Hayes Carll is coming to town on a wave of well-deserved critical acclaim for Trouble in Mind, his first album for Lost Highway Records. The record covers a lot of territory — all of it good. Carll’s music ranges from rocking Texas country to ballads that break your heart while making you smile. Carll’s charm and sense of humor is evident throughout the album, and the tour is sponsored by the tongue-in-cheek newspaper The Onion — that’s a match made in sardonic heaven.
Lion tamers and pistol packing shrimpers were just a few of the colorful characters who lived in Crystal Beach, Texas, where Carll played six nights a week for four years. Those gigs gave him a thick skin and fodder for the rollicking sing-along tune "I Got A Gig."
Carll is a success story in the DIY world of musicians. His self-released record Little Rock found its way to No. 1 on the Americana Music Association chart and Carll a home on Lost Highway. He tours constantly, playing an incredible 200 gigs a year. He took some time out over Thanksgiving weekend for an e-mail interview.
NUVO: How did you get connected with The Onion?
Carll: Think about US magazine without Brittney Spears, sort of the same deal. My face equals circulation.
NUVO: Congratulations on your Americana Music Association Song of the Year award for "She Left Me for Jesus." Tell me about that.
Carll: You could say it was an almost religious experience. It was cool. I was in Europe at the time so I didn’t get to make the awards show but I was happy to win. They gave me a cool trophy with a beer can on it.
NUVO: You’re in great company on Lost Highway Records; how did that come about?
Carll: I think Lost Highway was feeling the pressure of the tough musical environment these days. Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett, Elvis Costello, Ryan Adams. Who has ever heard of these people? They needed a ringer — someone they could count on to sell hundreds of records. That’s when I got the call.
NUVO: When did you first pick up a musical instrument? What was the name of your first band?
Carll: I got my first guitar when I was 15 for Christmas. My first performance was with seven other guys playing "Not Fade Away" by Buddy Holly on acoustics. Our timing was a little off. My first band was pretty short lived — Hayes Carll and the Hayseeds. I think we had potential but the name never caught on.
NUVO: Can you tell me a little about your songwriting process?
Carll: I basically just run around the country singing until somebody says or does something that catches my ear. I write it down and then try and make it rhyme with something else I make up. I wish I knew how it works but it’s still a mystery to me.
NUVO: You’ve spent a good chunk of time touring. Any good road stories? What is it like being away from home so much?
Carll: The travel has been tough this year. But I can’t complain too much because this is what I always wanted to do. I basically joined the circus and I’ll keep at it until the lion tries to maul me.
NUVO: What can people expect at your show?
Carll: Lions. And hopefully drinks.
NUVO: Anything else you’d like the fine folks of Indianapolis to know?
Carll: I respect and admire them. I think this is only my third or fourth time to play Indy and the first time to have my own show. So who knows what could happen. I just hope they come out. And I respect and admire them.
Birdy's Bar & Grill
2131 E. 71st St.
Indianapolis, IN 46220
Indianapolis Songwriters Cafe w/Hayes Carll, The John Evans Band