This week’s installment of Walking the Floor finds Kendell Marvel returning to the show for a third time, having most recently chatted with podcast host Chris Shiflett during an episode recorded backstage at Dierks Bentley’s Seven Peaks Festival. The pair’s newest conversation revolves around Solid Gold Sounds, the solo album Marvel recorded with producer Dan Auerbach and released last week.
“I’ve interviewed him before,” Shiflett says during the podcast’s introduction. “We’ve toured together. We’ve written songs together. I’ve played his Honky Tonk Experience at the Exit/In a couple times. I’m just a big fan of him and his music.”
That mutual appreciation helps turn the interview into Marvell’s most compelling appearance on WTF to date. Read on for a list of episode highlights, and take a listen to the full episode below.
Shiflett describes Solid Gold Sounds as a “country as fuck” record, pointing to its vintage charm and old-school approach. Marvel credits those attributes not only to the songs themselves, but also to the musicians who helped record them.
“The dudes that played on [the album] were the original retro guys,” he says of musicians like Gene Chrisman and Bobby Wood. “They played on everything from ‘Pretty Woman’ to ‘Good Time Charley’s Got the Blues’ to ‘In the Ghetto’ for Elvis. Them guys have been around forever.”
Another one of Solid Gold Sounds‘ not-so-secret weapons is Black Keys singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach, whose production techniques emphasized live takes and organic sounds.
“He don’t overthink things,” Marvel says of Auerbach, who recorded the album in Nashville and released it on his own label, Easy Eye Sound. “A lot of these guys in town are from the school of Mutt Lange, where everything’s perfect. [With Auerbach], there are no drum clicks. They don’t play to a click. There aren’t any loops going on. None of that shit. It’s just live music. We track that stuff live. There are some flaws in it … and that makes it cool. Jamey Johnson does his records the same way, and that’s why they’re so cool-sounding.”
A celebrated songwriter who spent years writing songs for hit-makers like Jake Owen and George Strait, Marvel is focusing on his own music these days — and when he does write with other musicians, he relishes the right to be a little picky.
“I still write with Brothers Osborne quite a bit,” he says. “I pick and choose. I still write with [Chris] Stapleton. But I don’t just go in a room and try to write songs to get on the radio with anybody anymore. I’ll write with Waylon Payne — people who’s likeminded, who’s so far off the beaten path of country radio that they’re not chasing trying to get a [song recorded on a star’s album]. They’re just trying to get a great song. I still write with those people, and that’s where I tend to get the best stuff.”
No longer rooted in Nashville by a daily schedule of co-writes, Marvel has been touring more than ever before. The experience has strengthened the power of his onstage singing voice. When he entered the studio with Auerbach, though, the producer worked hard to coax some softer tones from Marvel’s throat.
“Dan, when we was doing this record, he really toned my singing down,” Marvel remembers. “He said, ‘Don’t sing like you’re standing at the Exit/In, singing at a bunch of people. Tone it back. Sing it quiet. That’s what microphones are for. I’ll be able to turn it up and make it that much bigger.’ It was a whole different recording process for me.”