Greenville Preview: Hayes Carll
After having mild success with two independent albums during the past five years, Hayes Carll seems poised for a major breakthrough with his latest effort.
The talented Texas singer-songwriter recently released a new album, 'Trouble in Mind,' on Universal Music Group's Lost Highway imprint and has been tearing up the Americana charts while receiving a substantial amount of critical praise.
'It's been a fun ride,' Carll said. 'I still think back to our first tour when (my debut album) ‘Flowers and Liquor' came out, and I was just trying to get out of Texas and wanting to see if there was anybody out there that would like my music.'
While Carll primarily writes his own material, it's worth noting that he co-wrote songs with acclaimed songwriters Ray Wylie Hubbard and Darrell Scott on his latest album.
'It's still a huge thrill that people like that let me in the door,' Carll said.
Carll has certainly come a long way from his humble musical beginnings in Crystal Beach, Texas, a small Gulf Coast community where he used to play for tips in a bar.
'Crystal Beach is sort of a quirky town,' Carll said. 'You've got to take a ferry across the bay to get there, and not a lot of people know anything about it. There is a tourism industry, but during the winter, it's basically just locals who are running low — avoiding taxes and the government or their ex-wives or the law or whatever. You meet a lot of interesting characters with crazy stories and a lot of weird nicknames that kind of lend themselves to having songs written about them.'
The influence of Carll's formative years there can be felt in such songs from his latest album as the waltz-flavored 'Beaumont' and the bluesy 'I Got a Gig.'
'While it wasn't Carnegie Hall, the experience at that little club in Crystal Beach, Texas, helped me become the songwriter and performer that I am,' Carll said.
Highlights from 'Trouble in Mind' include a cover of Tom Waits' 'I Don't Wanna Grow Up' and the satirical, 'She Left Me for Jesus,' co-written with South Carolina native Brian Keane. The latter has received much scrutiny.
'Brian started telling this story about going on a date with a girl, and the first time they went out, she said, ‘Before we go any further, are you prepared to handle my personal relationship with Jesus Christ?' ' Carll said. 'And we thought, ‘Well, what if the answer was no?' And beyond that, ‘What if it was some guy who was religiously uneducated and wasn't sure who Jesus was? How would our guy handle that?'
'And our answer was that he'd try to track him down and beat him up. … A lot of people might take it the wrong way, but it's not aimed at Jesus or God in anyway. It's satire.'
The beauty of Carll's songwriting is his uncanny ability to take ordinary topics and cleverly transform them into wry — and often humorous — observations.
'I started out trying to be Bob Dylan and Townes Van Zandt, and I realized very early on that's close to impossible,' Carll said. 'All you can do is just sort of try to look at things from all angles and see which one is the most interesting and the most relevant, and then you just try to put a unique slant on it.'
Want to go?
Hayes Carll with opening act Mac Leaphart
8:30 p.m. Tuesday
The Handlebar, 304 E. Stone Ave., Greenville