I Lived It All
Finally after a year or so of trying, we are able to present Carl Marshall, currently one of the most prominent personalities in Southern Soul. He appeared in the editor's mind in connection with the song Good Lovin 'Makes You Cry, as he did for many others.
What really impressed the editor was the great I Lived It All , a song that passed unnoticed until it was re-released a year ago. Carl Marshall is not only an artist, he is also a songwriter, producer and co-owner of CDS, perhaps the most active company for Southern Soul with a steady flow of releases. The interview was divided for convenience into two parts. The first part, Who is Carl Marshall? was made by Dylan Deanna, founder of the CDS and the owner of Blues Critics website. The second part, What Are His Standings?, was made by Jefferson's editor by telephone on 21st of August. Many thanks to Dylan DeAnna, who set up the interview and arranged for everything.
WHO IS CARL MARSHALL?
Now that Good Lovin’ Will Make You Cry has become a certified classic in the Southern Soul world Carl Marshall’s popularity has grown rapidly the last several years. But Carl’s actually given his all to the music world for over 30 years now. Born in Independence, LA but grew up in the music streets of New Orleans.
One of ten children Carl’s first taste of music was in the church.
“My brothers and sisters, we had a Gospel group, The Marshall Family, we used to perform at local churches” but Carl’s first love of music was Delta Blues and Country. “My favorite show was The Portner Wagoner Show. That’s where I got the idea for flashy clothing. It wasn’t from the Blues if you can believe that. It was from the Country side! The acts on that show always had fancy outfits and that had an influence on me (laughs). I’m known for dressing sharp.”
Carl’s father was a guitar player and was into Delta Blues and Gospel.
“After a hard day in the fields he would grab his guitar and sit on the porch and start playing some of that Delta Blues. I remember thinking, ‘Wow if I could play like that I could all the girls! (laughs) Even a young age a boy thinks like that. But my father didn’t teach me to play guitar. I had to sneak and teach myself. He didn’t want none of us to touch his guitar so I decided one day to steal it while he wasn’t home and went under the porch. And the first thing I started to do was go winding on the strings and then I would put it back from where I took it. My father would come home, grab his guitar and say: “who’s been messing with my guitar?!” and I couldn’t figure out how he knew but he started winding on those strings and put it back in tune. So next time I knew what to do. Fortunately even as a kid I was blessed to have a good ear. So I took the guitar again went under the porch and would wind the strings and listen but then wind it right back to where he had it so I did that all night long and taught myself how to tune a guitar. He never taught me anything but I learned from watching him play.”
After spending two years in the military from 1969 to 1971 Carl found himself back in New Orleans and going into music full time. He became involved with the group Sam & the Soul Machine, which consisted of Aaron Neville (lead vocals), Sam Henry (keyboards), Gary Brown (sax), Richard Amos (bass), Cyril Neville (congas) and Robert Bush (drums).
"The roots of my music come from New Orleans funk. The Isleys. I worked with Aaron Neville, and played guitar for the Neville Brothers. There was The Meters, of course. New Orleans funk. That was the thing. If you can be as funky as The Meters, you're doing it. Even though Aaron had “Tell It Like It Is” out there he was still singing with us.” Sam & The Soul Machine performed heavily around New Orleans for a few years before Rodgers Redding booking agency began using them to back various acts like ZZ Hill and others. The group eventually migrated to Nashville, TN where they landed a steady gig at the club The Modern New Era as the house band. Before long Aaron Neville was fired from the band. “Can you believe that? But being the Aaron was a crooner who could sing the ballads the club owner wanted us to do dance music so Cyril took over as vocalist after Aaron left”
Carl’s first recording was released on Amherst Records in 1976. Under the name Soul Dog Carl released the song Soul Dog and even an album called Movin’ On. The proto-rap song Soul Dog was delivered in a trucker’s MC style. “We had left the Era club and became the house band at a club called Show And Sound and the club owner Willie Johnson was writing songs and wanted us to record one of them.” With both Aaron and Cyril both no longer with the group Carl did the vocal on the single Soul Dog. “It was a CB/trucker talk-type of thing. We were rapping before there was rap”. The song became popular to be picked up and released by Amherst Records, which also released the LP Movin’ On. One of the album’s cuts, Can’t Stop Loving You was sampled by rapper Common in 1997 (“Hungry”).
