A Conversation with Marc Broussard
Mike Ragogna: Marc, you're friends with Dave Barnes?
Marc Broussard: Yeah, Dave is a good partner of mine.
MR: You guys collaborated on "Gavin's Song."
MB: Yeah, we wrote "Gavin's Song" together, he is also a writer on "Lonely Night In Georgia," and we wrote some other things together that have never really made it on a record.
MR: So, you have a new album--Marc Broussard. Let's talk about the song "Cruel." Is it from personal experience?
MB: Not necessarily. That song was written here in Nashville with a couple of fellows that the label was anxious for me to sit down and write with. It was basically an attempt at getting a song that the label felt good about that would be able to be played on the radio. So, it's one of those songs that's really just a pure pop song.
MR: Is "Let Me Do It Over" a breakup song, and when you write, do you choose topics that relate to your personal life?
MB: Most definitely. A song like "Let Me Do It Over," I never really viewed as a breakup song, but more so as a description of my roll in my relationship with my wife. "Let me do it over again..."--that's my M.O., I'm a pretty big screw-up when it comes to relationships, at least that's what my wife tells me on occasion.
MR: Does the song "Our Big Mistake" have a similar story?
MB: Yeah, it's a song that I never really viewed as a breakup song for me, but more of a song about leaving home or being on tour. It's really difficult for me. I'm a father and a husband. I'm very dedicated to my family, we have child number four on the way right now. It definitely gets difficult for me to leave home for any period of time. I think "Our Big Mistake" is just a conversation about that.
MR: You seem to have natural R&B instincts, who are your influences in that genre?
MB: You can't begin any discussion of influences without starting with Stevie Wonder at the top of that list. Digging a little a deeper, Donny Hathaway is a huge influence for me. Getting even deeper, Teddy Pendergrass, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, and Marvin Gaye. Those are fellows that I really gravitated towards when I was a young man and still, to this day, it's my "go to" on the iPod.
MR: What is your approach when you make an album?
MB: I think you keep it simple and you do what comes naturally. People have responded well to the music I put out, especially the album Carencro. This record is the closest I've come to Carencro in recent years, even more real, in a sense, because I trusted my producer so much--Jamie Kenney. Because I had such faith in his ability to make a great sounding record, I was really able to focus on what I wanted to say lyrically. I think we accomplished a great many things. We gave the listeners a wide pallet to choose from on this record. There are several different styles coming together that should compliment any different mood. Then, there is a very deep and personal look at my relationship with my wife and my family, as well as some plain old "put it on and dance while your getting dressed to go out or while your on the way home from work" just to sing your lights out and have fun. I had a blast making this record, and once again, the approach from jump was to do what came naturally and to shoot from the hip.
MR: Yeah, it seems that this album is in the same vain as Carencro in that way, sure.
MB: Thank you, because I think ultimately, that's what we were trying to do. We were trying to put together a record that was in line with Carencro.
MR: Can you share the story of "Bleeding Heart"?
MB: I don't really know how to describe it. I mean, it's really talking about the gal that is just so closed off and unwilling to relent, in a way, that it's smothering me. I think that's sometimes with the wife, she and I spend quite a bit of time together. At times, we both feel that way about each other, sometimes we can't get any kind of break from the relentlessness.
MR: Now, there also is this song on the album titled "Eye On The Prize" that you wrote that with your band years ago.
MB: Yeah, I had called my son from a tour to talk to him. He said, "Daddy, I want to be in a working band." It struck me that this kid was five years old at the time--
I don't know if he recognized the difference between just being in a band or being in a working band. It struck me pretty profoundly that he said, "I wanted to be in a working band." So, I mentioned it to the guys and they liked the idea of incorporating it into a song. We actually wrote that song, and the original incarnation is quite different from the version you hear on the record. Originally, it was very over the top R&B, like something George Benson would have cut. At the end of the recording process for this record, we were scrambling to get some more songs to record so that we could maximize our time in the studio. I handed my producer the lyrics to "Eye On The Prize," and he ushered me out of the piano room, then came back with a completely new arrangement on a song that was lyrically very strong but wasn't going to fit musically with the record. He came back with a whole new arrangement that you hear on this record, and I think he knocked it out of the park. I love this song, we love playing it live, and I think it's a rockin' tune that kind of goes back to my song "Home." It's the second generation to that.
MR: Okay, let's talk about your amazing recording, "Home," which was a Top 40 hit. What did it feel like to have a pretty solid charter with it?
