Nerds and Beyond recently had a chance to sit down to speak with the incredibly talented Marc Broussard. We discussed his music, his favorite songs, and his children’s book I Love You for You.
Nerds and Beyond: How much influence does your upbringing have on your sound? And how much has your sound changed or progressed from when you first started until now?
Marc: You know, it’s an interesting question. I would assume that my father’s influence had a tremendous amount on me, but there’s no way to tell, right? How is it possible to actually know, without a time machine and a jerk Doctor willing to switch a baby at birth or something. It’s just impossible to tell. I would guess that my father’s influence on my ear, you know, both genetically and just being a dad in the house? I think it can’t be understated.
Nerds and Beyond: Every musician has their own process for creating music, can you walk us through your process?
Marc: I do not have a process. I have a muse that shows up randomly whenever she likes to, that I coax out of her shell, but she shows up and I try to pay attention. Luckily, my wife recognizes that you know, I have this mistress that I have a non-physical relationship with and I can roll out of pretty much any situation, save for a birth or a birthday, I can go and remove myself and sort of take whatever time I need to go and put an idea down.
Typically, I don’t need to flesh out an entire idea, that’s a process that takes somewhere between 45 minutes and a couple of hours. But if I can just get the initial idea down, if I can get that hook, the lyric or the little guitar change down, recorded in my voice memos, then come back to it later. In fact, at the top of the lockdowns in March 2020, I was prepared to go into writer mode with my band. We were going to go for a writer’s retreat, and then make the record and that ended up getting postponed, like two or three times. By that point, my creative juices were flowing so much that I just opened up my voice memo folder, like I had intended to do with the guys in the session in the writer’s retreat, opened up my voice memos and started going through stuff and ended up just flying through a ton of that by myself. So yeah, I just got to get that initial idea so that you can get back to that place, and then start diving in.
Now when it comes to, once you’re in that process, typically what happens is, music will dictate what the verse form is and what the chorus form is, if there’s a pre-chorus and if there’s going to be a bridge or a solo. Once you have those sorts of themes, locked in, like once I have a first theme, the music sort of dictates the mood of the lyric as well as the melody. So, I’ll come up with a melody first, I’ll start just kind of scatting syllables, just sort of coming up with random syllables that fit into a melody that I can get into, and I just kind of put that on loop, just loop that idea. Either record the guitar part and literally loop it or just keep playing it over and over until I have a good, nice melody that I feel good about. And then it’s a matter of sort of shoehorning words into those syllables. So I’ve already gotten the syllables that I’m looking for now, then it’s a matter of shoehorning the words that fit the overall mood and tone of the song. Try not to be too clever, but also not going for the low-hanging fruit either.
Nerds and Beyond: I’m a huge fan of your song “Let Me Leave” which is a very raw and honest song. Do you find that those types of songs are harder to write or harder to let go of once you’ve written them?
Marc: I would say that true self-effacing is always difficult to come by for anybody. My buddy Anders Osborne has a great story about it. He’s got this song called “Mind of a Junkie.” He said it started out as a song that he was sort of lightly criticizing himself and his wife overhears him, so she comes over and she’s like, “That’s a bunch of nonsense, you are none of those things, you need to be more honest with yourself for real.” So he really dug in and all of a sudden that turned into this song. It’s like, you know, “I’m nervous. I’m sweaty. My thoughts don’t make sense.” It went from this really flighty thing to a very, very, very deep thing. But it took an outsider, it took someone else recognizing that “Hey, you’re not actually challenging yourself here.”
So I say all that to say, I prefer co-writing, specifically for that reason. I prefer writing with other people so that we can not only be a springboard but also be a real challenge to each other. So “Let Me Leave” is an example of a song where the genesis was within my own skillset. I showed it to my then producer, Marshall Altman, we were in the process of doing some co-writing and some editing. So I showed him the little bit of “Let Me Leave” that I had, I think I just had the chorus and maybe like the top of the first verse, and then we parted ways for maybe a month or two. Then he flew back down south to Louisiana for one last trip, I’ll never forget it. I picked him up at the airport at like nine o’clock at night and we went straight to a gas station and picked up a fifth of Crown Royal, and then straight to the studio. He was all fired up. He was just so fired up. Not only had he written almost every lyric to “Home” by that point on a notepad, because “Home” was another tune that I had just the first verse and a hook and maybe like a few extra ideas but most of the lyrics were not done yet. So he came in with his notepad and he read it to me, I was like, Yep, that’s it. That’s the tune. We worked on “Let Me Leave” that night as well and it was like a real battle. It was a real serious catharsis that I was going through with a friend of mine who was actually calling me to the carpet. Who was actually challenging me, not just as a songwriter, but as a friend, as a man. Like, let’s really go into what’s going on with you and your girl. It ended up being a really powerful song.
