, the band was "a real celebration of our family."

But after about a year, Batiste's introverted nature got the best of him. He quit singing and instead began focusing on musical instruments - first drums and percussion and then, when he was 11, piano. Batiste developed a unique style at the piano that combines a clearly articulated touch with strong emotions. He likens his playing to making gumbo: "You put everything in the pot and in the moment, you just fly."

Batiste's latest album, Hollywood Africans, is a mix of boogie woogie, blues, standards and originals, including compositions inspired by classical music. Batiste conducted this interview while sitting at a piano, which he used throughout this conversation to demonstrate his style and influences. 

READ & LISTEN TO THE NPR: FRESH AIR INTERVIEW