Marc Broussard: Soul Provider

One Thursday evening in mid-July, New York’s Irving Plaza had a sold out show. It was so packed that people had no room to stand and doorways were being opened into the hallway. There were no opening acts, so there was no question about who everyone came to see, a young man from Louisiana - Marc Broussard. As his band warmed the audience up, classy and smooth, Marc strode to the stage wearing a Kangol-style hat, his voice resonating soulful melodies. As the audience heard Marc's deep and raspy voice singing to them, they went wild. This same energy carried throughout the show as everyone sang along with Marc's set until the end of the performance; still no one would let up. As Marc and his band disappeared backstage, his fans squeezed together like sardines in a can, begging for more as they chanted "Marc, Marc, Marc" in unison; it was an encore extravaganza. After about five minutes, Marc reappeared accompanied by the keys player. The spotlight on Marc evoked complete silence in the place as he sang his last few songs. It felt as though he was singing to each person individually. For those both familiar and unfamiliar with Marc's Broussard's music, a common curiosity emerged about the young blue-eyed soul. What fuels his love for soul music? Why did he release a covers album instead of original music? Marc Broussard discusses how some of the legends reacted to his new album S.O.S. (Save our Soul), his cutting grass before cutting tracks, and much, much, Alternatives: Can you describe the feeling you had when you first heard soul music?Marc Broussard: I guess I don’t really remember the first time I ever heard soul music ‘cause it was always in the house. But I do remember dancing around the house to Earth, Wind & Fire and Johnny B. Goode, Stevie Wonder and just being a kid knowing that I was listening to a good song. Not knowing anything about the artist that was singing it, not knowing whether or not he was Black or white, because I didn’t have a concept of Black or white back in those days. AHHA: What has been the biggest challenge for you in bringing back soul music?Marc: Oh, I’ve been trying to bring it back for a while and nobody was really getting the picture. I went and did this soul covers album just to show people that this is what drives me, and this is what inspires me. Respecting the original arrangements was the biggest challenge, making sure that we did these songs justice because they are masterpieces in their own rights. It’s not easy to try and step in the shoes of Al Green and Marvin Gaye and really sit in that attitude and that moment for any amount of time. I think definitely that was the biggest challenge. But it feels great to be able to do that. Feels great to get into the studio and actually set a goal and see it all the way through, and very quickly and very cost effectively turn out a record that’s full of classic soul tunes.AHHA: Have any of the legends commented on you covering their songs?Marc: I just heard a rumor that Al Kooper, he wrote “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” was very pleased with our rendition of it. Bob Babbit, who was one of the original Funk Brothers’ bass player, reached out and showed us love. I haven’t gotten a response from Stevie Wonder yet. I’m gonna try to reach out to him soon though.AHHA: Which of the artists that you covered would like to work with?Marc: Stevie, absolutely- top of the list. AHHA: What would you say to someone who is criticizing that you are covering classics?Marc: Well, I don’t think anyone can really criticize the fact that we set out to record these classic songs. But I have heard criticisms on the fact that we didn’t really do anything different, which was the whole intention. We weren’t trying to do anything different. The majority of my fans actually don’t know any of these songs. I wanted to show them what real good music sounds like, as well as what real good music feels like without subjecting those songs to the stereotypical pop records these days. These songs were the pop music of the ‘60s and ‘70s; it was the popular music. Soul music was the popular genre. I just wanted to showcase the fact that we can still make great sounding records that sound exactly like they did in the ‘70s. AHHA: What is the biggest obstacle in bringing soul music to the new generation?Marc: Ourselves - when producers, writers and arrangers try to over-think things, too much of anything is never good. We have a music community that is driven solely by radio. There are people listening to the radio but there are so many other ways to reach people. It’s just a weird business; it really is a strange business. I think we tend to over-think things and overanalyze them and over-edit them and just go back and hash it and hash it until finally you’re left with something that has no real human-ality to it at all. You got the fake drums or you got a drummer that’s been chopped up and spliced together. It’s a weird game, but I think if we get out of our own way and just