Nerds and Beyond: On that note, is there a specific song that you’re really proud of?
Marc: There’s a song of mine called “Another Night Alone”, that we did play live for a while but the fans never really loved it as much as we did, just the arrangement and the recorded version especially, is a song I’m very, very proud of. Just because I’m such a fan of Stevie Wonder and I feel like it’s definitely a tribute to his influence on my music for sure.
“Lonely Night in Georgia” is definitely one of those songs that I think is timeless, very proud to have been a part of writing that song with Dave Barnes and Martin Sexton. So, writing with a couple of heroes of mine, as contemporaries, is something that I don’t have on many other tunes.
“The Beauty of Who You Are”, I think has got some stunning moments that can be directly attributed to Radney Foster. What a monster songwriter. I don’t even know what the hell it means, but it sounds beautiful when he says “there’s a soft, sweet space on the back, your neck smells like rain.” Like, I don’t think anybody really has ever smelled somebody’s neck and said “Ohh that smells like rain.”
But it is a nice sentiment.
Nerds and Beyond: If you had to suggest three songs to new listeners, what three songs from your catalog would you recommend?
Marc: “Home” is definitely a staple. You know, “Home” is my biggest hit, it’s the song that put me on the map if there ever was one.
“Long Night in Georgia” is definitely a good example of the kind of things that I like doing.
“Cry to Me”, it’s a cover but it’s also a good indicator of the kind of energy we like to put out there live.
Nerds and Beyond: You have a children’s book out now called I Love You for You. How did that come about and how was the process different than with writing your music?
Marc: So a friend of mine that I’ve done some work with at this little boutique hotel in Virginia, Kurt Zendzian, his wife is Rebekah Phillips who is an illustrator and now she’s my illustrator. So Kurt and I became friends throughout the years working together and then Rebekah started coming around the shows whenever we’d go through their area. Rebekah and I talked about working on a project together for years. Finally, Kurt and I did another shoot together and I said to Rebekah,
Alright, I’ve got this project where we’re doing these cover records for charity. Let’s do a lullaby project and finally do a children’s book together. We’ll do it like a packaged charity deal,” and she was all in. That was actually at that boutique hotel in Virginia and on the flight home, I got inspired and ended up writing the whole book on the leg between DC and Atlanta.
Nerds and Beyond: So we like to ask a few nerdy questions when we do our interviews. What is your nerdy thing? Do you have a show you love or comic book or movie?
Marc: Well, I would say that I’m a huge science fiction fan. I’ve always been a science fiction fan on the big screen but I finally cracked Dune for the first time because so many people I follow on Twitter that had read it back in the 80s or 70s, were super fired up about this new movie coming. So I decided to go ahead and read Dune and man, what a great frickin story. I loved it so much and I’m so fired up about this film coming. So that’s probably my big nerd thing going on right now.
I’ve also been in very close talks with two very good friends of mine, one who is an AP biology teacher in New Jersey, he’s a fellow for the Genome Project, and I’ve also talked to my personal doctor. He’s been a dear friend of mine for 20 years. We talk almost every day and we’ve just been geeking over all this COVID stuff. It’s one of the most fascinating times in medical history. It really, really is. So yeah, I’ve been geeking out on that stuff as well.
Nerds and Beyond: Last question, what are your top three songs or musicians on your Spotify playlist?
Marc: Oh, Harry Connick Jr. I love his stuff but it’s his early stuff that I like most, it’s the funk records, She and Star Turtle. Very obscure Harry Connick Jr. references that not many people are going to kind of recognize, especially if you’re only familiar with Harry’s big band, Sinatra-esque stuff. You’re gonna be thrown for a loop when you hear this stuff, for sure. But yeah, I think Harry is easily the most talented, one of the most talented human beings to ever walk the face of the earth, and definitely one of the most talented guys to ever come out of the state of Louisiana. Huge fan. Over the past couple of years, there’s a band called The Brothers Landreth out of Winnipeg, Manitoba that I love. Fantastic group. But I would say more than anybody in the whole wide world, Donny Hathaway’s got to top the list, between James Taylor and Donny Hathaway.
Marc Broussard is currently touring the United States playing hit songs off his recent album A Lullaby Collection as well as his hits like “Home” and “Gavin’s Song”.
Marc will also be launching a new fan club that will include music you won’t be able to hear anywhere else. He will be releasing two new original songs every month that will only be available for fan club members. Keep an eye out for more information on that by following him on social media. Check out his Twitter here, and his website here.