“It seems like he was born to be a star,” says Robert Mercurio, bass player for the renowned New Orleans funk-jazz jam band Galactic, who remembers watching a preteen Andrews play “in amazement.”
Now Andrews, 37, is bringing his trombone, his trumpet and his band, Orleans Avenue, to Wolf Trap on June 17 and 18, with a lineup of musicians that includes Mavis Staples and Ziggy Marley.
Andrews, whose family tree is filled with musicians, has described his sound as “superfunk rock,” a gumbo of jazz, funk, rock, hip-hop, gospel and soul influences. He developed his distinctive blend of styles playing on the street in the French Quarter as an 8-year-old.
“We used to share a spot on the street with a Mexican band and then Grandpa Elliott, a blues musician, and we would watch them play and they would give us pointers,” Andrews says. “I don’t try to mimic others, but I’m a sponge, and the influence comes out naturally, which I think is the most wonderful thing in music. I’m pretty sure after touring with Ziggy, we’ll approach one of our songs with a reggae New Orleans feel.”
Andrews earned a Grammy nomination for his album “Backatown” in 2011 and also won one for co-writing and performing on a track from Jon Batiste’s “We Are.” While he may not be a household name, Andrews has opened for the Rolling Stones and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and has arguably become the face of New Orleans music — his star-studded Treme Threauxdown concerts have become an annual Jazz Fest highlight.
“New Orleans couldn’t ask for a better ambassador,” Mercurio says.
Andrews is as low-key and affably humble offstage as he is energized and dynamic onstage. He says that once he starts playing, the transformation happens organically.
“There’s so much power in the music, and people are dancing and it takes over,” Andrews says. “It’s hard for me to just stand there and play a song. The spirit naturally takes over.”
He relies less on instrumentals as he has grown more confident in his vocals. “When we were coming up, I didn’t even want to introduce the band because I didn’t like the way my voice sounded,” he says, “but over time, I’ve gotten a bit stronger. I’m still working on it very hard.”
Singing gives his live sets more diversity but also actually provides a break. “What we do is very physical, so the vocals give my chops a chance to rest,” he says.
This tour will feature songs from his most recent album, “Lifted,” but Andrews always mixes up the set list. And just because a song gets on the list once doesn’t mean it gets played each night. “There are always at least five songs we don’t get to,” he says. “We’re having so much fun and the energy is so high, I stop paying attention to the time.”
No matter how much they play up the rock or funk or other elements, Andrews says, the foundation remains unchanged. “We always have that New Orleans thing underneath,” he says. “It’s not conscious. It’s just part of our DNA.”
June 17 and 18 at 7 p.m. at Wolf Trap, 1551 Trap Rd., Vienna. $49-$253.