After missing last year's New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival because she was roughly eight months pregnant, singer-songwriter Theresa Andersson is thrilled to be back this year _ and just in time to perform songs from her new album, "Street Parade."
The Swedish-born multi-instrumentalist has two Jazz Fest appearances this weekend: She'll play songs from her new release with her band Friday and return to the Fair Grounds racetrack Saturday for a duet with her friend and mentor, jazz singer-songwriter and pianist Allen Toussaint.
"I just love playing festivals," said Andersson, who has lived in New Orleans for more than 20 years. "Festivals are really infectious, especially in New Orleans. They're upbeat, because people don't like to sit down. They like to dance and groove and have a good time."
Andersson is one of roughly 200 acts performing the second weekend of Jazz Fest, which kicks off Thursday and concludes Sunday. The lineup also includes Marcia Ball, Irma Thomas, Jimmy Buffett, Better Than Ezra, the Eagles, My Morning Jacket, Ne-Yo, Foo Fighters, Rebirth Brass Band and the Neville Brothers.
On Friday, Andersson will lead a 10-piece marching band when she performs songs from "Street Parade," which was released April 24. She said she wrote most of the new album while pregnant with her now 10-month-old daughter, Elsie. But her inspiration for the project stemmed from an experience preceding her pregnancy _ a 2010 Mardi Gras parade she attended after returning home from a long tour for her last album, "Hummingbird, Go!"
"One project was ending, and I wasn't sure what the next one was going to be," she said. "It felt like a mirror of my own life at the time."
Andersson said after the parade floats, marching bands and revelers passed by, there was a "quiet energy" in that moment just after a parade passed and just before another approached. She said that experience served as a metaphor for her life at the time.
"I didn't even know at that moment that I would soon be becoming a mother," she recalled. "I just liked the different take on the street parade (than) you think of."
The drums, voice and horns on the album are all recorded in marching band style, "but not a typical marching band," she said. "It's my interpretation. It's very rhythmical, but still very quiet."
Andersson said she designed the album cover in black and white with just a pale splash of pinkish-purple to "sort of draw you into the next phase, the next day, the next album."
Being pregnant added a very special component to the album, she said.
"To grow this record while also growing a human being was a very spiritual experience for me," she said. "It was a work of love. This album is an ode to New Orleans but also to my daughter."
Andersson, whose music has been described as indie soul, said she's looking forward to performing with Toussaint on Saturday.
"We have, dare I say this, a mutual adoration for each other's work," she said. "I love his work and to hear him talk about music. I have a lot of respect for what he's done for New Orleans music."
Andersson said Toussaint has helped form the city's music scene through his work with such artists as the Meters, Irma Thomas and Dr. John.
"All the people he's worked with, he has helped shape and define the New Orleans sound," she said.
Andersson said she enjoys touring but always returns to New Orleans for spring festival season, which kicks off with French Quarter Festival and runs through the Jazz Fest.
"The festivals, that's when I get to play with the people I haven't been able to play with in many months," she said. "I get to have jam sessions. This year I'm working with a band, so I get to play with a lot of musicians, and it's fun, just to hang out, catch up and jam."
Festival season is also a great way to showcase new work, she said.
"It is the time to show the rest of the world what we do in New Orleans and to showcase yourself," she said. "It's a great opportunity for everybody who lives here and works here all year long. I think that's why people come here, so that they can see the real New Orleans music scene."
When performing overseas, Andersson said she is often asked about the status of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 and the 2010 BP oil spill.
"Those are two huge unfortunate landmarks that have gotten so much attention, so people remember that and that's where conversations start," she said. "But I tell people we still eat fish in New Orleans, homes are being rebuilt, the roads are looking better, and we're living life. Then the conversation quickly moves on to the music, which is great."