It’s just ten minutes from Marc Broussard’s hometown of Carencro, Louisiana to Lafayette. He makes the journey from Lafayette to the heights of the music world seem equally short.
Broussard’s high octane take-off uses no formula at all. Instead he offers a blend of abilities, styles and enthusiasms uniquely adapted to himself on his debut album, Carencro. He calls himself “a white boy singing soul music.” But that’s deceptive because his music draws from everything he’s absorbed. “I feel like I’ve melded a bunch of things together that people haven’t focused on for a long time.” In his songs can be heard influences and accents ranging from soul men like Stevie Wonder and Brian McKnight to Louisiana icons like Johnny Allan and G.G. Shin to road warriors like Dave Matthews. What the 22-year old Broussard takes from all of this is a sense of craft and above all, great depth of feeling. That’s what makes him so soulful. Well, that and his husky baritone with a range similar to Wonder, or another influence, Donny Hathaway. Like them, Broussard moves up and down the scales without any sign of effort—the hard work he puts into his music isn’t meant to show. When it comes to music, Broussard is like a bayou rendition of The Natural.
It’s shocking to hear someone so assured, so young. But his youth is another deceptive quality. Beneath the surface of Broussard’s songs lies what amounts to a wide-ranging music education: From the age of five, playing club gigs with his father, Louisiana Hall of Fame guitarist, Ted Broussard, singing Gregorian chants in a Catholic church choir at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at Catholic University in Washington D.C.; and from the time he was 17, playing both solo acoustic and leading a succession of different bands.
He has a surprisingly broad knowledge of music history, derived from growing up in a community, and a family, that’s inherently musical. “At Christmas, my family sets up a PA and everybody plays. My aunts, my uncles, the whole family jams.” Despite his incredibly strong roots, Marc hit the road in pursuit of his career. “I’ve been to the biggest cities. I love New York City for its energy, but I’ll never live anyplace but southern Louisiana,” he declares. This is further evidenced when you hear “Home”, a song literally written on the fly during a car ride back to Carencro from New Orleans.
Broussard is dead loyal and eager to try something new. Marshall Altman produced Carencro, as he did Broussard’s independently released EP, Momentary Setback, after Broussard dutifully considered a list of guys with more credits. The groove and excitement they captured make it impossible to argue with the choice. The songs on Carencro were all co-written by Marc and feature collaborations with such co-writers as alt-country icon and host of CMT’s Crossroads, Radney Foster, Martin Sexton, Jay Joyce (Shelby Lynne) and Angelo (Kings of Leon, Patti Griffin). Keeping with his roots, Marc’s father plays guitar on several of the album’s tracks and the rhythm section is rounded out by longtime friends and touring musicians Calvin Turner and Chad Gilmore. Julian Coryell also lends guitar work and the album was recorded and mixed by Joe Zook (who also worked on Momentary Setback).
Broussard’s adventurousness makes him fit comfortably on the road playing with many different types of artists. He is a seasoned veteran of the country’s leading music festivals including SXSW, JazzFest and Bonnaroo. Broussard spent the majority of 2003 on the road with such established acts as The Dave Matthews Band, Willie Nelson, Tori Amos, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, O.A.R., Martin Sexton, moe., Bob Schneider, Maroon5, Gavin DeGraw, The Clarks and many more.
He already has a professional’s discipline and commitment: “Back in the day, they called pre-production ‘going on tour,’ and that’s kind of the way we are. We did something like 200 dates last year and it couldn’t have been better preparation to go in to make this album. Laying down the tracks with these guys felt like a natural extension of what we did on the road. It was the perfect culmination of songwriting and performing and I couldn’t be happier with the process and result.”
Broussard places no limit on his ambition. “The kind of artist I’d like to evolve into is Prince,” he says. “My ambition is to do the whole thing as well as I can and have people dig it. I want to be a true entertainer.”
Just don’t count on it happening in a predictable way . Marc Broussard is from a place off the maps of conventional pop culture. He might just force us to draw some new ones before he’s done.