Hayes Carll was a writer before he was ever a songwriter. In fact, before he even knew how to play the guitar, he loved to write. True story: his favorite part of junior high and high school was when his teacher told the students to freewrite for 20 minutes. Let that sink in for a minute. He loved to be told to write. And Carll's goal was not just to write a great story in those 20 minutes; instead, he wanted to write more pages than any of his classmates. He still has those junior high and high school writing journals, even mining them for ideas on occasion.
With that history, it's no wonder he's been called one of the best storytellers in the singer/songwriter and country western world today. If you're a fan of Carll, you'll obviously love this interview. But if you're not too familiar with his music and just happen to be a songwriter, you'll still love it. Just as Carll explains that he's a fan of this site because he wants to learn about the creative processes of other songwriters, you'll find this interview to be its own lesson in songwriting.
My favorite interviews reveal how the artist's creative process mirrors who they are as people. It's a testament to the depth and introspection of Carll's responses that this is true here: we see as much about Carll the person as we do about Carll the songwriter. At the risk of sounding too dramatic, an authentic window into the creative process is also a window into the soul.
We spent most of our time talking about words, not music, which illustrates his passion for reading and writing. Heck, he sounds like a short story writer. And I imagine he'd be OK with that. Read my interview after the video. It's long, but worth every word. And a big thanks to Carll for the thoughtfulness of his answers.