In addition to a second LP, this time credited to Carl Marshall & The S.D.’s (Sound Dimension), called I’ll Give My Heart To You released in 1980 on Chantilly, various other singles appeared on labels like J.B’s Records, Ted Jarrettt’s T-Jaye Records (Let’s Go Humpin, Your Woman Really Turns Me On), Double Hit (I Can’t Live Without You) and most notably Edge Record Company, Inc. The latter being Al Bell’s first venture after Stax Records where he and Carl recorded a 12 inch single called Let It Be Me under the name Marshall & Babb. Carl had joined with Gary Babb, whose father was Morgan Babb, formed the duo Marshall And Babb, releasing the regionally popular song Let It Be Me, which drew the attention of Al Bell of the now defunct Stax Records. “He liked the song and contacted me and we formed Edge Records together”. The song was released as the 45 Let It Be Me/On A High by Marshall And Babb on Edge
Further singles and 12 inchers continued to appear, such as Mardi Gras Party (as Carl Marshall & Sound Dimension) throughout the 80s. Carl & The SD’s spent a couple years touring around the world on USO tours.
In the early 90s Carl was back in New Orleans and began working as a disc jockey at WYLD and started his own imprint, Gifft. Behind it he began issuing his own LPs of Funk, R & B, Blues, Gospel and Jazz (This Gift, Dead End, Let’s Get Fired Up, Last Minute) before working with Senator Jones’ Hep’ Me Records. “I was the first one to have a duplicating machine and everyone was coming to be to duplicate their cds. Senator Jones came to me to do a Sir Charles Jones cd before he had a deal with Mardi Gras Records”. Hep Me also issued Carl’s next LP, You Can’t Stop A Woman, which spawned a regional hit with the title cut. This was followed up with a one album stint at Mardi Gras Records (A Woman Want A Man, She Don’t Want No Punk) in 2001.
After Carl and Jones had a “falling out” over an album Carl was producing on The Love Doctor (who had just hit the national charts thanks to the song Slow Roll It) he went back to cutting albums for his Gifft (and later Unleashed) label, scoring “Southern Soul” market hits with songs like This Is For Grown Folks, Grown Folks Party With Me, Jingle My Bell, Ain’t No Party Like A Grown Folks Party & Wind It Up. During this period Carl also served as a radio personality at the Meridian, Mississippi Clear Channel station Kiss 104.1
In 2005 Carl released a song called Good Lovin’ Will Make You Cry. At first it was ignored. “I had cut the CD Let’s Dance and couldn’t get anyone to play it so I just went on to record the next album”. Gradually over the next couple years the song began to grow as the song began to connect with an audience. By mid-2006 it was one of the hottest songs in Southern Soul music. For over two years it was one of the most loved, played and known song in the genre. During this time Bigg Robb did a remix of the song, which took it to the top for a second run.
During this time Carl had moved to Houston, TX and in 2008 Carl next signed with a new label, CDS Records, and released his best album yet in 2009, Look Good For You, featuring the title cut, which the Jus’ Blues Music Awards awarded “Blues/Soul Song Of The Year” Carl also began producing most of the acts for the label.
In 2010 Carl became Vice President of CDS records and released the CD, Love Who You Wanna Love, and his first DVD, Grown Folks Live.
AND WHAT ARE HIS STANDINGS?
You invented the term grown folks music, how would you define Grown Folks Music?
