At a private event held at the Empire Hotel while he was in New York City, YouKnowIGotSoul sat down with Atlantic recording artist and blue eyed soul singer Marc Broussard. In this interview with the Louisiana native, we talked about his recently released self titled album, moving between major labels, his creative process, his path to becoming a musician, his style being dubbed as Louisiana Bayou Soul, being an old soul, and if he ever faced any color barriers in performing in an African-American dominated genre.
YouKnowIGotSoul: I read on your Twitter that you describe your recently released self titled album as “the greatest collection of music of all time.” Talk to me about the album.
Marc Broussard: *Laughs* That was kinda tongue in cheek, obviously I was being funny and I don’t think that my music is the greatest of all time. I’m very proud of this record, I’ve worked long and hard on this album and it’s definitely the better part of the last year and a half to finalize these versions. I don’t know, it’s obviously only a snapshot in time in retrospect and that’s all that my albums have ever been, snapping and grabbing a moment and bottling a moment to push out to the masses. All in all I think this is by far the best record I’ve put out.
YKIGS: Early on in your career you were on Island Def Jam and now you’ve come to Atlantic for a couple of records. What was the transition like?
MB: It’s an interesting time because actually everybody that’s at Atlantic now was actually at Island Def Jam back then; Lyor Cohen, Julie Greenwald and a whole litany of other folks that were all running the show over there. Then they left the company and went to Warner and L.A. Reid took over at Def Jam and then I made a second record for Island Def Jam that L.A. felt was not right, so I asked to be let go. I was facing another summer of touring on the same record for like the third or fourth summer in a row, and I felt I couldn’t do that. So we did the soul cover record, we went in the studio and tracked it and then got it picked up by Vanguard and they put it out. Then Atlantic came to the table and signed me up. So I think I ended up in a lot better position than a lot of folks who have been in similar scenarios in the business. It happens quite a bit where there’s change over at a record label and artists kinda get lost in the shuffle. Luckily I was able to get out of my record deal with Island Def Jam, put out a new record, and then find a new record at Atlantic with all of the same people that I had originally signed with. It was good stuff.
YKIGS: Talk about your process as a writer. I know that you write all of your songs and I love to hear the creative process that goes into putting a song together. Take me through your process.
MB: It’s generally me and another guy or gal or a couple of guys and gals in a room together and I personally play guitar and know every change under the sun but I’d much rather hand the arrangement duties over to someone else. I feel like my forte is my voice so I like to hand the arrangement duties off to someone else. Depending on whether we’re writing for me or for someone else, if we’re writing for me I kinda determine the parameters of what we’re going to talk about and set the tone. For example, “Hey my wife and I had an argument the other day in the front yard, let’s talk about that, she said she just wants me to agree with her all of the time, so how about we write a song like ‘Yes Man’, do you want my love or do you just want a Yes Man.” Then with this record in particular with Jamie Kenney, my producer and co-writer, once we got an initial idea down and got a little bit of a form for a melody on a verse or chorus, then it would behoove me to step for a little while and let Jamie work out the arrangements. So I’d just go upstairs and play X-Box for probably about an hour or so and let him work out the arrangement. What would happen is we would start to write the song and I would be trying to transition from a verse to pre-chorus and Jamie still working out some minor transitional thing over and over and over again. I can’t progress and move beyond so I’d rather just get out of the room and let him work on the arrangement and come back. Next we’d focus on the lyrics and the lyrical process alone is generally an all day affair because we’re trying to put everything we have on paper constantly. For example, if we write something and we think it feels good, we’ll type it up and come back to that probably four or five times just to get more emotion and more feeling into that simple little line. By the end of the day, we’ve got a fully fleshed out demo because Jamie is really talented with the computer and programming drums especially. By the end of the day we have a demo that we can turn in to the record label and tell them this is what it’s going to sound like on the record.
YKIGS: Since your father was a musician and became a hall of fame guitar player, was it always pre-determined that you were going to become a musician as well? At what point did you realize you would?
MB: I definitely feel like no matter what I was looking to play music in some capacity. It wasn’t ever really presented to me as an option to do what I’m doing now as a major label artist. Growing up in South Louisiana, I’m just exposed to a whole host of guys that play music as a side gig and as an extra money gig on the weekends up and down the gulf coast. So yes and no, I was always pre-determined to be a musician, however being a professional recording artist was not something that I realized until I was in my early 20’s.
YKIGS: In a number of places I’ve read your music being described as “Louisiana Bayou Soul”. How do you escape the stigma of just being a regional artist and reach a national audience?
MB: I think it’s interesting. I don’t necessarily view it as a stigma. First and foremost, that region of the country is so special in so many people’s eyes such as the food, the music and everything about it. I’ve got no problems being associated with it. I don’t feel like Louisiana Bayou Soul is necessarily the same as Seattle Grunge. It’s like its own thing. It’s descriptive without being confining, in my opinion. It’s descriptive enough in that here’s a guy from Louisiana that sings blue eyed soul music without saying that’s all the guy does.
YKIGS: You’re not even 30 years old yet, but the type of music you perform gives me the impression that you’re an old soul. Tell me about the demographic and the fan base you’ve assembled over the years. Has it been an older crowd?
MB: For the most part, we’re right in the average age which is probably somewhere in the mid-30s, maybe a little younger than that. We’re not doing a whole lot of all-age shows right now though. We’re doing club shows which is 21 or over generally. I think once we start doing some all ages shows, we’ll start seeing a lot younger people showing up, like really young people. I’m getting feedback from fans all the time like “my seven year old is furious at me right now because I’m at your show and they want to be here!” More importantly, when we start doing all ages shows, there will be earlier shows which will allow some of the really older folks to come out who are generally in bed by the time I hit the club stage.
YKIGS: You perform a style of soul music that people generally associate as an African American style of music. Have you ever witnessed any color barriers as you’ve gone along your journey?
MB: Most definitely. Earlier I was talking about L.A. Reid taking over Island Def Jam and me making a second record for Island. It was a very soulful R&B kind of a record and LA Reid point blankly said that it was too urban of a record. Granted I’m not Justin Timberlake and I wasn’t trying to be Justin Timberlake or Robin Thicke, it was just me singing some kind of urban soul tracks. Quite frankly when he said that it was too urban, I took it as “You’re too white to sing that song.” Did I feel discriminated against? Not really, but did I feel there were limitations there? Absolutely. It is what is and I’ve always enjoyed singing the way I sing and people seem to enjoy it as well, so I’m just going to do me and hopefully people are going to continue to dig it.