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New Orleans musician reflects on performing live again after COVID venue closures

Ahead of a recent show at Tipitina's, WWLTV’s Paul Dudley caught up with Gros as he reflected on what it was like to find a different way to connect with audiences.

NEW ORLEANS — John Papa Gros is playing live shows again. 

The New Orleans keyboardist, singer and songwriter has been getting back to doing what he loves, performing across the country and here at home. It’s quite a change from the last time we spoke to Gros back in July of 2020 as he learned all of his gigs were cancelled. 

Ahead of a recent show at Tipitina's, WWLTV’s Paul Dudley caught up with Gros as he reflected on what it was like to find a different way to connect with his audience and make a living as Covid forced venues to close.  

“Do you remember what you were feeling during that time?” asked Dudley. “ At first, it was just lost and hopeless. But through that process, I rediscovered what my purpose is. My purpose is to play music to make people happy.”

As soon as he learned his shows were all cancelled, Gros got a camera, some lights and started performing virtually. He even traded in the keys he’s so famous for, for a guitar at one point just to keep things fresh. 

“Because I had run out of ideas,” said Gros. “I hadn’t played acoustic guitar in probably 15 years.”

While virtual audiences were generous, the money wasn’t quite the same as playing live shows.

“Was there ever a part of you during quarantine where you thought, ‘I am just going to give up on music and I am going to find something else to do?’” asked Dudley. “Not a chance. I said this a long time ago and the pandemic really proved it true -- musicians are like cockroaches, we will find a way to survive.”  

Gros managed to find a silver lining. He started practicing again, learning and writing new songs. The process allowed him to reconnect with his passion.

“It gave me a reason to practice music again, instead, before the pandemic, you are booking gigs, you are rushing over to the gigs, you are rehearsing with bands, making phone calls, sending emails, breaking down, getting to the next venue,” said Gros. “There is not a lot of time for just sitting at a piano and practicing music.”

Gros admits he still has covid concerns, especially as the winter forces more crowds inside but for now he is back touring across the country and playing here at home. The audiences aren’t as big as they once were but they are just as passionate as they used to be.

“The hardcore music fans that live and breathe on live music, they are all out there. It feels so good to get out of the house and enjoy being a part of live music because live music can only happen if there is a performer and an audience together.” 

Gros’ next public local show is at the Broadside Dec. 30th.