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New Late Show Band Leader Louis Cato Has Been Hiding in Plain Sight

Louis Cato
Scott Kowalchyk/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc
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Louis Cato

Earlier this month Stephen Colbert made an announcement about his band. Jon Batiste would be leaving and Louis Cato would be the new musical director.

For some, Louis Cato is not a familiar name. In fact he has been hiding in plain sight for years now, both as a member of Batiste’s Stay Human Late Show band and also as what he refers to as a super sideman.

Louis Cato is living proof that some people are simply given a gift. Born in Lisbon, Portugal and raised mostly in North Carolina, Louis began playing drums at age 2. By the time he started high school he was a credible drummer, bassist, guitarist, trombone and tuba player. He found his way deeper and deeper into music despite the fact that, as he says, he was “raised in a bubble”. Louis didn’t hear secular music until he was almost 18 years old, but the music he learned in church, and the music he played in the church with his mother gave him a deep foundation for a career in music.

When he did eventually hear the music and the musicians that would inform his professional journey, he quickly understood that he had a place in that world. Soon he was playing with the likes of Marcus Miller, John Scofield, Q-Tip, Snarky Puppy, Jon Batiste, and Bobby McFerrin among others.

He joined the Late Show band when Colbert took over the job as host, back in 2015 and has been a regular on the show ever since.

In this interview, done in 2018, Cato talked about the difference between making music in church and playing secular music, what it means to “learn what you already know” and how surviving a terrible tour-bus accident changed his outlook on life and music.

Leo Sidran is a Latin Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger, composer and creative coach. Since 2014 he has hosted an influential podcast called The Third Story, featuring interviews with musicians, producers, songwriters and creators of all kinds.