The last time we saw Hayes Carll in Fayetteville, we saw a sadder version of the country/folk poet. That appearance, part of the Fayetteville Roots Festival in 2016, was in support of the downtrodden album he released that year, “Lovers & Leavers.”
“That album was stripped down intentionally. I needed to make that record, and I was trying to figure some things out,” he says by phone from Nashville, Tennessee, the city he now calls home.
What: Hayes Carll and Jack Ingram
When: 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11
Where: George’s Majestic Lounge, Fayetteville
Tickets: $25-$35 via stubs.net
“Lovers & Leavers” is about losing love – he went though a divorce during the writing of it – and a bit about finding love again.
Carll comes back to Fayetteville, a city he calls “one of his favorite places in the country” on Nov. 11 in a song swap session with fellow singer-songwriter Jack Ingram. He comes back on the verge of releasing a new album and with a little brighter outlook.
“Things are thankfully much better now. It’s a much more joyful record. And, musically, it’s a lot more ambitious,” he said. The record, due early next year, allows him to explore his craft, he said. Carll said to expect strings and horns on the new record. There are some more plaintive songs, and a few rock ‘n’ rollers, too. Among the tracks is a reclaimed version of the song “Jesus & Elvis,” written by Carll (and collaborators Allison Moorer and Matraca Berg) but recorded first by Kenny Chesney.
As with all of his previous songs, Carll’s newest batch started with the same basic ingredients: an idea, an acoustic guitar and a pencil. Carll has been writing in that same method since he was 15, and one of his immediate influences was Ingram, who was from Carll’s Houston-area hometown of The Woodlands, Texas.
“He was one of my inspirations. I always wanted to be a songwriter. But I had no examples of anyone who’d ever done that,” Carll said. Seeing Ingram slowly work his way up the country music ranks told Carll that “there’s hope for someone like me.”
Carll left Texas and attended classes at Hendrix College in Conway, where he earned a degree in history. All the while, he was working on his songcraft and developing ties to Arkansas. His second album, released in 2005, was called “Little Rock.” He kicks of the song “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart” with the line “Arkansas, my head hurts. I love to stick around, maybe make it worse.”
During Sunday evening’s song session, he’ll share stories about his songwriting and inspiration. Both he and Ingram will be onstage at the same time. They’ll trade songs and stories. He promises to fold a few of the new songs into the set. He’s proud of his old songs, but he’s been playing some of them for 15 years, so he’s excited about the chance to show off his new toys.
Ingram and Carll will do a total of seven of the acoustic-only song swap shows before Carll closes the year with three full-band efforts. Carll said he’ll shut it down at the end of the year so he gets a break before the busyness that comes with a new album.
Carll also made a brief (and rare) foray into politics by playing at a recent candidate rally in Texas.
“It’s tricky as an artist to put yourself in the political arena,” he said. It opens them up to criticism, and it might alienate fans.
“Sometimes, I do things not to change other people, but to ease my own mind,” he said.
He’s figuring out how to do that one album at a time.