Old-Fashioned Texas Twang
Hayes Carll's first major-label release, Trouble in Mind, came out via Lost Highway in April to rave reviews. Carll hadn't made a record since 2005, which helps explain the disc's broad sonic swath: from Texas to Tennessee, from Earle to Keen to Kristofferson. (There's even a one-off, titled "She Left Me for Jesus," that has created a bit of a stir in some quarters. The refrain: "She says I should find Him and I'll know peace at last/If I ever find Jesus, I'm kickin' his ass.")
Yet if Trouble is a departure from the Texas troubadour's earlier work, it's mostly in the sense that Kyle Busch driving his Toyota at Daytona is a departure from him driving your grandma's Buick LeSabre down I-55. Which is to say what while one performance is significantly more polished than the other, he kicks your ass either way. B-Sides spoke with Carll last month in Austin, to which he'd just returned after a month-long tour of Europe and the United Kingdom — during which time a sizable chunk of his old East Texas stomping ground was pulverized by Hurricane Ike. For an extended interview, go to blogs.riverfronttimes.com/atoz.
B-Sides: Your newest record — I don't want to say it's all over the map, but it covers a lot of territory. Was that a conscious thing?
Hayes Carll: I ended up cutting, I don't know, 25 songs or something, and when I went through and picked the ones that I liked the best, I realized there wasn't necessarily a coherent musical theme to it, but that that was OK. So rather than just declare, "I'm gonna make a country record," or a "rock record," I just did what I do and hoped that worked out.
But so many record companies just tell you to go fuck yourself if you're not going to fit into the mold they want you to fit into.
I haven't had that problem at all with Lost Highway. They just said, "Do what you do." They didn't sign me because I was so incredibly good-looking or my voice was so amazing. When I turned in the stuff, they had suggestions. But at the end of the day, they let the decision be mine.
Were there any suggestions they made that you used that stand out in retrospect?
"She Left Me for Jesus" was not something I was even planning on putting on a record in any form. But I was kinda short on demos when the first batch was due, and so I just laid it down in the studio, thinking, "At least that'll make them think I'm not wasting their time." And then they said, "Oh, yeah, we actually really liked that song." I thought they were joking at first. And you know, the dust hasn't totally settled, so I don't know if that will be the bane of my existence or something that lives on in a good way...
Or maybe both.
Yeah, quite possibly. But for the life of this record so far, it's certainly helped sell records and brought some new fans into it.