The set-up for Hayes Carll’s return to an Omaha stage is prefectly suited.
It’s fitting that the Texas songwriter who wrote “She Left Me For Jesus”, a too-good-to-be-a-novelty story song about a guy heartbroken by a born-again, would return to an Omaha stage on the night of Easter Sunday.
Carll says he hopes that the show will enter into the post-church plans of a good portion of Omaha’s music fans.
Carll is travelling with backing band Warren Hood & the Goods, giving a new feel to his twangy alternative country rock sound. While three of the members of the band have backed up Carll over the last few years, two additional members will be on hand adding to the instrumentation.
In addition to drums, bass and electric guitar, the lineup will add fiddle and piano to Carll’s songs and that’s something that Carll has never had live. Carll says he plans to mix rockers with story songs, while adding an element of western swing and jazzy stuff that the rock band set-up never really allowed.
So far the full line-up has had a handful of rehearsals, but Carll is confident in how it’s coming along.
“By the time we get to Omaha, we should have it figured out,” he says.
Currently Carll is residing in Austin, Tex., where he’s lived the last six years. It’s a city that he worked hard to build an audience, gigging at the Saxon Pub regularly during the beginning of his stay.
Carll says he used to play every week, trying to get people to show up. Now he says he’ll play in Austin two or three times a year and draw more than 1,000 people.
Recently, Carll returned to his solo roots, booking a Monday night residency at the Cactus Cafe on the University of Texas campus. It’s a set-up that’s hard for Carll to repeat, unlike some other Texas troubadours who seem to have set nights at Austin clubs.
“I’m genereally on the road so much that it’s hard to get a residency going,” Carll says.
His recent Cactus Cafe gig was centered around working out some new songs in front of a crowd.
Carll says the new material is a stylistic hodge-podge that he’s still trying to sort through and figure out how to best put it all out.
“They don’t really make that much sense together,” Carll says.
While Carll says he thinks all of the new material is of a high quality, he knows they wouldn’t fit together on an album.
So Carll has put a lot of effort and thought into seeing if singles, EPs or other smaller scale releases make sense to him and to his fans. That is, if he puts out three or four songs without a huge push behind them, will his fans still be able to discover and hear the tunes?
Part of the dilemma stems from the fact that Carll grew up on full-length LPs.
“I’ll always be partial to a complete album,” Carll says. “(But) I’m realizing these days it’s not quite as important.”
The good news is that the current state of the music industry has obliterated any sense of order or process to making music. Carll says he knows several other musicians who have put stuff out on limited runs or in small batches.
“There’s really no rules at this point,” Carll says.
That especially applies to Carll, who wrapped up a two-album deal with Lost Highway Records about a year ago and is essentially a free agent again. With renewed indepence comes a wealth of possibilities for what to do next.
While Lost Highway never interfered with Carll’s work, Carll says he’s glad to work alone with complete artistic freedom and control again. With whatever Carll releases next, he says he’d like to retain the rights to his master recordings and license the release to the label.
Carll says he looks at owning the masters as his “only form of retirement” and he’d have to get an awful lot from a label to give them up. There’s only one catch, he says.
“The downside is I have to pay for it myself,” Carll says.
And that could become a self-financing headache when you have three batches of songs that could evolve into three albums. That’s Carll’s dilemma.
What does he take the five honky tonk songs he’s recently written? He doesn’t necessarily want to write another seven songs like that to create an album, but if he put out a mini-record with the current crop of honky tonk songs, would he be able to get it out properly?
So Carll says he’s looking for shortcuts and ways to speed up the process. The key is getting material released without it being a throwaway. There’s little worse than writing a great song, but nobody hears it because of how it was released.
Carll’s first foray into releasing a random song was the January release of “Love Don’t Let Me Down”, a moving duet with Caitlin Rose that Carll wrote with Darrell Scott.
Carll says he wanted to use the song to see what would happen if there’s wasn’t a bigger promotion behind his work.
“Let’s see what my core audience is,” he says.
While Carll admits the effort was not any sort of exact science, the song did get a good response during its limited push. But it also taught him the importance of a consistent, ongoing push that a release would need to get it noticed by his fans.
“The moral is you got to be creative and find ways to reach people,” Carll says.
Hayes Carll w/ Warren Hood & the Goods play Sunday, March 31st at the Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. The show starts at 5 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 day-of-show. For more information, visit onepercentproductions.com.