We'll let Hayes say it himself this time:
I’m a singer-songwriter.
I think “Lovers and Leavers” comes closer to reflecting that than any other record I’ve made.
I didn’t worry about checking boxes, making sure there was something here for everybody, or getting on the radio.
I just took some much needed deep breaths and let them out on tape.
It’s been a while since my last album by some measurements of time. Not “history of the universe time”, or “getting a bill through congress time”, but in the lives of dogs and recording artists, five years and fifty-three days is only a little less than an eternity.
I went through a divorce. I fell in love.
Changes were made, realizations were realized, and life was lived.
But, I kept on writing songs, on my own and with a cast of accomplished characters who combined their own stories and perspectives with mine.
Songs about my friends.
Songs about my son.
Songs about beginnings and endings.
Songs about songs.
Songs about acceptance and regret.
Songs about lovers and leavers.
With these songs in hand, I needed a co-conspirator to help me get them to you.
I called on Joe Henry, a gentleman poet and an elegant artist who seemed a trustworthy steward for my collection.
We recorded this record live in five days, using just an acoustic guitar, a mix of bass, percussion, pianos and organs, and a touch of pedal steel.
I didn’t have one song that I knew would be a sing along or would make people dance. I felt vulnerable in a way that I hadn’t in a long time. But I got what I wanted - a record with space, nuance, and room to breathe. It felt right for my art. It felt right for my life.
“Lovers and Leavers” isn’t funny or raucous. There are very few hoots and almost no hollers.
But it is joyous, and it makes me smile.
No, it’s not my "Blood on the Tracks," nor is it any kind of opus.
It’s my fifth record — a reflection of a specific time and place.
Raised in a Houston suburb by two working parents (who he has identified as "liberal"), Carll has cited influences in his youth from such songwriters as Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson and John Prine to Jack Kerouac and Dead Poets Society. He received his first guitar at 15. After graduating high school he left for Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, where he graduated with a history degree in 1998. He detassled corn for a summer before moving to Crystal Beach of Galveston, Texas, where he began playing his own songs at local bars.
Hayes moved to Austin, the unofficial music capital (as well as official capital) of Texas, where he found little success. He was so unsuccessful, in fact, that he even resorted to selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. He eventually decided to go back home and began regularly playing shows again, from Houston to Galveston, notably frequenting McGonigel's Mucky Duck in Houston.
After developing a following in the Houston area, Carll signed a one-album contract with Compadre Records. They released his debut Flowers and Liquor in 2002. Immediately embraced by critics, the album garnered comparisons to Townes Van Zandt. The Houston Press went so far as to name him the best folk act and best new artist of 2002. Hayes' tunes are ragged and often autobiographical songs about "lying around the house" playing guitar, being lonely, and drowning his sorrows in alcohol. The record also includes ballads such as "Easy Come Easy Go" and "Richey Lee," two observational narratives that display his storytelling talents.
After turning down a multi-album deal from Sugar Hill Records, his second album, Little Rock, was released under his own label, Highway 87 Records. It was produced by notable country music figure R.S. Field. It became the first self-released album to reach number one on the Americana music charts. In May of 2006, Carll announced that he is signed with Lost Highway records.
Hayes has written songs with Ray Wylie Hubbard and Guy Clark, among others. Additionally, Carll has had success on the national Americana radio charts, receiving an Americana Award for Little Rock. He is considered a main figure in the resurgence of Texas songwriters, writing in the Dylan-influenced tradition of Clark and Townes Van Zandt.