Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Interview with Marc Broussard

courtesy Atlantic Records

A version of my interview originally appeared at 

[Broussard performs at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach on Thursday and the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Friday.]

A rare estrogen infusion during Marc Broussard’s concerts this month should make his soul/pop sound more vibrant than usual. The reason? Members of predominantly female act Chic Gamine will handle background vocals.

“I fell in love with them years ago at a Yellowstone festival,” Broussard recalled about the Montreal world beat quintet, in a phone interview from his Louisiana residence.

“I’ve always wanted to have really great singers and these four girls are exceptional. It’s going to be different than all [my] previous tours.”

The fairer sex also gets an emphasized lyrical role on his winsome new self-titled Atlantic Records album. All the songs were co-written with producer/keyboardist Jamie Kenney (Jason Castro, Natalie Grant).

“If we were talking about a woman, it was generally an amalgamation of our respective others. My wife definitely got the lion’s share of inspiration.”

Prime examples include the sensual, Motown soul stomper "Only Everything (Appletree),” strident R&B groove of “Emily,” sleek ballads “Let it All Out” and Al Green-styled “Lucky” and idyllic, gospel-tinged closer, “Let Me Do it Over.”

Mellotron sounds color the latter tune - a departure Broussard said was “gorgeous” and “came together so beautifully. I feel privileged to have that song on my record.” The lyrics revolve around conflict avoidance with a significant other.

“You can tell that something is wrong and have no idea what the hell you did, but you know you probably did something. So you might as well just apologize now instead of figuring it out.”

Bluesy standout “Eye on the Prize” – influenced by a comment Broussard’s young son once made -- was originally a smooth R&B song done for 2008’s “Keep Coming Back,” but didn’t make the cut. While searching for potential material to round out the latest effort's track list, Broussard played the demo on his iPod.

Kenney quickly reworked the arrangement with a “different swampy, groovy approach. I was over the moon about it and said, ‘this is exactly what the album needs.’”

Broussard emerged in 2002 with the independent CD “Momentary Setback,” signed to Island Records and put out the impressive “Carencro” (named after his Louisiana hometown) two years later. The buoyant "Where You Are" was a minor hit at Adult Top 40 radio and VH1; “Home” found equal prominence at those outlets and got attention at country radio and CMT following Hurricane Katrina.

On 2007 covers disc “S.O.S. - Save Our Soul,” the artist paid reverent tribute to '60s R&B forerunners like Marvin Gaye, Bobby Womack and Otis Redding, “Keep Coming Back” included LeAnn Rimes and Sara Bareilles duets and continued down a spirited, soulful path.

Recorded at a large secluded estate on the bayou of Maurice, La., much of the new eponymous album was done in a timely fashion. “It’s always beneficial to get musicians away from everything because we tend to get distracted pretty easily by liquor. By women as well. Some of us do -- not myself these days.

“It’s so far out in the country that there’s not really an opportunity to leave. You just get a hell of a lot more work done. My brother did all the cooking for us on site.”

According to the singer, collaborating with Kenney “allowed me to relax more than any other project I’ve ever been on…I didn’t have to throw my two cents in anywhere because I totally trusted what Jamie was doing.”

In recent years, a few veteran acts have utilized Broussard’s raspy pipes on their own albums. George Benson  redid Broussard’s “Come In From the Cold,” there was a guest appearance on Trombone Shorty's punchy “Right to Complain” and fellow Pelican state native Irma Thomas tapped Broussard for fresh tracks on the “Soul Queen of New Orleans” retrospective.

The Thomas session was particularly memorable due to some bantering with her band’s Charles “Chucky C” Elam. “He made me laugh so hard that I ruined at least five takes. Finally Miss Irma said, ‘alright son, it’s time to make it happen. Time to calm down and stop laughing.’”

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