‘Native’ son returns home to perform with Brulé SaturdayWORTHINGTON — Come June, Paul Summers LaRoche will find himself performing on stage of the renowned Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., joining country music legends such as Marty Stuart, the Oak Ridge Boys and Tanya Tucker.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Come June, Paul Summers LaRoche will find himself performing on stage of the renowned Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., joining country music legends such as Marty Stuart, the Oak Ridge Boys and Tanya Tucker.
But first, the man who grew up as an adopted son in Worthington and discovered his Native American Lakota heritage in 1993, will return to his hometown to present a concert Friday at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center in Worthington.
Paul’s band, Brulé, has become one of the top-selling Native American recording groups with more than a million CDs sold worldwide. A family affair, Brulé features Paul, daughter Nicole and son Shane as musicians, while wife Kathy handles the business end of things. The Brulé experience is rounded out by the inclusion of other Native American musicians and dancers.
“We’ve expanded the group over the years,” Paul explained during a recent phone interview from the LaRoches’ home base in Sioux Falls, S.D. “It started out as a duo, Nicole and I, then we switched to a four-piece rock band, except that we had a traditional, Native American drummer. Now we’ve got two traditional drummers and a rock drummer, so it’s a three-person percussion section, Shane on guitar, Nicole on flute, myself on keyboards. The dances have been refined; we’ve worked hard on the storylines.”
The Worthington show is part of Brulé’s spring tour, which also includes stops in Watertown, Aberdeen and Pierre in South Dakota; Fargo, N.D; Grand Rapids, Rochester and Willmar.
“We wanted to bring the show to the smaller communities,” Paul noted. “That’s been a desire of ours over the years. We’ll be doing some new material, some of the stuff off of our most recent CD releases. And we’re starting to debut what I call the culmination of all our years of writing — the rock opera. We’ve used that moniker for several years now — AIRO, the American Indian Rock Opera — and we’re starting to set the precedence for the ultimate stage version of our show. It’s a little bit bigger proposition than Brulé with multiple singers. It’s more of a contemporary approach to the music, but I think we still maintain the original Brulé sound. This summer, I may get the rock opera finished, but we’ll do little bits and pieces of it in Worthington.”
Paul will have to find time to finish the rock opera while focusing on some interesting new ventures. Brulé will move its annual Fourth of July concert — which has taken place at Mount Rushmore for eight years — to Mitchell, S.D., where they hope to eventually create a permanent outdoor concert venue adjacent to the Archeodome Prehistoric Indian Village site.
“Mount Rushmore was probably the biggest project we ever tackled and the scariest thing we ever did,” Paul noted. “We did a one-hour version of the ‘Concert for Reconciliation of the Cultures’ for television, and out of the 50 states in the U.S. had 48 states that ran the program on their PBS affiliate. … We got a lot of mileage out of that as far as exposure, and it made a big statement with the work on reconciliation. The concert in Mitchell will be an extension of that. We’re going to film it for television again and have it ready for broadcast at the holiday season.”
The Nashville concert coming up this summer came about through Paul’s recent affiliation with national cable channel RFD-TV.
“We were broached to bring content to a program that covers Native Americans,” he explained. “The more I thought about it, I couldn’t pass the offer by. We’ll start to broadcast on Sept. 1, and we’ll produce 20 episodes for the first year. It’s going to be a half-hour series with three little stories in each episode. … They’ll be positive, uplifting stories with happy endings. We began working on content about a month ago. It’s not about Brulé; I didn’t want it to be the Brulé show. I want to bring Native America from behind the shroud of mystery.”
Country star Marty Stuart also has a regular program on RFD, and through that affiliation the two performers began to talk about opportunities for collaboration. In addition to the Ryman Auditorium performance on June 10, Stuart and Brulé are cementing plans to tour together, and there may be opportunities for some shows in Europe, where RFD begins airing in the near future.
“I really attribute some of what’s happening now to how we’ve been patient,” Paul said. “We’ve always kept a rigorous touring schedule, put out 15 CDs, three DVDs, and the word of mouth has really filtered and networked out.”
Paul looks forward to Friday’s concert in Worthington, providing the opportunity to showcase his most recent endeavors, the talents of his children and reconnect with friends and local supporters.
“I have always considered Worthington my hometown, and I brag it up consistently,” Paul said. “One thing I’m proud of is this group and this family have stayed together for 15 years, and I’m proud to bring it back to the place where this thing really began. It’s an important stop for us.”
Brulé and AIRO will take to the stage of Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m. Friday. For ticket information, stop at the Memorial Auditorium box office or phone 376-9101 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.