Some of the best discoveries are made in the most unconventional places. Fans of emerging singer/songwriter Marc Broussard know this well. They first made their acquaintance with the artist when his catchy tune, “Must Be The Water,” was featured in television commercials for the 2008 NBA All-Start game. The independent artist had been hard at work for years releasing his own music including 2002’s Momentary Setback, which gave listeners the introspective “The Wanderer.” Broussard re-released an updated version of the song years later with Island Def Jam Records on his subsequent album, Carencro (2004). The album also featured one of the artist’s best-known songs, “Home.”
The Bluesy track is just one example of what Broussard does best, weaving a seamless blend of funk, blues, R&B, rock and pop with a dash of the artist’s Southern roots thrown in for good measure. It’s a style many have dubbed “Bayou Soul,” and it’s about as effectual and authentic as they come.
Like other artists these days, emerging or not, Broussard’s schedule has begun to pick up considerably with venues rolling out their post-lockdown schedule across the nation. I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with the artist in advance of his concert here at City Winery this fall and found the honesty and sincerity you hear in his music front and center in our conversation. This guy is the real McCoy. There’s a reason his fan base is growing as fast as it is. People just like the truth.
Who were your biggest influences as an artist growing up in Carencro, LA?
My dad was most instrumental in shaping my influences as a young musician, although he didn’t really have to try too hard to get me to like singers like Otis Redding and Stevie Wonder.
How did your eclectic blend of genre influences make its way into your sound?
I’ve always been open to hearing anything through at least a chorus, so I’ve been moved deeply by a massive array of different textures and styles. I want to be a well-rounded writer, and I hope it shows.
Did you grow up seeing genre strictly as the well-defined structure it attempts to be?
I guess I did but I also remember telling my first label, Island/Def Jam, to release several singles at once on Carencro. One at country, one at Top 40, one at Hot AC and another at Urban. They looked at me like I was nuts.
How did you end up breaking out of that framework as a writer, then?
Again, I never thought of myself as belonging to a particular genre, only a particular approach, which is to write from the heart.
Were there other artists who inspired you to have the agency to go against the grain from a genre perspective?
James Taylor has had some releases that would surprise folks who’ve only ever heard Sweet Baby James. Stevie Wonder has some pieces that would blow your mind if all you know is Superstition. Dig deep enough into any catalogue and if the artist is fit for the task, you’ll find a fountain of influences.
Sometimes it takes a while for new artists to find their way, even following their first album. Did your independent status as an artist give you the kind of freedom you needed to develop yours?
My independent status necessitated a sort of re-formation in me. While I did make a conscious choice to leave the label world behind, it wasn’t because I couldn’t find a way to make it work. It was because I realized that, when you’re on a label, the wins are shared but the losses are not. Every time my albums sold less than before, for whatever reason, my stock went down in that world no matter how many tickets I sold. Go independent meant I had to truly own everything, from start to finish, which is what led to an awakening for me both personally and professionally.
So tell me about “Must Be The Water”? How did that track come about and how did it make its way to the 2008 NBA All-Star game?
I don’t recall writing that one, truthfully, but I can imagine it was a result of needing more up-tempo material when realizing we were about to make another album. That song, along with several others I’ve released—and some I haven’t—was on my sophomore attempt at Island/Def Jam. After the success of Carencro, I was positive we had another great batch to work with. Sadly, the new leadership in place at (Island Def Jam) didn’t agree and shelved the album. That whole time period is a bit of a mess in my memory, but we’re always looking for more up-tempo tunes to play live. What can I say? I like the cruisers.
What has been the impact for you?
I’ve just got a much better grasp of what my role actually is here. I feel firmly in control of the things I can control. The rest will sort itself out.
So tell me what Chicagoans can expect from your late summer concert here at City Winery?
Rust. Lots and lots of rust. We haven’t played shows in front of people in a while! I can assure everyone that I have been singing regularly, though, so I’ll go a cappella if need be.
What do you hope you have a chance to do in Chicago when you’re away from the City Winery stage?
My best friend lives in Chicago, and I don’t get to see him enough. I’m sure we’ll grab some pie and maybe hit the lake.
So what’s next on the agenda for you?
I’ve written more in the last year than at any time in my life. I’ve got 40+ songs to record which is both good and bad. Sometimes, too much of a good thing is a bad thing, you know? But don’t worry. You’ll have something to hear before the year is out.
Can you give me your top pros and cons to quarantine live-stream performances versus live stage performances?
The pros? Real intimacy, believe it or not. Even in a small venue, I don’t typically talk to the audience in between songs. Digital concerts allow for more give and take, at least the private digital concerts that I’ve done through Topeka Live. 2-10 people who generally all know each other and have different stories for different songs. It’s been more fun than I thought it would be.
Cons? Quality and technical issues. I tend to enjoy delivering high-quality goods to people. The digital space has limitations. The streaming platforms that exist aren’t really built for audio as much as video and even then, it’s pretty bad. Trying to do it all Live is a nightmare.
What’s your favorite book?
I read non-fiction and typically I’m interested in atrocities, famines, genocide, and economics. They all tell the stories of how dumb and horrible humans can be. I don’t feel comfortable calling any of them my favorite, to be honest. If I had to pick, it would probably be The Gulag Archipelago.
And your guiltiest pleasure?
PlayStation. I don’t play all the time. I can go years without playing. Then I’ll find a game and play for months without rest. Make it stop…please.
You can catch Marc Broussard when he returns to Chicago for a live performance at City Winery July 18, 2021. Visit CityWinery.Com/Chicago to learn more.