Chickie Wah Wah, New Orleans
"It's a tribute to his growth as a musician that this much firepower could appear on an album that stays resolutely in service to the song." - John Swenson, Offbeat Magazine 2013 review of the album “Naked”
Billy Iuso (pronounced Eye-You-Sew) is a New York native who formed the funky, psychedelic guitar-fronted, jam funk pioneers Brides of Jesus in the early ‘90s. They quickly developed a strong following in the Wetlands scene alongside Warren Haynes, Blues Traveler and the Spin Doctors. As the Brides’ popularity continued to soar they shared bills with Widespread Panic and the Dave Matthews Band. While touring and collaborating with a host of key members of the jam band community, Billy explored the roots of the bands that influenced him most – including Little Feat, whose music turned him on to the Meters. Eventually, he opened for the Funky Meters at shows across the country. It wasn’t long before George Porter Jr. and Art Neville were encouraging him to relocate to New Orleans permanently, which he did in 1996 and has planted his roots there with his wife and three children.
Billy established himself in the live music scene in New Orleans, forming his current band Billy Iuso and Restless Natives (BIRN) in 2002.
BIRN consists of long time members Eddie Christmas on drums, Michael Burkart and Drew Meez on vocals and keyboards. Additionally, Sage Rouge has stepped in with her raging saxophone and dynamic vocals and Reggie Scanlan of the legendary New Orleans Radiators has taken control of the bass.
Billy’s discography consists of eleven albums that span over three decades. As well as half a dozen albums he has contributed to with other artists such as Anders Osborne & Russell Batiste.
In 2010 a song “Trippin’ Over Dragons” from his 8th album Trippin’ sparked a new chapter in his career. It was played countless times on New Orleans WWOZ Radio and still remains a fan favorite. This spark led his inspiration for his next album, Naked, in 2013. His newly sharpened focus on singing and lyric writing received critical acclaim and plenty of love from his national fan base. Now front and center in a way they’ve never been before, Billy’s earthy vocal tone and the disarmingly raw sentiments embedded in his lyrics lend a richer dynamic to the muscular fretwork that’s always powered his performance. Combined with shifting blues-rock textures, echoes of psychedelia, and soulful New Orleans funk rhythms, the results paved the way for a reinvigorated, more song-centric direction in Billy’s artistic output.
In 2014, he took those concepts a step further, returning to the studio to record Overstanding with an all-star cast of special guests including George Porter Jr., Art and Ivan Neville, and Alfred “Uganda” Roberts, just to name a few. His latest recording is 2017’s Home By The Sea, which Offbeat Magazine said “provides for a rich, diversified texture to Iuso’s Deadhead sensibilities. Yet, the big revelation here is the eloquence of Iuso’s lyricism and song structure.”
Billy was a founding member of Dead Feat alongside Grateful Dead alum Bill Kreutzmann and Little Feat’s Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett. In previous years he performed regularly with Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias and Anders Osborne. Today the Restless Natives remain a local New Orleans music scene staple. Along with Billy’s acoustic performances, you can also catch him with his Grateful Dead tribute act “IKO Allstars” which is a collaboration consisting of New Orleans musicians.
Citing many artists such as Porter, Art Neville, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Paul Weller, Steve Winwood, Jason Isbell among his many muses, Billy’s inspiration comes from a variety of words, sounds, and musicians. “I’m writing more songs as I get older,” he says. “Sometimes a new song comes from a story, sometimes from a guitar riff – each one has its own life." With this inspiration in mind, Billy is currently working on a new album that he hopes to release in the coming year.