Interview with Kendell Marvel May 10th 2018
Kate: Hi, How are you?
Kendell: Hey Kate! I’m good, trying to hear you as I’m on the street as the bus is too noisy with the TVs etc.
Kate: Is the bus your accommodation as well?
Kendell: Yes, we normally have a clean up room where we can shower etc. but we haven’t made it that far today as the Brothers Osborne are out doing some press.
Kate: Ah yes, it’s your ‘rest’ or ‘PR’ day today.
Kendell: Exactly, exactly.
Kate: How have you enjoyed it over in the UK?
Kendell: Oh, it’s more than I ever expected.
Kendell: Yes it is really, yeah. It’s been fantastic, just the way people sit and listen, not talk and pay attention. The crowd are always there ready for the opener to play. In America they are walking around getting beers etc. not really listening to the opener. I think that they really respect traditional country music over here.
Kate: Yes, we do. I think part of that is because up until the last four or five years we were lucky to get one or two ‘mainstream’ artists touring here, they probably only played one gig in London. Now we are lucky enough that if we wanted to we could go to some sort of country music gig every week; Americana, Ameripolitan, Southern Rock, Honky Tonk or pop country etc. Plus one of the positive results of being able to stream music is that if the audience do not know the opening act they can listen via streaming and get to know their music pretty quickly.
Kendell: It’s not like that in America at all. I couldn’t have picked a better tour to come over and immediately build a fan base with than the one I’m on, that’s for sure.
Kate: Those guys have such a big fanbase here.
Kendell: They are just good people and they brought me with them so if success turns out over here then I’ll be forever grateful to them.
Kate: Are you hoping to come back and do some headline some shows?
Kendell: I don’t know if I’ll be ready for that yet, I’m looking forward to coming back in the fall as the support act again. I don’t know how it works over here, but I will be back! If I can headline, that would be fantastic! I don’t know how long it takes to build something like that.
Kate: Well, Brothers Osborne played C2C last year and followed it up with a small gig in Camden, then supported The Cadillac Three last Autumn and now are back headlining small to medium size (ish) venues. Later this year they are coming back as headliners to play the larger venues, so two years is the average I think.
Kendell: I am just learning all this as we go.
Kate: After twenty years as a very successful songwriter why did you choose to bring out your own album now?
Kendell: It just felt like the right time. After Chris Stapleton blew up with all kinds of incredible music that I myself, as far as a songwriter, enjoy listening to. With Cody Jinks, Jamey Johnson and Jason Isbell all that stuff is blowing up, it just felt like the right time to do something like this. I always wanted to, but the time wasn’t right and I didn’t want to waste my time and money when Country radio won’t play it. But now there are other avenues like streaming, Spotify etc. A lot of other ways to listen to music now you don’t have to be twenty years old, wear skinny jeans and look like a model to get your music heard.
Kate: Or sing about truck beds and dirt roads when you haven’t been anywhere near either!
Kendell: Right! I just thought that if I am ever going to launch my own music, now is the time. It was slowly released in the US last year and we are getting some good, really cool press. Hoping to build something here. We will see what happens it comes out on the 18th May over here. I think that these shows are really going to help a lot.
Kate: So it’s a UK release date? A lot of us have had your album since Autumn last year. How was it different to writing for yourself than writing for others? Did you pick songs that you had already written?
Kendell: Some of them, well, we built the whole record around the song ‘Lowdown and Lonesome’. The guy I was working with asked me what I wanted to do on the record. I wanted to do a concept record built around ‘Lowdown and Lonesome’, I’m either lowdown or lonesome in every song. We picked out four of five that I had written in the past then we wrote the rest of them. He and I basically wrote the rest of the record, decided what we needed and what was missing and we figured it out.
Kate: Have you written the album so you listen to the tracks in the order they are placed on the album? Rather than ‘shuffling’ the tracks?
Kendell: It is, it’s a whole record. I was the one that came up with the order, the synchronization and I was just winging it. I had never done anything like that before. Kinda rolled with it, this feels good here, and this feels good here, but you can play the songs in any order, it’s going to be the same result.
Kate: That’s the beauty of vinyl, you just drop the needle on the record and listen to the end.
Kendell: I love that.
Kate: The theme of the album seems to be a hard living heartbroken man but your life is far removed from that isn’t it? Is it just from picking up tales in bars etc?
Kendell: It is, yes. When I was growing up my Dad was really wild, so it’s more his lifestyle than mine. I have been married for 27 years, if I had lived some of my songs I would have ended up in prison or dead! My Dad was a coalminer by trade but wanted to be a musician. He taught me how to play guitar and was a huge influence on my music, that’s for sure.
Kate: So, you’re more of a ‘Pushing up daisies” type?
Kendell: In my personal life yes.
Kate: I was going to ask you how is it different playing gigs as the singer rather than as a songwriter? But you play as a solo artist or with your band at your Honky Tonk experience in Nashville don’t you?
