It’s nice to hear Jon Batiste talk about the transformative power of music and live performance. A vibrant singer-composer-educator-comedian-multi-instrumentalist from Louisiana, he comes from an artistic clan — at 8 years old, he played percussion in his family’s band, the Batiste Brothers Band. He often tours with his own band, Stay Human, stunning audiences with his soulful vocals and inventive twists on keyboards, spanning genres from jazz to hip-hop to rock to classical.
Batiste, alongside The Dap-Kings, is one of the headliners for the Indian Wells Music Festival, which unfolds April 6–7 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Grammy-winner Jonny Lang, Mindi Abair, and The Boneshakers are also on the roster. The grounds open at 4:30 p.m., where a Lifestyle Village with art, vendors and food are start the experience.
Batiste spoke to Palm Springs Life about the power of performance and the magic music can wield.
It will be nice to have you back in the desert. What do you enjoy about being here?
I enjoy being away from the energy and intensity of city life and how spread out the desert is. You can hear yourself think.
What’s the difference between a solo show and performing as part of a festival?
The Indian Wells Tennis Garden provides an intimate concert setting.
It’s almost like a sporting event in the sense that everybody is there on one accord, really trying to attune into the moment. Which is beautiful, really, because we don’t have many moments where we can come together and be on the same page. There’s a lot of division out there. It’s great that there are these unifying experiences.
What do you love most about what you do?
I like discovering the things I have not learned yet or had not known in music yet, especially when you are doing that with great musicians and inviting the audience into that discovery.
How do you continually evolve as an artist?
I think it’s all about curiosity and exploring things outside of your typical path; finding inspiration in other things outside of music. That’s the real way of evolving — just stay curious.
Have there been individuals in your life, personal or otherwise, who were inspirations for you?
I have always had instructors and mentors in music. Alvin Batiste, the late clarinetist, who was my teacher and one of my distant relatives — he was really great. He knew how to teach you without telling you. He would give you enough to discover on your own, and once you’ve discovered it, he would talk about it and demonstrate it and then build on that. That’s a great teacher. You don’t tell somebody what to do. They figure it out for themselves. Alvin was one of those great instructors. We met when I was 12. That was a big deal.
The Indian Wells Music Festival was previously called the Desert Lexus Jazz Festival.
Why do you think people love musical performances?
Well, we like to see transcendent moments. Like the Coliseum in ancient Rome, you want to see a person transcend the moment and transcend what they thought was possible. There is something that is really incredible about music because it kind of comes out of thin air. You have a bunch of inanimate objects on stage, and you have these people experiencing this amazing, emotional experience, this journey, from them — guitars, keyboards, more.
There aren’t a lot of places you see and feel where people can express their deepest forms of their emotions and do it in a public sphere, where everybody can share in that. That’s a unifying thing. And I think that’s why live performance is great. That’s the one thing the robots won’t take over.
Jon Batiste performs at the Indian Wells Music Festival April 7 in the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, 78200 Miles Ave., Indian Wells. indianwellsmusicfestival.com.