Hayes Carll: One-time 'next Townes Van Zandt' intent on carving his own niche

PREVIEW

Hayes Carll

When: 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4.
Where: Music Box Supper Club, 1148 Main Avenue on the west bank of Cleveland's Flats.
Opener: Aubrie Sellers.
Tickets: $18 in advance, $20 day of show, at the box office, online at musicboxcle.com and by phone at 216-242-1250.

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Hayes Carll always felt that being compared to one of his heroes, Townes Van Zandt, was both a blessing and a curse.

"On the one hand, when you're first starting out and you hear your name in any way connected to your heroes and your influences, it's flattering and exciting,'' said Carll, who plays the Music Box Supper Club on Sunday, Oct. 4.

"It feels like some kind of validation,'' he said.

Ah, but then there's that "other hand.''

"But there's also - particularly with the Townes connection - something I was uncomfortable with,'' said Carll, like Van Zandt a Texan who grew up in well-to-do circumstances. Van Zandt, a descendent of one of the more prominent leaders of the Republic of Texas, was from Fort Worth, which was co-founded by another of his ancestors. Carll was raised in the Woodlands, in what was in the 1970s a somewhat exclusive suburb of Houston.

Early in his 20s, with the 2002 release of his debut album "Flowers & Liquor,'' the comparisons - and the unease -- began.

"I don't think there's anyone on this planet you can compare to Townes, and certainly not me at 24,'' Carll said as he was strolling down a New York City sidewalk.

He understood that writers, fans and even press agents tend to use comparisons so that others can get an idea of the artist, but it still troubled him.

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"My first press kit was heavy on the Townes connection, but I used to pull down posters that would say, 'He's the next Townes Van Zandt,' '' Carll said.

The reality is that the two are similar: Van Zandt's lyrics are the stuff of legend and, while admittedly Carll hasn't been around long enough to reach that status, the poetry and imagery in his words do seem like that of a younger Van Zandt.

"I felt I was much more aligned with a Lyle Lovett or a John Prine,'' Carll said, but he knows their paths are forever linked, as he was a regular performer at a seedy but hip joint in downtown Houston where Van Zandt recorded his famous double album, "Live at the Old Quarter'' in 1973.

Hayes put out an album every three years after the '02 release of "Flowers & Liquor.'' And then, with "KMAG YOYO'' (it stands for "Kiss My A--Guys, You're On Your Own'') in 2011. He went on a recording hiatus.

"I continued to tour, and I've been pretty consistent about that,'' Carll said. "But I've been thinking in a lot of different forms, playing with different bands, different configurations, types of shows.''


Check out our complete list of upcoming concerts in Greater Cleveland.

In the meantime, he and his record label - and his wife - parted ways.

"I've been touring the last four years since the last record, just going through life,'' Carll said. And he's writing again, looking for another album - at last - that likely will hit stores in spring 2016.

"It's not going to be honky-tonk or a rock 'n' roll record,'' Carll said. "I don't know if 'subdued' is the right word, but it's more personal and emotional record for me.''

Previously, Carll said his writing was more along the lines of a Jack Kerouac/Bob Dylan-style of stream of consciousness writing. But with age - he will be 40 in January - comes a different perspective.

"Jack Kerouac was a huge early influence even before I determined I wanted to be a songwriter, and he heavily influenced my idea of what writing was,'' Carll said. "It affected my style a lot - maybe in a negative way, with 'do drugs, type and write.'

"That's what I took from it at 15 or 16 years old,'' he said. "You just grab something out of the ether. Dylan enhanced that, where that's all you did - tap into the Cosmos and your natural ability and you just capture it.

"But there's a whole lot more to it than that,'' he said.

In the meantime, Carll, who has always been a critics' darling and fan favorite, but never tapped the mainstream country market - or wanted to - has written some tunes that others are cutting. Fellow Texan Lee Ann Womack whose daughter, Aubrie Sellers, is the opening act on this tour, recorded his "Chances Are'' for her 2014 release, the Grammy-nominated album, "The Way I'm Livin'.'' And he said another mainstream artist, whom he was not at liberty to name, also is cutting a song he wrote.

Carll said he's happier filling intimate 100-seat rooms than arenas, where the song remains the thing, and not the party, as is typical in today's "bro-country'' world. And he's not concerned at all about being "that guy.''

"Ray Wylie Hubbard has a great quote: 'Any day I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations is a good day,' '' Carll said.

"I've just always felt incredibly blessed and lucky that there was any kind of audience who likes to listen to what I do,'' he said.

Which, come to think of it, sounds like something Townes Van Zandt might have said.

Go figure.

Source : http://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2015/09/hayes_carll_one-time_next_town.html

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