MB: It feels a little unresolved. That song could have done better, had it had a little more focus at the very beginning of that record. Those days, I was on Island Records and it was our first outing. I think there were several mistakes made on that record, and like I said, it feels a little unresolved. But, once again, it's the first song of mine I had ever heard on the radio, so, of course, there is always going to be a special place for that song in my heart.
MR: "Home" also was so married to the show Medium.
MB: Yeah, "Home" has gotten its fair share of placements here and there. It's a great tune, it's got a good groove, and has always really sounded good in sports stadiums. It's perfect for baseball when guys are running home and you've got the song "Home" on.
MR: (laughs) That's right, it's a bit of a standard now. Marc, are you a baseball fan?
MB: Yeah, I'm a big baseball fan. We don't have a team in Louisiana, unfortunately, but I am a big baseball fan. I'm excited to see these boys get back on the diamond. They have some great athletes in that game, I always get excited around baseball season.
MR: You must also be a big basketball fan, right? I mean, "Must Be The Water" was the theme for the 2008 NBA Allstar Game.
MB: Yeah, I'm definitely a big Hornets fan.
MR: And you've been involved in past philanthropic endeavors, such as the Momentary Setback fund, a benefit for the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
MB: Yeah, that fund is still open and we are still contributing to various charities in southern Louisiana. We recently paired up with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, but we have worked with United Way quite extensively over the years. It's something that I always think will be a part of my life. I enjoy giving back, and in fact, every show that I play in my hometown, we give a portion of the proceeds to charity.
MR: Sweet. You also did a Middle East tour in 2007 right?
MB: It wasn't necessarily just the Middle East. It was a tour that we did for the navy, and it took us to Japan and Korea, as well as Bahrain, Africa, and various parts of the Persian Gulf. I don't know exact latitudes and longitudes because we were constantly moving. We landed on the USS Enterprise in the middle of the Persian Gulf, so that was a really exciting trip to be able to do, something very few human beings alive have done--land on an aircraft carrier in an airplane and be privy to the operations to that go on these ships. There are four and a half acres on the deck of the USS Enterprise, and several thousand people sleeping on board every day. It's a nonstop workday for a good 16 hours. It's exciting stuff to be on those things, and as a civilian, we felt like we were definitely the most important people on that ship. I felt if we were to go down, every single one of those soldiers would had laid their life down for me and my crew. It was a special feeling to be among the nation's military in wartime, battle ready, and conducting operations.
MR: Thanks. Getting back to the album, is there a story behind the song "Yes Man"?
MB: Yes, there is a story. The first verse talks about being in the front yard and having some sort of a disagreement. My wife and I were actually working in the front flowerbed, and she said she didn't think this gal liked her anymore. I asked why, and she said, "I sent her a birthday invitation on Facebook for one of our kids and she didn't respond." I said, "Well that doesn't mean she doesn't like you, maybe she just didn't see it or just hadn't gotten back to you yet," and the wife said, "Oh, I just wish you would agree with me sometimes." So, that's kind of the inspiration, but once again, I've been informed by my wife to tell you that that's not a true story.
MR: (laughs) Okay, is there something about Marc Broussard that readers don't know yet?
MB: Well, most notably, I think part of my life is actually do-it-yourself projects around the home. I don't make a whole lot of money, and I find it necessary to take the remodeling responsibilities into my own hands. Recently, I tackled our master bathroom, I did some demolition work to a wooden step to get into the tub as well as the faucet and the fixtures around the tub. I was able to successfully knock out the plumbing without any leaks or any problems, so I now consider myself a DIY demigod. I'm pretty proud of that recognition.
MR: What will upgrade you to "god"?
MB: I will get the full upgrade to "god" status when I can tape and float some sheet rock. I can do it because it's there and if people are going to see it, I'm not as confident in my abilities to tape and float, but I can do it.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
MB: Well, I definitely have new artist advice. The truth of the matter is there are many pitfalls in this business. I think more often than not, we shoot ourselves in the foot because it's very easy to relinquish all creative control to a record label. When you're young, you sign a record deal and say to yourself these people have been in the business longer than me and they know what's up, so let me trust everything they say and relinquish all of your control. The truth is that they sign you to a record deal in the first place because they wanted you, they wanted what you had to bring to the table, right off the streets of where you're from. At the same time, I don't recommend fighting and cutting them out totally. At the end of the day, it is a partnership between you and the record label--you are going to have to get them invested in the project. I'm kind of the mindset of if somebody wants to put their name on my record, if somebody wants to take some credit for making the record a success, is that really going to be hurtful to my career in the long wrong? My answer is no if it really is ultimately a part of the success story of your project then let somebody get the credit. Don't fight so hard that you push everybody from the record label out and shoot yourself in the foot by not getting them involved in your project. Everybody in the building is talking about your record, and that takes getting people really excited about being a part of the project.
