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Hayes Carll’s You Get It All matches raucous (“Nice Things”) against reflective (“If It Was Up to Me”) and covers all ground between (“In the Mean Time”). We recently caught up with the Music City resident to talk about co-writing the vibrant collection.
“I moved to Nashville a few years back and started writing with folks more,” Carll says. “I didn’t have any intention other than writing songs that I enjoyed but looked down after a certain point and realized I had a number of songs I really loved.”
Alt-Country Specialty Chart: Explain the album title You Get It All.
Hayes Carll: The title track represents giving your all to your relationship and the good, bad, and different layers and warts. I’ve rarely written a record conceptually. I just look at the songs and see what makes sense for a title. This was no different. I looked at the songs and realized that there were songs about relationships and life’s highs and lows – whether it’s about falling in love or having knock down drag out fights with your spouse or losing someone to dementia and everything in between. I think the songs covered a lot of the human experience as far as I could write about it.
Tell the story behind writing ‘Nice Things.’
I wrote that with (John and TJ Osborne of) Brothers Osborne. We wrote a song a few months earlier (“Back on the Bottle”) that ended up on their record Skeletons. We had a good time so we got together again and I had that chorus about not being able to have nice things. I was just thinking about it in terms of a wife and a husband, but John or TJ suggested zooming out and looking at the world as a whole.
The song became more than that and became about polluting the oceans and the war on drugs, which gave it more room to make a real point and not be just a clever song. Then we thought, Who can pass judgment and tell us how we’re screwing up? Who has that right? God was the one person who could get away with it.
Are you getting used to collaborating more on songs now?
Well, I still write by myself, but I find lately that there have been lots of opportunities to get together with incredible people to write. My discipline has never been great. I can start something that will take years to finish. There’s more motivation to get to the heart of the song and get the work done when I’m in the room with someone.
Also, I come into songs like “Nice Things” thinking it’s about something and someone else says, “It could be like this.” That completely opens it up and changes the whole song. These ones were based on hooks, ideas and titles that I had, but they would not exist like they ended up without another perspective there. I enjoy that. I mean, there are times I give out ideas that I wished that I kept to myself, but mostly someone really makes the song more than I could have on my own.
Is it satisfying when someone broadens the scope or less so because you didn’t?
I’m happy if it works. I’m not married to the idea, but I also won’t go along with it if I don’t think someone’s idea will work. So, it’s an issue if someone has a good idea that I’m not down with, but I don’t care who came up with what idea if we get what we want out of the song. I don’t need that credit externally or internally for myself.
Tell me about Aaron Raitiere, who you wrote ‘Any Other Way’ with.
Aaron writes for Dave Cobb’s publishing branch and is an artist who’s just getting going and put out his first record. He’s one of the first people I wrote with when I moved to Nashville. We wrote “Any Other Way” and “She’ll Come Back to Me” and some others that didn’t make the record. He’s a good old boy who is really creative and has a perspective that I really enjoy. He’s one of my favorite people.
I’m curious how you hooked up with Brandy Clark for “In the Mean Time.”
I’ve been a fan for a long time. We were up for a Best Country Song Grammy years ago, but neither of us won. I watched her perform on the Grammys and was blown away by the song. I looked at the whole record and became a huge fan. She was on the list of people I wanted to work with and a mutual connection made it happen.
I’m sure you’re happy to be back on the road to play these new songs.
Yeah, I’m grateful. It’s strange, though. I don’t think lots of people feel safe coming out at this point or they are protesting whatever restrictions there are. We’re losing quite a few folks to both sides on that, but control whatever I can and make music and try to be present and connect with the folks who show up.
– Brian T. Atkinson
Artist: Billy Strings
Hometown: Lansing, Michigan
Release Date: September 24, 2021
Record Label: Rounder Records
On writing the album: “I’ve learned you’ve just got to let the song do its thing. So, that’s what I try to do. Write songs and let them come out however they do.” – Billy Strings
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