Holiday Q&A with Hayes Carll
from Austin Music Source:
Last year, Hayes Carll’s bawdy wit (“She Left Me for Jesus”) and cerebral storytelling (“Beaumont”) fully blossomed on the album “Trouble in Mind.” Its success earned good company: The 33-year-old swaps smiles with iconic songwriter Steve Earle on KGSR’s recent “Broadcasts Vol. 17” cover.
“(Steve)’s unafraid to take on any subject,” Carll says. “He’s consistently putting out great music and challenging himself musically.” The Woodlands native, who now lives in Austin, performs today and Monday at Antone’s.
American-Statesman: You wrote ‘I’m Grateful for Christmas This Year’ about this time last year. How did that song come together?
Hayes Carll: (News 8 Austin correspondent) Andy Langer asked me to do one of those rooftop things they do on News 8 around the last Christmas season. He asked me to sing a Christmas song, (but) I wasn’t gonna do “Jingle Bells” (laughs). So, I just figured I’d write one.
It sounds true to life.
Well, I’m sixth-generation Texan, and family reunions were in Waco when I was growing up. They were giant affairs with dozens of cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. Over the years, they’d be in Houston or Crystal Beach, so I just started writing about those from the perspective of being a kid versus my teens and then 10 years from now. I was thinking of those family traditions and how important they are.
Did some relatives take issue with the story line?
Yeah, I killed off a few relatives that aren’t gone yet to give it some gravity. One of them is my dad, but he’s fine with it. My cousins aren’t too happy, because there’s that line in there (“Lord, what I’d give for one good-looking cousin”). They were slightly offended by that, but all in all I think they get the artistic license.
How conscious were you of (Robert Earl Keen’s) ‘Merry Christmas From the Family’ while writing?
I was certainly aware of it. I used to cover that song in the bars in Crystal Beach. It’s hard to escape. But I was really trying to capture that passing of time and family traditions, which wasn’t really the central point of Robert’s song.
Now you’re sharing local (KGSR) billboards with Steve (Earle). It’s a long way from your Crystal Beach days.
It’s an honor and a thrill to share that with Steve. If you’d told me back when I first came to Austin - with how rough it was going and not getting gigs - that seven years later I’d have a billboard with Steve Earle all over (Austin), I would have been very happy. (He laughs.) I am very happy. My kid gets a kick out of it when we’re driving down the road and he can say, “There’s daddy!”
Will you be finishing off your new album when you’re back from touring with Steve next month?
I’m actually hoping to finish it before New Year’s Eve. I want to head out onto that Steve tour with a finished record. There’s a lot of flavor and color, and (it’s) all over the map - funny stuff, straight-up rock, more soulful things, real trucker country boogies.
What about the Christmas song?
We cut it, too. The record will probably come out in the summer, but I’m hoping the sentiment on there is timeless and can be appreciated any time of year.