Singer-songwriter Hayes Carll learns from his past
Hayes Carll, known for his rootsy country songs, believes every album he makes is a snapshot of where he stands in his career.
“What you’ve done in the past influences what you are going to do,” said Carll, a singer-songwriter who will perform at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Canyons Village. “And there is more growth on some albums than there are on others.”
When he made his 2016 album, “Lovers and Leavers,” he made a conscious decision to focus on recording a stripped-down, singer-songwriter album, rather than make analbum filled with different styles and emotions.
“That was scary for me, because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” he said. “But I made it. I was proud of it, and nobody got hurt.”
So when it came time to record his most recent album, “What It Is,” which was released in February, he relied on lessons he learned while recording “Lovers and Leavers.”
“I wanted to do intimate and personal album, but add some of the eclectic stuff,” he said. “I wanted to show more of myself, because I’ve always been inclined to hide behind a persona, which gave me a safety net to hide behind.”
The result for Carll is being able to connect more personally with the tracks on “What It Is.”
“Every night I sing them and it feels more direct for me,” he said. “I remember why I wrote the songs, and what I was trying to accomplish.”
While growing up in Texas and hearing Willie Nelson on the radio had some influence on Carll, it wasn’t until he heard music from songwriters who weren’t Texans that intrigued him to start a music career.
“If I hadn’t discovered Bob Dylan or John Prine, I don’t know if I would have ended up doing this,” he said. “They helped me realize the power of the lyric.”
When Carll began writing his own songs, he knew he wanted to tap into the storytelling aspect of country music.
“You can run a whole emotional range in one song, while you can talk about life in ways people can relate to,” he said.
Apparently, Carll’s songs have touched others as well. He has a list of accolades that include the 2017 Austin Music’s Songwriter of the Year Award and a Grammy nomination for his 2016 song “Chances Are,” which was recorded by Lee Ann Womack.
“I look at awards and don’t try to put too much stock in them, because they are really subjective,” he said. “I am appreciative, but if some city declares me as the greatest songwriter in the world, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. I know there are some great and talented people who haven’t been recognized, and I know people who have been recognized and ask, ‘why is that?’”
Carll’s biggest validation comes from his fans.
“It’s when people come up to me after the show and tell me how much they connected to a song,” he said.
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The Utah Conservatory is recruiting singers to perform with the Distinguished Concerts International New York in February at Carnegie Hall.