The way I would define grown folks music, is the music that has been around all the time, it’s just the name that has changed. Our grown folks music is old r&b that we had back in the days of Motown, the Stax records, Philadelphia, and so on. That’s all it is. It’s just the name of the music that has changed. Not the music. The name southern soul, it’s a great name because of the old music started in the South anyway. When it got started in the South, it moved on to the North, West, to the East and so on. But grown folks southern soul music, all it is, is old r&b. The music hasn’t changed, just the name has changed.
It has nothing to do with the lyrics?
No, actually I would say it has grown tremendously over the last few years, so many people got critical in the way some lazy artists didn’t take the time to come across with some great messages in their songs. And I would admit, in the birth of it was a bunch of junk, but now it’s cleaned up more and more and I have a part of that. I don’t do any filthy lyrics. I love to say the kind of messages they were using back in the days of Motown, Stax and Philiadelphia, they had great messages in their songs. I’m trying to stick to that pattern, to keep it coming like that.
I read in an article a time ago that black music was always an adult music, but rap changes the demographics to teenagers, do you agree with that?
That black music always has been for adults? Actually I would not totally agree with that. I would say we just have to nick some standards to make up fences. Southern soul is not the greatest name I would admit, but a name that was put up so people can recognize the music because of the name, And it’s not just the music for adults, it’s for whatever age groups, you just need to put your mind on the grown folks stage. And the grown folks stage is this. Grown folks can go out and have fun. They can drink and they can party, they don’t fight. They just want to have fun and enjoy themselves and go back home. That’s the stage we need to get everybody on. Just go out and have some fun with the music, come back to get you some rest, get up to get prepared for another day. That’s the kind of message in the music we need for all our agendas. Music for people to have fun together.
Really what has happened to the music industry, in the southern soul we do not get the key radio stations to support our music. But I think that’s only for a time and I believe that things are getting ready to changes, because every music has had a break , but what we call southern soul music , it’s a change ready to take about, now this music will be the next biggest music in the music industry. Somebody has just to believe in it, get it a chance and hold on to the dreams. And that what’s I’m been doing. I’m real good at producing artists that have that old time feel. Garland Green, Jealous Kind of Fella, from the day it was created until this day, we are doing another version of it and it still sounds good. Garland was able to produce great vocal to it, we just put a different twist to it. And one other thing that we are making sure of, we have had a lot of criticism, we didn’t use a lot of machinery, we use live music, live drums, live bass, live guitar, live piano, live horns and everything. I feel that we should never leave that. That’s what happened to Southern Soul in the beginning of it, we went to the machinery and took the real guts out of the groove. I’m trying to establish and bring it back to forefront so musicians can get work again.
Have you listened to R. Kellys record Love letter?
R. Kelly? He is doing a great job bringing this music back to where it’s supposed to be, there’s not a lot of machinery
Is there any difference between R. Kelly and southern soul?
No, I wouldn’t say so, the only thing that’s different is his age group, they have embraced him. And once you are embraced into the modern market you could stay there for a long time. I believe that the market is hunger for a new young face. We have been around for awhile, older people are not embraced in the music business like the younger people and I can understand that, because you have a longer jeopardy in the artists and everything. I feel good music is just good music and I think it’s unfair to look at that, but we have to hold on, we have to prove to the world that good music is good music whether it comes from old or young.
Going back to the old soul music of Al Green, the music has developed quite a lot, is there any milestone for the beginning of the current southern soul.
The birth of Southern soul getting started, I believed it really started with Johnnie Taylor. I believe Johnnie Taylor started things off with the song Good Love. He was really that established, but he allowed young people to come in and work on the production. And it gave things a twist, because everyone used to look at Johnnie Taylor as a blues artist. I believe that was the beginning of the birth of the southern soul.
When you were young, what artists did impress you?
The sound of Stax Records, Motown, Philadelphia International, I was really impressed with that. Eddie Floyd, Isaac Hayes, The Dells, Ojays, Candi Staton, Dorothy Moore, and so on. Otis Redding, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, it just goes on and on.
