12 Years Strong, 12 Questions with Marc Broussard

Soul Singer Returns to City Winery

Louisiana soul-blues singer Marc Broussard is fifteen years deep in a career with eight albums recorded including his charity-driven “S.O.S.” series now in its second installment “S.O.S.: Save Our Soul” of all covers from the 50s and 60s. Broussard’s solo career took off in 2004 with debut album “Carencro,” (hence the 12 years since his major label debut question count) with a deeply-affecting set of original songs that evoked joy, struggle, romance and pain. Marc Broussard has since had the fortune of touring with Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Maroon 5, Sara Bareilles, Dave Matthews Band, LeAnn Rimes, Chris Isaak and Hank Williams Jr. and has been a long-time philanthropist, supporting communities in Louisiana, Atlanta and all over the world, with plans for more.

Marc’s voice is as big as his heart, that of a top-notch saxophone, and the big band element of his live shows with horns and the Southern, Louisiana flair, makes for a memorable night of live music, especially in a smaller setting. For now, Broussard will be stirring up some tunes and some glasses at New York’s City Winery on November 30. Leading up to his show at the intimate downtown venue, Marc spoke with New York City Monthly about the longevity of classic soul music, his favorite booze and some of his most memorable times in New York.

“City Winery is a place my fans seem to really enjoy so that’s why we keep coming back.” – Marc Broussard


Twelve years into your career, what has been a highlight that always sticks with you?

I would say that there are three moments that really crystallize for me. The first was meeting Tori Amos. Her first words to me after making small-talk and breaking the ice were basically “Yeah, yeah, yeah, listen, the manager’s commission, off the gross or the net?” She was trying to get into my head real quick, “Hey fella, I’d like to be able to talk to you about music, but you’re young, I’ve been in this business a long time but this is how I’m going to spend my time with you is educating you.” I took that as holy crap, I know nothing about my business. All I knew about was songwriting.
Second, I was in Holland with a guy call Paul Carrack. Paul was in a number of massive hit bands like Ace and Squeeze and I believe Mike + The Mechanics, with hits like “How Long” [Ace] and “Tempted”…by the fruit of another [Squeeze], and here we were doing these small clubs in Holland. I arrived to the hotel with him, and I had just signed to Atlantic Records. He told me he had some of the biggest deals in the business and had played in front of thousands and thousands across the globe. Now I have my own record label, I have people that work for me, I am working harder than I have ever worked, making more money than I ever made and more happy than ever.
The third experience was opening nine shows for Bonnie Raitt, I came up on stage for “Love Sneakin’ Up On You.” It was three or four-hundred dollars a night. The last night of the tour Bonnie said she wanted me to come to her dressing room, and I had brought her flowers and she was very gracious. It was around Christmastime and she gave me an envelope with $4,000.00 cash as a bonus. I was able to bonus everyone in the band and still have money left over to give Christmas presents. It was a really kind gesture I have never seen before, and I realized the financial situation with my openers. It reminded me when I was the first of three or four [on stage], and every little bit helps. So I’ve tried my best to keep that in mind.
Those are perspective stories that really shaped me. That’s some inside baseball stuff. That’s what’s so beautiful about this business is you have access to situations that very few people have access to.

Coming from Carencro, Louisiana, near Lafayette, you must be particular about your liquor. Since you are playing City Winery, are you a wine drinker, are you a brown liquor lover?

I like all booze, brother. I’m a big fan of beer, rum, whiskey, I like gin, I like scotch, I like wine. I love Italian wine, red wine in particular. I don’t discriminate when it comes to booze.

Will City Winery take you in the back to try some rare wines from all their barrels in stock?

We always get several carafes of whatever they got flowing that night in the dressing room. I’m sure I’ll be sipping on some vino when I get there.

When did you decide to record a 2nd “S.O.S.” album of classic soul covers? You’ve got songs by greats like Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, Isley Brothers, Etta James and more. Was it difficult to choose songs for this album?

No, it wasn’t difficult cause we knew we would be doing more. We already got time blocked off for February to knock off another. These records will be an annual project, hopefully, knock on wood. And they’re avenues – from eras to really just have a ball, some great tracks that you know people know and love. We basically are gonna have fun with these S.O.S. albums, taking a look at previous eras of music trying to find the greatest hit songs and the greatest hidden gems that we can. As well as write original material that will complement these records, and use them to raise money for causes that I’m passionate about, poverty and homelessness.

