Little Rock Preview: Hayes Carll
As with many a liberal arts student, Hendrix College in Conway prepared Hayes Carll for jobs waiting tables at Red Lobster, digging ditches and tending bar. But the graduate with a history degree and a minor in theater also learned how to think for himself, and after giving it some thought, Carll embarked on a career as a singer-songwriter.
Not necessarily a "serious" singer-songwriter, mind you, but Carll is a musician with a sense of humor and the desire to entertain an audience by employing his laconic style, dry wit and drawling voice. A native of the Houston suburbs, Carll is on a path to the big time right now, or at least to the times that have occupied some of his musical idols, such as Ray Wylie Hubbard, Guy Clark, Steve Earle and Bob Dylan.
He’s out on tour promoting his third album, Trouble in Mind, released April 8 by the well-respected label, Lost Highway, home to three more of Carll’s musical favorites - Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett.
"I’m still kinda doing the same thing I’ve always done," Carll says, "but now I have a lot more help.
It’s been good working with them.
They’ve been doing everything I’d hoped for, which is a major part of the reason why I wanted to sign with them."
Carll has just returned from the second annual Stagecoach country music festival in California, where the headliners were The Eagles, George Jones and Dwight Yoakam. His immediate plans are for three weeks of touring Texas, then off to California to tour with The Old 97’s, then on to Europe and Canada for a month in each.
"That’ll take me to October, then I guess I’ll start all over again," he says.
Carll, 32, began his musical climb in deliberate fashion, opting at first to avoid corporate entanglements, instead releasing an independent debut CD (Flowers and Liquor), then self-releasing his second album, Little Rock.
His first album contained 12 songs, 11 of which Carll wrote, along with humorous commentary on each of his songs, as with the final cut, "Barroom Lament," on which he wrote "My first hangout when I moved to Galveston was the Old Quarter Cafe. It’s the best bar ever except that they don’t have liquor, food or customers."
On Carll’s second album, there are 11 songs, seven of which Carll wrote himself, with three of the others co-written with pals, including two of those musical idols, Guy Clark and Ray Wylie Hubbard. On the new album, Hubbardand Carll collaborate again, on the album’s first cut, "Drunken Poet’s Dream." There’s also a cover version of "I Don’t Wanna Grow Up," by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, written in 1992.
"I thought that was something I could do, and I put my own spinon it," Carll says.
After several years of life on the Texas Gulf Coast, Carll now lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, Jenna (not the one who has President Bush as a father) and their 4-year-old son, Eli.
"We moved there about two years ago," Carll says. "My wife, who’s a Hendrix girl, gota job teaching there, and it’s a great town with a great music scene."
For several years, Carll has averaged about 200 shows a year, but he figures there will be more this year.
"With the new album release, I’ll probably top that. I’ve already done 80 or 90."
Hayes Carll 9 p.m. today, Sticky Fingerz Chicken Shack, 107 Commerce St., Little Rock Opening act: Corb Lund