Kendell: I’d much rather be playing with my band in front of a Brothers Osborne crowd and I’m sure the crowd would prefer to be rocking out to a band, but for the first time its financially not possible to bring my band over yet. I still write a lot of songs, not as much as I used to. I am far more selective with whom I write with now. I write with Chris Stapleton, the Brothers Osborne, Jamey Johnson. There are lots of other artists I admire but they’re not my style of writing. I’m going to waste their day and they’re going to waste mine.
Kate: We are desperately waiting for Chris Stapleton to come back. When he played at the O2 at C2C in 2016 in front of 20,000 people you could have heard a pin drop. It was unbelievable.
Kendell: If their children are not the second coming of Elvis and don’t sing like angels, there’s something up.
Kate: Jamey Johnson, I really like him and not seen him over here.
Kendell: I was just texting him telling him that he must come over. I’m going to lean on him to come.
Kate: Do you know Alex Williams? I like his music.
Kendell: Alex, yes he played my Honky Tonky experience a couple of months ago. He’s a great guy, a great singer. I don’t know if he comes over here at all.
Kate: I was going to ask you who was your favourite co-writer? I’m guessing it’s Chris Stapleton?
Kendell: Well, Chris and I have been working together for many years before he was an artist. We’ve written a lot of songs together as songwriters. I’ve not written a song with him since he blew up. I am sure we will write again before he gets to his next album. He’s so busy playing shows at the moment. I’m sure we will get together again to write at some point. All his songs were written when he was just a songwriter. That’s why they never got recorded because nobody was doing those kind of songs.
Kate: I guess it takes one person to take the risk, push and hit it at the right time then others can follow. The gate is then open for others to go through.
Kendell: I’m a consistent writer with Brothers Osborne. I have three on Port Saint Joe and we’ve written others that can be used at another time. I don’t think that we have written any songs that I think ‘Damn that’s not very good’. We’ve not written a lot; seven or eight songs, but they are all really good, I think so, anyway.
Kate: What’s your biggest challenge as an artist and as a songwriter?
Kendell: As a songwriter that’s a whole different ball game. I have my own group of people I write with and will continue to write with. The chances of me and another songwriter getting a song released by another artist is pretty rare now. Most artists try to write their own songs. I have no desire to write with a lot of the artists. I like them personally, but we are not on the same page with what we do musically. The biggest challenge as an artist is just getting out there and being seen. That’s why its huge for me to be on this tour. I have some more dates with the Brothers Osborne in the States and some dates with Jamey Johnson in June. I’m hoping being with those artists are going to help me get more fans. I have no crazy dreams or aspirations that they are going to play me on the radio in America.
Kate: What’s your favourite venue to perform at? Is there one you’d like to play that you’ve not played at?
Kendell: Red Rocks in Colorado, that’s really cool and The Gorge in Washington, that’s cool.
There are so many cool theatres all over the America as in the UK. I like the thousand-seater venues. I definitely want to play at C2C, I’ve heard great things about it, I’m hoping that could come about next year. The Brothers Osborne mentioned it to me.
Kate: If you hadn’t become a musician, what would you be doing right now?
Kendell: I’m not sure. I’d be pretty screwed as that’s all I’ve wanted to do. If I could choose I’d be a professional fisherman. That’s the only other thing that I really enjoy. How cool is that “A professional musician or a professional fisherman’ I sound like a lazy b****** ha ha!
Kate: No! There’s a lot of skill in fishing!
Kendell: I’ve worked in factories and things but I did not particularly enjoy that.
Kate: What do you feel is the best song you’ve ever written and why?
Kendell: There’s a few; ‘Right Where I Need To Be” recorded by Gary Allan is up there. It’s always going to be a favourite, it’s a huge song. Then I had the song ‘Twang’ sung by George Strait and title of his 26th album. That’s my only George Strait cover I have had, so I am super proud of that. ‘Either Way’ is probably my favourite song, it was my favourite when Lee Ann Womack recorded it and now Chris and I have won a Grammy with it.
Kate: When you hear the same song sung by three different people and two of them are the songwriters it’s amazing the differences there are. I find that fascinating. Brent Cobb and Andrew Combs wrote ‘Rainy Day’ and I have heard both of them singing the song and both times it sounded completely different even though the words were the same. The phrasing and musicality was different.
If you can have your fans remember one thing about you, what would it be?
Kendell: Obviously, my music. I want them to love my music. I’m just a normal guy blessed with some musical ability. I’m not special. If people gravitate towards me I’m grateful. I want to stay humble and grounded. I do not want to change. I want people to see that I’m a great guy playing songs with my band. I have the same troubles as everyone else. I’m happy to be here and happy to be involved. I like meeting the fans to say thank you and say hi.
Kate: That goes a long way in the UK, that an artist is willing to wait around at the end of their gig to shake the hands of the fans or a quick photo. When the artists are honest and kind the fans are happy to invest in the artist. The reviews have been really positive about you as a person and as an artist. You have made a great impression on us.
Kendell: I really appreciate that I have never had this much attention, apart from very small pockets of the country. It’s been truly amazing.
Kate: I’m really happy that you have enjoyed yourself and thank you for giving me the time today.
Kendell: It’s been a pleasure and I’ll see you tomorrow.
May 10th 2018