let the music happen, then it’s definitely gonna progress forward. AHHA: How has the music of your father, Ted Broussard, contributed to your own style? Marc: My father is a great man. He’s always been there for me and very supportive of what I do. Luckily, he was smart enough to showcase my voice on stage very early, so I fostered a love for the stage. But also he was able to really turn me on to some great, great singers, baritone singers specifically – Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder. I’ve been fortunate to grow up in a home with a father like I had in the south that wasn’t a total hick, country boy that listened to Merle Haggard and all that. He wasn’t interested in that. He was interested in Earth, Wind & Fire and Blood, Sweat & Tears. [He didn’t] set any limits [for] what I can become and what I can do for myself. AHHA: Robin Thicke took two albums and an image change to get the credit he deserved. Do you see this sudden success as a stepping-stone for you or as a hindrance?Marc: I think it’s a huge stepping-stone for me. I was on Island Records, Def Jam, one of the biggest Hip-Hop labels in the world, if not the biggest Hip-Hop label in the world. For the two or three years that I was on Island Records, I was very adamant with everybody at the label that I wanted to collaborate with their urban artists. I’ve written songs that were specifically designed for urban radio and they never made it happen. Now all of a sudden, look what’s happening with Robin Thicke. People are falling head over heels for this guy and it’s not because he’s married to a Black woman. It’s because he’s a bad ass, you know what I’m sayin’? ‘Cause somebody tried to tell me that the other day, “Oh well he’s married to a Black woman.” Robin Thicke is a bad ass. In my experience and throughout my life singing for my African American friends throughout school, they had much more respect for what I was doing than anybody else that I was singing for. The white folks would say “Oh yeah, he’s a good singer. Cool.” The brothers and sisters fall out. They fall to the ground and say, “Oh lord, that’s my jam.” They called me Brian McWhite, that’s what they usually called me. AHHA: Are there any Hip-Hop artists out right now that you’d want to work with in the future?Marc: I love the New Orleans artists. I think Lil’ Wayne is a talented fella, and I’d love like to work with him. I’m just open to anybody with talent. I can write hooks, I can sing hooks, I can write songs for other artists. It’s just a matter of giving me an opportunity, and I’m gonna try my best to hit it out the park, that’s for sure.AHHA: Why did you choose to remake old school classics on this album, S.O.S. rather than include all original music?Marc: Well, I was on Island Records as you know, and I recorded a second record for Island called Must Be the Water that they said was too urban actually. It’s a great record; it’s the best record that I’ve ever recorded. There’s some fantastic songs on it, but they didn’t feel it. Unfortunately, I got dropped from the label, and they kept those recordings. They own those recordings, so I can’t take them with me. I couldn’t take them with me, I needed to get a record out, my managers came up with this idea. I thought it was a fantastic idea if we could find a label to put it out. Vanguard jumped at the chance, and it all fell into place. We recorded it, and three months later it came out, which is something I’ve never seen in the music business. It takes months and months and months of red tape to get through all the B.S. It was just a product of necessity that turned into a labor of love. AHHA: In this world of changing music, what do you see as the one constant for you that keeps you inspired?Marc: My family, my children. My children definitely keep me going more than anything else. They are a constant source of inspiration just for the sheer fact that they exist. It gives me drive not only to work hard and be successful, but also be a righteous and stand up guy. I want to leave a legacy for my children that is going to be reinforced by everybody that knows me. So therefore, everyone that I meet, I want to make sure that if they ever had the opportunity to meet my children, they speak very highly of me. I want my children to know that their father was a good man. AHHA: What were you doing before music? Marc: Cuttin’ grass. Cuttin’ grass for the state, for a power company in south Louisiana.AHHA: Do you have any outside interests?Marc: Yeah, I’m starting to invest in some real estate. I’m interested in being a successful human being as a whole. I like to spend time with my kids, obviously. I spend a lot of time in the community working with various organizations, [like] Acadiana Care which deals with HIV and AIDS testing, to healthcare centers that deal with uninsured workers that can’t afford to miss a day of work, but also can’t afford for the wages to pay for insurance. I try my best at every opportunity to give as much back to the community as much as I possibly can.