It’s really fun for us to play these songs because there’s so much that’s already there, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, it’s very interesting. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’m excited about introducing generation after generation to some of the greatest music that’s ever been released.

Throughout your years as a performer or even when you were younger, what has New York meant to you as a musician and a creative person? 

Man, I’ve been coming to New York City since I was 19 or 20 years old. I’ve been dozens of times, I’ve flown into all major airports, I’ve ridden taxis and subways and I’ve experienced New York over and over and over again. I don’t know if it’s changed as much as I’ve changed. New York is such an amazing city, City Winery is a place my fans seem to really enjoy so that’s why we keep coming back.

Do you have any particular fan memories or crowd stories from a past show in New York? 

As a fan, I was going to see Soulive with Nigel Hall opening up at the Bowery Ballroom. And I was waiting to go in and the doorman held up the line. I was on the guest list and thought I could muscle my way in past the line ’cause the music started and I could hear Nigel Hall opening up. And I swear to goodness I was transported, I thought I was listening to Donny Hathaway in 1971. It was a very intense feeling of being transported, I have never experienced that, not at The Fillmore, not at The Greek, not nowhere.

Headlining Irving Plaza too, sold out, that doesn’t exist anywhere in the world. NYC kids, when they know it’s a sold out show, they show up early and it’s packed and the energy is through the roof.

You have recorded songs with Sara Bareilles, LeAnn Rimes, Huey Lewis, written songs with Jason Reeves, toured with Maroon 5 and Serena Ryder. Who is next on the list, is there an artist you are eager to duet with or play live with? 

I mean, I have a side project that I’m hoping to get off the ground that I have not really talked about much. I recently in the last couple years met Brian McKnight Jr., his father was my biggest inspiration from middle school all the way ’til high school, and he and I really hit it off and I’m hoping we can pull off some music before next summer. I think it would be really hip. I also think Emily King is brilliant. And Bernhoft, check out Jarle Bernhoft. There’s a whole bunch of people I want to jump on and start a whole new independent coalition and just focus on being a badass. And we put music out at such a high rate to make people realize that we got the hippest thing going.

On the “These Arms of Mine” Otis Redding cover, you duet with Huey Lewis, how did this pairing come about? 

We played some shows I think with those guys over the last couple years and have become friendly enough with them and when my manager reached out they said absolutely. They were very cool to do that with us.

unnamedSome of the songs from your debut album “Carencro” have become favorites covered over the years on some of the music competition shows like American Idol and The Voice, specifically “Home,” “Rock Steady,” and “Lonely Night In Georgia.” Whether on these shows or elsewhere, what’s it like for you to have your songs take on a life beyond what you have done with them? 

I think it’s a dream come true, you know, it’s like, the culmination of a career’s worth of effort. Fifteen years worth of effort. It’s really kind of life-affirming, to see your own songs on the television, and you figure you’re doing something right, right?

You started your S.O.S. Foundation in summer 2015. City of Refuge is an Atlanta-based organization that benefits those struggling from homelessness and poverty and 50% of the proceeds of your SOS #2 album go to this charity that is dear to your heart. Being a father of four yourself, how important is it to give back knowing you yourself have a family to support? 

Not everyone I work with is as generous as I am. We covered the debt, I had an investor, from now on, every record that is sold, from two months ago we were in the black. And 50% of all that money is going to City of Refuge. The other 50% will probably just go into the S.O.S. Foundation for the next project, cause I want to up the percentage. I think support systems are really important and I think community support systems are absolutely the best vehicles to affect proper changes. Because if you’re on the ground and talking to people in communities that need help then you find out exactly what they need, then you don’t come in with an attitude saying you know what they are doing and what they need. My long-term goal with S.O.S. Foundation is to have a world of dollars for organizing and consolidating efforts across the globe by encouraging existing non-profits.

Do you think with all that’s going on in the world and our country that this is a particularly good time for people to hear these classic soul songs that are so loved and a part of the American songbook for so long?

Oh man, I think any time you can get people to turn on the radio and listen to some good soul music and turn off the news channel is a real good idea. There are times past, especially when we’re talking about soul music, that there was a sense of awareness that is severely lacking in modern music, in 60s and 70s soul music that was a catalyst for some of the most important social movements in this country’s history. So any time you’ve got any kind of political turmoil, it’s important that the creators of music specifically and art generally at least try to comment in the most objective and thoughtful way as possible. That’s our job as artists, to pay attention to the culture, not that we are better than anybody but because we have the ability to meet so many folks.