I think that it has some growing up to do, and I think that is still is a young business in that standards haven't really changed over the years, whereas the business outside of those four walls in New York or LA has changed. The demographics have changed, and the purchasing has changed drastically over the years, especially recently. The business has some catching up to do in terms of the consumers. All in all, it's a fun business and it's a labor of love for us who's out there doing it. Ultimately, before getting too long-winded about this story, I'm working on putting together a seminar for new artists that we are probably going to do in the next few years down in New Orleans. It will give young people a very clear picture of what's to be expected from a manager and vice versa what managers expect from artists. We are going to have panels with different folks, everybody from Kid Rock to Ani Di Franco. I'm hoping to put this together because it could be a huge tool for a lot of different folks out there. If your listeners and readers are interested in that, I would love to hear that feedback.
MR: My feeling is if you work on it, you get the nod, not just the boss or hotshot executive. Everyone's on the team.
MB: Yes, and the truth is that there is a big group of guys that made this record happen. There are seven guitar players and three or four bass players, two drummers, keyboard players, string players, and horn players. Had they not been available and had they not had the talents that they had, this record would not sound the way it does. You give credit where credit is do.
MR: Musicians, engineers, all of them, naturally, yeah. Hey, I'm hearing quite a few samples on the album, right?
MB: Yeah, Jamie has a really good ear for this stuff and that's why we hire the guy. His ears are so precious. He had a vision for this record, he had the skills to accomplish the things he wanted to accomplish.
MR: Do you have a comment about the new 360 deals that labels are offering artists?
MB: I don't necessarily have comments on it at this point because it's still very fresh. It's something that I think has the potential to work out, it's just going to take the labels doing some catching up. For the first time in a hundred years since the advent of major record labels, they are getting back into the touring game. It's an interesting deal, they have new departments for touring. Fortunately for me, whenever ticket sales are down or if the promoter doesn't really have any more resources to throw at the show, the label makes some resources. It's definitely going well so far, and because they have a merchandising department that can pull in huge numbers, we can get better deals with merchandising.
It's an interesting concept that's still in its infancy. I'm excited to be on the forefront of this new development in the business. I'm hoping it goes well for all parties involved, because it can definitely be something that could be a huge benefit to artists in the future. I have a great deal and I have to give credit to Lyor Cohen for really stepping up and showing me that he really wanted me at the label. The entire crew at Atlantic, I worked with all of them when I was at Island Records, everyone from Lyor (Cohen) to Julie Greenwald to the radio department and the publicity girls. I've known these folks for a very long time and they stepped up to the plate when they wanted to bring me to Atlantic. I have a great relationship and a great record deal, so I'm hoping this record really knocks it out of the park, and we can really start to move into the next phase of my career which is going to be a great fun time playing shows to a whole lot of different people.
MR: Personally, I honestly believe Atlantic has one of the best rosters as far as new artists out there. It speaks for itself, and I have to say, Lyor has amazing instincts.
MB: I think success follows Lyor where he goes. When he was at IDJ, the roster was incredible. He really surrounds himself with very talented people and lets them make the decisions that need to be made. It gives people the freedom to do their jobs in a business that tends to be treading on thin ice most of the time. You really find at Atlantic people that are will to put their cajones on the line.
MR: (laughs) So, where will you be touring?
MB: We are going to be touring up the East Coast and throughout the Midwest. You can be looking for us all the way up the Eastern Seaboard and Upstate New York, and from Minnesota to Tallahassee, Florida.
MR: All the best with that and the album, Marc. It was really a pleasure talking to you.
MB: Thank you, this was a great interview.
1. Bleeding Heart
2. Only Everything (Appletree)
4. Yes Man
5. Lay It All Out
7. Our Big Mistake
9. Eye On The Prize
10. Let Me Do It Over
Transcribed by Theo Shier*
*FYI, Theo recently performed in Fairfield, Iowa's Stephen Sondheim Center for The Performing Arts and will begin touring in July in support of his debut album.
Blogging tonight from Richard Wallace's Brooklyn Clubhouse...