On your records there is a lot of funk Music
Yes, I love my older music, things changed a little bit as we grow old and get a little better as we should grow and get better. But I never leave the funk, I never leave the soul. The soul is in it, it can’t go anywhere, and I’m can’t go nowhere.
Bigg Robb has a funk background as well as Charlie Wilson and Gene Anderson and you. Now you are all in southern soul or doing ballads
Actually you have to follow with the twist. Everybody is trying to get a record that sells. Soul don’t sell today the way it did in the early 60’s, 70’s and 80’s . They don’t call it soul that really sells, they call it hiphop. Hiphop is another kind of groove that comes from rappers that on the machines create a beat. They don’t know what they are doing, but it feels good. We used get around with instruments to create a beat that feels good, knowing what we were doing. In the hiphop and rap thing the creativity comes from not knowing what you are doing, but soul comes from knowing what you are doing. That’s the only different with the music, but the grooves still feel good
Southern soul is very dance oriented….
Oh yes, it’s definitely dance. If there is not people around the stage it’s not going anywhere. People love to dance. If it wasn’t great music, people wouldn’t come out to support the live performance of the entertainer. Even though we can’t sell the records that we used to sell, because after technology came we have had so much bootlegging and everything going on. An artist can put out a record today and that goes for hiphop, r&b, country and whatever you are doing. You put a record out today, next week a million can have the record and don’t have to pay for it.
We have the dance songs and the deep ballads and there are some tremendous deep ballads, is it a problem that the deep ballads are not as appreciated as the dance songs?
We just have to depend on time to change things and don’t lose your focus on what you know to have been blessed with. Just continue doing what you are doing. I believe in this principle. If you are doing enough stuff on the wall then something have to stick. You don’t stop doing what you are doing because the economy has changed. Don’t let the economy change you, you change the economy. If you know you have something good, you don’t give up on it. You stay there with it. One day it’s gonna break through. I hope I live to see that day happen
One of your greatest song is Lived It All, tell me about that song
I wrote it because I felt the need for me to express where I came from, what I been through, so people would know about what goes on inside Carl Marshall. What I came up through, the dues I have paid, so someone would look at me to be determent what I’m all about , truly know what I’m been through. That’s why I made the song about I Lived It All. I’m not a person that came and jumped into the groovy thing two or three years ago. I had a rough time in life and I feel I never got what I deserved. I don’t let my focus down what I didn’t get, because I’m so grateful for what I have to get , the ability I have to create music. I don’t worry about what I don’t get, because I’m so happy with the gift god have given me. I don’t get paid for what I do. But the feeling I get from what I do is greater than the pay.
A deep song like that, is it appreciated or are they preferring dance songs?
I think people really appreciated it, I think we just don’t get the airplay and the promotion that we used to get back in the days, like in the old days. We don’t get that kind of airplay. Today radio is not programming those kinds of songs. It’s an all different groove, all different turn around. But I believe we are not far away from our time coming back again. I feel it’s a great song. I feel it’s just a kind of song the OJays did back in the days, Love Train . It’s that kind of a song, people all over the world get on the LoveTrain. That’s a very powerful message in that song. As there is a very powerful message in the song that Marvin Gaye did, What’s Going On. It’s one of the same types of song. The only difference, we just don’t get the airplay. If that song is given a chance, I believe it could change the world, I lived It All and I believe all we have lived through some stages that people don’t know about
Southern soul is very much about songs for the radio, like the old 45’ single market. The cd’s are also very much about 1 or 2 good songs, the rest is fillers. Do you think the album format is suitable to that market.
What has happened to some of the artists that caused that, they are not making enough money to survive, they sell themselves out. They just do anything. That’s why I’m living my life to make a stand for a turnaround in the music industry, I won’t sell out trying to anything to make a dollar. I want say something to be fruitful to people alike.
