Hear Hayes Carll’s Introspective New Album ‘Lovers and Leavers’
Hayes Carll is sitting poolside in Port Aransas, Texas, a mellow beach town on a peninsula across the Corpus Christi Bay. Carll is no stranger to the Gulf of Mexico — it’s where he got his start as a young songwriter, strumming tunes at the Old Quarter Café in Galveston, about four hours or so up the coast. This is supposed to be a vacation — minus the annoyance of a few phone interviews, made more palatable when taken in swim trunks with a beverage in hand — after a rigorous South by Southwest schedule in his home base of Austin and before another round of touring in support of Lovers and Leavers, his fifth studio album that’s been five years in the making. The album hits stores on April 8th, but is streaming exclusively on Rolling Stone Country below. In music business terms, half a decade without new material is equivalent to near-retirement, unless you’re Adele or an artist like Fiona Apple who claims reclusive gaps as part of his or her persona.
“It’s not necessarily a good career move to take that long,” Carll tells Rolling Stone Country. His last album, the rollicking KMAG YOYO, was released in 2011 on Lost Highway Records, but if it gives any context to how long it’s been since then, that label is now defunct. “I joke that I was just trying to build up suspense. But there is a fine line between building up suspense and people forgetting about you.”
Carll doesn’t seem too worried — nor did he entirely disappear in the past five years. He’s toured relentlessly, sometimes as a solo acoustic act, and had his song “Chances Are” covered by Lee Ann Womack and subsequently nominated for a Grammy. He was writing, but, most importantly, he was also weathering a divorce and figuring out how to spend more time with his son Eli — a hopelessly cute 12-year-old with his daddy’s eyes and a love for magic tricks.
With earlier songs like “One Bed, Two Girls, Three Bottles of Wine” (you do the math) and “Another Like You,” a duet with Shovels & Rope‘s Cary Ann Hearst about how opposing political views make healthy fodder for a one-night stand, Carll has become known as the cynical poet laureate of men who have more luck at the bottle than in the sack. Starting with his 2002 debut Flowers & Liquor, fans have come to count on Carll for self-effacing storytelling that’s also loaded with detail as funny as it is uncomfortable. Often set to rambunctious melodies and delivered in his sticky annunciation, there’s a lot to chuckle at without straddling the line of the absurd. Like John Prine and Guy Clark, who can lace in references to runny eggs or homegrown tomatoes without sacrificing lyrical gravitas, a lot of humor comes from just how prescient those quirky observations are.
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