Releasing a second album is a terrifying prospect for many singer-songwriters. Why? Debut albums are filled with a lifetime of material, songs they've spent their entire life writing. But the follow-up is made up of new songs. Add to that the burden of meeting the expectations of fans and critics who adored your first CD, and you're in a pressure-filled situation. Did Texan Hayes Carll succumb to the dreaded "sophomore slump" with the release of his second album? VOA's Katherine Cole reports the answer is "No!"
"Wish I Hadn't Stayed So Long" is the opening track to Hayes Carll's Little Rock. Although this is the only the second release by the Texas singer-songwriter, he already sounds like a veteran. Only 28 years old, Hayes Carll is writing songs that invite comparisons to Steve Earle, Guy Clark, and Robert Earl Keen, all considered "Deans of Texas songwriting."
Hayes Carll has a sharp sense of humor, that shows itself in both his songs and his stage show. For example, while introducing the title track to his album, Hayes Carll often says, "Everybody back home has been making a lot of money writing songs about Texas. I got into the game a little too late to take advantage of it, so I've started writing songs about Arkansas."
Cole: "Where are you finding these people that you are singing about?"
Carll: "Oh, they're all over the place. I've lived in some kind of bizarre places all my life, and they were easy to find. I lived in Conway, Arkansas, and the Bolivar Peninsula in east Texas [near Galveston], Croatia for a while, and I live in Conroe, Texas now. And we travel a lot. There are all kinds of interesting people to write songs about running around out there."
Cole: "Are you constantly looking for them?"
Carll: "I don't even know if it's so much that I'm looking for them. People do things all the time, and my first thought is 'I wish I could put that into a song.' Whether it's a character, or the thing that they did, or something that they said. I don't consciously go out saying I'm going to search these things out, but it just seems like they are everywhere, all around you in everyday life, so … "
Cole: "So you just have to be aware?"
Carll: "Yes. Just have your pen ready when it happens."
Cole: "Is it easy for you to write?"
Carll: "Not particularly. I like to write. And it is always what had envisioned doing. I didn't know that it would be as a songwriter necessarily. But I wanted to write in some capacity. But I can't say it's 'easy.' I'm pretty critical of myself and that really slows down the process. And I'm fairly lazy as well, so... I write all the time, but there's very little that ever sees the light of day, or anybody else hears, so I can't say that it is easy for me."
Even though Hayes Carll has been around for just a few years, he's already released two albums filled with solid songwriting, and received strong reviews for both. In the coming weeks, he'll be touring the American southwest, and writing songs for a third album of original material.