Some of the older artists sell out and they say anything just to try to sell a record. I say you don’t need to sell junk, you need to sell quality. Somebody just have to make a stand. I believe that’s my call, that’s my job to make a stand. I don’t do those kinds of records
You are also writing songs for other artists. Is it hard to come up with new song all the time?
It is not hard for me to come up with new songs because I’m full of great ideas to send out messages to the people. If you love people, it’s not hard to write songs. There is so much to say concerning love, concerning things that can be fruitful to people. It’s never hard for me to write a song
In the old times you put out three songs a year, now you have to put out 12 or 16 songs, isn’t that too much?
The reason for that goes back to what I said before, the reason for that happening, good songs from southern soul artist are not given a proper chance to do the work it should do. The artists keep on putting out records because the record only last a song. They don’t get the promotion, don’t get the airplay, don’t get the publicity. They have to put out 12 versions of one or two songs
You said you think Southern Soul will get its break through, how do you think it will develop.
I think it will develop from people keeping the focus on being themselves doing great work. Great work will stand for ever and stay on the track, but somebody has to be the leader and I believe I’m one of the leaders. I won’t stop doing great music or writing great lyrics trying to get a dollar . I believe the dollar is already made for me, if I hold on to my stands. I don’t believe we are too far away because Carl Marshall is more popular today than he was two or three years ago. But I have also been doing more works than the average producer or average artist or songwriter. I work hard, I do what I do 24/7. It’s not only about Carl Marshall. I put my heart and soul into every artist I produce. I could never make it if I wouldn’t put a lot of Carl Marshall into different artists. I believe I get what I deserve eventually.
Is the southern soul market growing today?
Yes it’s growing. I think it growing as fast as any other music grows. We are still in business, even though we are not selling a lot of music. We still have a lot of people who love this kind of music. The only thing that is holding up right now , we don’t have the opportunity to get the promotion for this kind of music. It’s not because it’s bad music, it’s a bad choice of people not giving it the chance to be promoted
Why did you join CDS records?
I was able to see a younger man that had a taste for this music I was doing. I was doing the same thing he was doing before, so we joined together. But he was doing more of what I need to do besides of putting records out as promotion. I realized I couldn’t do it all because I’m a team player. And I believe I have grown more since we have joined hands working together. I take care of the music department and he takes care of the promotion and the best he can do. We don’t exchange 100 dollars.. We see the vision, we see the dream. And we put in a lot of hard work, produce a lot of artists, put out a lot of records. I do the majority of the production. We don’t need a lot of money to do it, we need a lot faith to hold on. We have made tremendous progress since we joined together as a team.
Who owns Aviara label, is it you.
CDS owns Aaviara. Everything I had, I brought to the table so we could have it under a roof of one company so we could have more focus on CDS. I believe we have a breakthrough there. Everything that I had before I joined CDS I brought to the table so we could be with CDS.
What I would like to say is that we have had a lot of critics that was concerned about the machinery. I would say most people don’t understand the reason for the machinery, they look at what they don’t like about the machinery, they don’t understand the reason for the machinery. The reason for the machinery is because the economy got so bad you could not afford live musicians on every product.
But now things has changed. They have better quality equipment being put on the market, samplers, keyboards that can sample a sound of a real instrument. They give you back the quality sound. That’s the reason for the machinery. But nothing could ever compare to that live instrument. I’m a musician, I prefer no machinery. But machinery has helped me keeping money in my pocket, when I get ideas. I believe the way it should be done is to use the machinery to create and work it up, but the final product should be with live music. That’s what I’m doing now. I use the machinery to work it up and replace it with live instruments after it’s all worked up. We are going to get what we used to get with the live music in the southern soul, r&b, hiphop. Everything is changing going back to live instrument. And I’m happy. Once you understand the reason why it did have to take place, you won’t have a problem what have been used because it’s straighten out again.
Anders Lillsunde Jefferson #169