Q&A: Hayes Carll On Songwriting

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How old were you when you first started writing songs?

I was probably 14 or so when I wrote my first one. I was really just scribbling down lines more than writing songs back then. I wasn’t really sure what medium they would come out in, just that it seemed really important at the time.

You wrote American Songwriter’s #1 song of 2011. What was the inspiration for “Another Like You?”

Ann Coulter. Well a culmination of political media personalities I guess… But mostly just the thought of trying to pick up someone like… Ann Coulter.

What do you look for in a co-writer?

Nice abs, bedroom eyes, good sense of humor.

Anyone that isn’t scared to put themselves out there and be creative. It’s such a great feeling when someone helps you get to a place, or create something, that you never would have on your own.

What’s a lyric on KMAG YOYO you’re really into?

The drunks have turned to strangers
And the stars are out of tune
As I think about the one who might’ve saved me
I know your out there somewhere
‘Tween the highway and the moon
Oh bye bye, bye bye, baby

Do you revise a lot, or write automatically? 

My instinct usually leads me to a stream of conscious style. I’m a little more thoughtful if it’s a co-write. If I do it on my own I tend to stop wherever I get tired.

Who are some artists that inspired you to start writing?

Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and John Prine. Jim Croce, Lyle Lovett, Jimmy Buffet and Kenny Rogers. There were so many but I started with those guys in high school or even younger. They gave me the bug that led to everything else.

What’s a song of yours that’s really touched people?

I’ve got a song called “Long Way Home” about a good friend of mine named Aaron Wilkinson who died in NYC many years back. I know it touched the people who had a direct relation to Aaron, but it also seemed to reach a lot of folks who had never met him. I guess the sentiment of losing a friend or a loved one is something a lot of people can relate too.

What do you consider to be the perfect song?

“The Pilgrim no.39” by Kris Kristofferson. Or  “Don’t Think Twice it’s All Right” by Bob Dylan Hard to top those two in my book.

What advice do you have for aspiring songwriters?

Live life,
Find your own voice,
Stay hungry,
And put in the time.

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