Hayes Carll

Hayes Carll


A poet's hand -- that falls somewhere between Guy Clark's most elegant and Steve Earlle's most ragged-edged work -- that's backed with a muscular rhythm section and a Telecaster that rocks hard without losing the earthy grounding of Texas.


Hayes Carll is one of the best of a new breed of Texas singer/songwriters. He has cut his teeth working the same coffee houses, honky-tonks and bars that have spawned the likes of Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, and Lyle Lovett . In the past three years he has been traveling back and forth across the US, Canada, the UK and Europe performing in support of his second cd, Little Rock. This self-released album went # 1 and ranked #3 overall for the year on the 2005 Americana Radio chart with over 13,000 spins. The success of Little Rock has led to a deal on the Lost Highway Label which is home to the likes of Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson, ELvis Costello, Van Morrison and a number of other great artists. His debut cd on Lost Highway is scheduled to be released in April of 2008.

Carll is, by his own admission, a bit of a gambler. And judging from the singer-songwriter’s stage presence, he must have one hell of a good poker face. Whether he’s facing an intimate listening room audience or a packed dance hall of noisy, potentially hostile patrons hungry for the headliner, it’s always the same Hayes: shambling more than walking on stage like a guy who’s just woken from a restless sleep with a horrible hangover, reaching for an acoustic guitar when a pot of black coffee seems more in order. “This guy,” you invariably think, “is a mess.” That’s when he shows his hand, and you find you’ve been hustled.

“I like to watch him,” offers Hayes’ friend Ray Wylie Hubbard, a rumpled hustler of a troubadour in his own right, “because it’s kind of like watching two trains heading full speed toward each other on the same track: it’s just a matter of time. But he’s always very in control, even though sometimes he doesn’t give that appearance. He walks on that stage, and he just owns it — like it’s his time, his stage, and he has total control and keeps your attention his whole set. And I admire that.”

That’s no mere blurb or nod of approval from one Texas songwriter to another; it’s a dead-on portrait of the artist as a young man: off the tracks with a clear sense of purpose. As Hayes declares in “Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long,” from his second album, Little Rock, “I’m gonna burn down all my bridges, grab a car and drive away.” That’s not reckless; that’s a man with a plan.

“I’ve kind of been searching this out for a long time,” muses Hayes, reflecting on the oft curious and at times downright puzzling path he’s followed in his life and career thus far. “I’d live wherever I could or do whatever job I could to find the material and find the point of view for the songs, and to be successful at it. And all in all, it’s working out pretty good. I’m a pretty content human being … with not a whole lot more demons than your average, twisted folk singer.”

At the moment, said twisted folk singer is sitting on his porch in Conroe, Texas, a little town a mere five minutes north of The Woodlands, the affluent Houston suburb where Hayes grew up. Considering that it wasn’t that long ago that Hayes couldn’t escape The Woodlands fast enough, his current proximity to home suggests a prodigal son settling down — complete with a 14-month-old son and a fiancé — after a few good years of devil-may-care rambling. Truth is, both the man and his career have never been more on the move.

“This has actually been my busiest year,” says Hayes, who recorded the bulk of Little Rock in January 2004 and spent the rest of the year playing just shy of 200 gigs across not only his native Texas but the rest of the U.S. and up into Canada. All of those shows found him still faithfully working his 2002 debut, the acclaimed Flowers and Liquor. Now that Little Rock is finally ready for its public, he’s chomping at the bit to really hit the road.

“That first record came out two-and-a-half years ago, and that’s a long time to wait,” says Hayes. “It drove me nuts for a while, because I want people to see my new songs and what I’ve done or where I’ve gone, and it’s just hard to keep handing out the same product. It’s still me, but it’s from a different part of my life and I’m ready for them to see a new part.”

To wit, while the bulk of Flowers and Liquor offered a whisky-soaked snapshot of Hayes’ life right out of college, living amongst the “rednecks and outlaws” that populated Crystal Beach, Texas on the Bolivar Peninsula, Little Rock is all about where he is now.

“When you’re young, it’s hard to think of original ideas other than loneliness, alcohol and sex,” Hayes says of his debut, with a hint of the deadpan self-deprecation that makes his stage banter as entertaining as his songs. “I can’t say that I’ve really evolved all that much since then — I still sing about alcohol — but I don’t want ‘Flowers and Liquor’ to be my anthem or something that I have to be singing for years down the road. I’d like to evolve a little as a writer, and this time around, there were just some other interesting things to sing about.”



Wish I Hadn't Stayed So Long (Sgl)
October 2004
From Little Rock
Highway 87 Music

Little Rock (LP)
Highway 87 Music

Down The Road Tonight (Sgl)
Little Rock
June 2005

Flowers and Liquor (LP)
Compadre Records

Set List

Sets vary according to configuration and performance requirements.