Brother Dege songs are swamp grass, Bayou blues, and eerie Louisiana voodoo all rolled into one. His steel resonator joins slide guitar and harmonica in a raw, dirty, and Cajun coalition of outlaw country and grungy blues. The humid and haunted sound of the LaFayette musician oozes up like pluff mud in a slow, heavy, and trancelike stupor that at any moment could suck you back under.
Brother Dege created the term "psyouthern" to describe his music, which was inspired by the geography and culture of his deeply Southern roots. "Louisiana is swampy and hot with a lot of mystery," says Dege Legg, his real name, between bites of beef jerky. "It's like living in the ruins of Disneyland if it were 30 feet below sea level and hundreds of years old. The energy's different. It's got a dark energy, a spooky energy."
In addition to having his music used on the Discovery Channel and the National Geographic channel, Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained prominently featured Brother Dege's song "Too Young to Die," one of his many tracks that strives to keep pure, genuine Southern rock music alive. "Southern rock 'n' roll bands these days are imitating Lynyrd Skynyrd and hipster-dressing themselves," Legg says. "There is a lot of imitation and forging creativity. Creating the music I do makes me happy, not because people like it, but because it is honest. It has been therapeutic for me and helps me make sense of the world."
The swamp-souled musician, whose most recent compilation is a double-album entitled Scorched Earth Policy, founded the swampadelic band Santeria in 1994 and gigged around with them for 10 years before going solo. His decision to go out on his own was not by choice, but by circumstance. "All those guys got married and had kids and bought houses and decided that that's what they wanted to do," Legg says. "I ended up living in motels and trailer parks and just kept doing music. It was all I wanted to do, all I could do."
During his vagabond days, Legg recorded music anywhere and everywhere he could find. That included abandoned houses, haunted buildings, trailer parks, empty warehouses, fishing ponds, backwoods clearings, anywhere that he felt he was finding himself and drawing inspiration from. "Studios are expensive, and I'm not a rich kid with a trust fund waiting," Legg says. "I do it myself, and I've gotten better at it over time. Then, I work with professionals to mix and master it, not like there's any smoke and mirrors."
Legg feels more whole when he is creating music in a solitary environment, which is why he has kept recording and playing in unusual places that, to him, are simply an extension of his music and himself. "I've played more music alone in abandoned rooms than I have in front of people," says Legg. "The stage is an unnatural place to be when you are doing an art from deep down. It's also a vulnerable place to be in front of people you don't know, and they can react any way they want. Sometimes they don't give a shit, and sometimes they love it. One is a form of meditation and one is a form of performance art or theater."
Legg also draws insight from art and film. Picasso and Dali stir up abstract discoveries in Legg's modern take on old Southern sounds. Meanwhile, John Kerouac and Arthur Miller provoke philosophical reflection that is integral to the folk genre. Though these artists offer inspiration, Legg creates music that he sees as his own. "I'm not putting a bunch of thought power into consciously making my music different," says Legg. "It's the way it naturally comes out. And the difficult thing with that is you have to learn to come to terms with it. You've got to leave the insecurities. Fuck all that, and do your own thing. The only option is to do your own thing."
Beyond music, Legg is an author and a journalist. For him, the lyricism and authorship both feed off each other in a creative spiral. "The creative life chooses you if you're really meant to do it," Legg says. "When you're younger, you're still trying on different uniforms of what you think you are going to be, and some of those stay on you for a year or two while some of those you phase out of. I wasn't financially successful at it for a long time, and I'm not crazy successful now. I'm still an independent artist. You're constantly questioning yourself, 'Am I even good at this?' But it's all a part of soul searching."