Baton Rouge-Marlowe Shepherd sat in the back corner of Highland Coffees Monday night with a tip jar in front of him and a guitar on his lap that matched the color of his signature fedora.
Shepherd lit a cigarette, took a single puff, and then placed it beside him for later.
His fingers began to pull gently at the guitar strings the same moment he started to sing into the microphone, an entire 18-minutes past the time his set was intended to start.
Highland Coffees is known for its coffees, teas and pastries, but they also have a wide variety of talents that perform on their property.
Clarke Cadzow, the owner of Highland Coffees, said the establishment has provided live entertainment for customers for 25 of the 26 years it’s been in business.
“Of course we never charge. It’s never a charge, it’s just something provided for the customers,” Cadzow said.
At Highland Coffees start nearly three decades ago, they hosted regularly scheduled live-music events, including everything from jazz and classical to duos and quartets, Cadzow said.
“The message I got from customers was that we really like the music, but we don’t come to Highland Coffees for that,” Cadzow said. “They found the music a little bit distracting.
Now, Highland Coffees offers no strict schedule for live music, but it is a regularly based thing, Cadzow said.
“We try to do things that are different,” Cadzow said.
The Highlander event, which showcased eight bands at the coffee shop in 2014 remains to be one of Cadzow’s favorite events, he said.
Highland Coffees not only offers live performances by singers and songwriters traveling through Baton Rouge or those who are already members of the Baton Rouge community, but they also host poetry readings, Cadzow said.
Hayley Abraham, a sophomore petroleum-engineer major at Louisiana State University, said Monday night was her first time at Highland Coffees that they were hosting a live music event.
“It was very cozy. Very relaxed. I was scared at first that the music would be too much to concentrate, but it actually helped,” Abraham said.
Shepherd said his music style is close to acoustic street jazz, but he also describes it as mellow-blues and singer-songwriter. He originated as a street performer from Indiana, who has played everywhere from New York subways to the streets of London.
“I’m moving fast. I travel alone,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd made it clear that he doesn’t like to be tied down. His music is removed from all streaming sites and only available on vinyl, his website is hard to find using a regular search engine and he travels without a band because they can never play to his style, he said.
Shepherd’s style is to play multiple shows in one day, he said. Monday he played the Landmark Nursing Center as well as Highland Coffees and Lava Cantina in Perkins Rowe.
“Some of the best, like uh, most memorable moments on tour are at the nursing homes,” Shepherd said.
Cadzow said it was actually Shepherd that came in contact with him about playing at Highland Coffees. Shepherd is touring on his Loss Leader’s tour and called Cadzow because one of the places he enjoys playing at most is coffee shops.
After a fifteen-minute break from his two hour set, Shepherd returns to the iron chair he started his show in and picks up his guitar, but that’s not before tipping his hat to a coffee-shop goer as they pass him by on the way out.
“That’s the brand,” Shepherd said, referring to the fedora that is pictured across all mediums of his music.