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Posted at 12:54 PM ET, 07/20/2011

Be (non-)specific: Hayes Carll on Mary Matalin, James Carville, his musical inspirations, prison gangs and the first cassette he ever bought


Singer-songwriter Hayes Carll is not immune to the weird allure of prison gang documentaries on TV. (Courtesy of the artist)
The main thing you need to know about Austin-based singer-songwriter Hayes Carll, if you don't already, is that he made one of the best records of the year, the smart, funny, vaguely country-rockish, hard-to-describe-you-should-just-listen-to-it "KMAG YOYO."

On the phone from Florida (he'll make his way to the Rock and Roll Hotel on Saturday) on the latest leg of his never-ending tour, Carll talked about the video for his new single "Another Like You" (about star-crossed lovers, one liberal and one conservative), the music that shaped him and the terrible lure of the iPhone.

On the video for "Another Like You":

I wanted to emphasize the political side of it, that that was what was keeping those two people apart. Originally I was hoping to get footage of all the talking heads on TV, to have like, Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck or whoever. And I thought the quintessential example of that kind of couple was James Carville and Mary Matalin. We went to Don Imus and he put in a call for us and asked them if they would do our video, and they very graciously agreed. We went down to New Orleans to their house and filmed it. (Watch below.)

On the pleasures of bad TV:

I got rid of my TV at home. I'm an insomniac, and I'll lay up in bed all night watching TV, trying to fall asleep ... I had the entire day off in a hotel [once] and they ran this marathon about prison gangs and I watched like, six consecutive hours about the different gangs. I was scared to leave my hotel room by the end of it.

On songwriters unconsciously borrowing ideas from other songwriters:

You have to be careful. After 20 years of listening to stuff you kind of forget what you’ve come up with and what someone else has come up with. So I'll find myself asking the guys in the band [about ideas I bring them]: "Is this familiar to you?" Every once in a while you come up with a melody that feels so familiar that either I came up with it and it's a great thing, or someone else has come up with it already, and I just can't remember who ... A lot of times I think we're all borrowing or stealing from each other, and there's a line you don’t want to cross.  

On how being a musician makes listening to music difficult:

These days I primarily just listen to songwriters. A lot of the times I'm listening with an eye towards my capability as a writer, and what I can borrow from and be influenced by. I kind of get into the minutiae of it, how they achieved the end result, how a song makes you feel [a certain way], like lyrically they went here, story-wise they put in this little touch here. I'm always breaking it down, like, "Maybe this is something that would work for me," rather than sitting back and having a good time listening to it. 

One of the things with this job is there's time off, but I'm always on the clock, and I'm always thinking about writing in my head. I can watch a sports game and never think, "He's really kept his eye on the ball on that one," where if I was an athlete I would probably be analyzing everything they did.

On the first music he ever bought:

I'm actually not that varied in my musical tastes. When I was younger, my first tape was Kenny Rogers' "Greatest Hits." When I was 8, 10 years old, I would sit under the stairs and listen to these story-songs about cheatin' and livin' and dyin' and gamblin'. They got me super pumped up on this imaginary world. The first CDs I bought with my own money were the Black Crowes' "Shake Your Money Maker" and "Yo! MTV Raps, Vol 1."

Technology is ruining his life:

Today I was at the airport and I've got my iPad out and I'm doing one thing and I've got my iPhone in the other hand and I'm doing all this other stuff. People walk by and I'm not acknowledging them, and if I have to wait for something for 20 seconds I'm pulling out my phone and checking stuff. I'm like, "I'm becoming an [expletive]. I'm turning into that guy." All the time with my [eight year old], he's looking at the TV while he talks to you and I'm constantly telling him, be respectful when you talk to somebody. Pay attention and make eye contact. But I catch myself doing the same thing. And it makes me want to throw everything away.

By Allison Stewart  |  12:54 PM ET, 07/20/2011

Categories:  In concert | Tags:  Hayes Carll

 
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