Under-rated, understated and scandalously overlooked for the most part by the record-buying, gig attending public, Dublin-born songwriter MARC CARROLL is an artist whose true worth is best measured against the respect of his peers.
Now signed to long-established indie label One little Indian, last month saw the release of his 6th studio album, 'Stone Beads & Sliver', a record that features McKenzie Smith (Midlake) and Bo Koster (My Morning Jacket) amongst an all-star cast of collaborators.
And with the label also planning to re-release his entire back catalogue on both sides of the Atlantic this year, there’s every chance that Carroll will finally get some of the commercial recognition that he deserves.
W&H tracked the multi-instrumental veteran down in Manchester immediately prior to the last of his handful of UK dates ahead of his return to the States in advance of the US release of 'Stone Beads..' next month, where the discussion revolved around his artistic ethics and values, as well as life on One Little Indian
"I tell you what it was with them; they just came out of the blue. Their interest surprised me more than anyone"
"I’ve met Derek, the boss, once in two years – and I actually quite like it that way."
"They talked about reissuing the back catalogue, and asked me if I was ready to make a new record, which I wasn’t at that time, so they put out the compilation album last year. Then when I was ready to make it, they wanted to do it y’know..
"He basically said ‘what do you wanna do?’ – those were his words - and I’ve never had a record company say ‘what do you wanna do’
"(Stone Beads & Silver) is the first album I’ve made in the States – and I’ve been living there for five or six years."
"Reviews have always been alright, though I haven't read most of the reviews for this one on purpose" he states:
"Whilst I'm grateful, obviously, a review is only there for a week, or a month, and then it's gone."
"I'm getting all these comparisons with 'Americana' - I'm Irish for a start - but I've just used a few different instruments (most notably pedal steel guitar) and there's different players bringing something else to it - particularly Larry (Campbell) - Larry was great, it was a great honour to have him play. He's a phemomenal musician, but on top of that, just an amazing person."
"The musicians I wanted to work with were all there, so a few phone calls…."
W&H: It's as if the respect of your peers more important to you than commercial success?
"Totally. Not only are they amazing musicians, but all egos were left at the door."
"My Morning Jacket - the go off and they're a big band. Midlake....they're a big band...and there's me in the middle, hahaha....but they weren’t on tour, and they all just came down."
"All the songs were demoed, they were all titled - I was more prepared than I've ever been for making any record."
"Chris Testa produced it - he did some great stuff with A Band Of Horses and Jimmy Eat World...then he did some stuff with the Dixie Chicks and won a Grammy hahaha."
W&H: Will the forthcoming back catalogue re-releases (which will see the albums available in the States for the first time) finally see your profile raised?:
"I'll never trouble the charts" he grins:
"I understand everything's changed, with downloads, but there's still a little part of me that believes that there are still some people out there who really love to buy a record or a CD."
"I think when I was a bit younger…I chased things a bit more, ‘why aren’t we on the TV, why aren’t we on the radio’....
"But it’s not worth it" he shrugs:
"The music got sidelined a bit….I made some (sigh)…alright records, and some people liked them – this was in the late ‘90’s, some band stuff. I just let producers maybe get a bit more of their
thing on it, just sort of gave up, whatever
"But now I’m a bit older, and I don’t know…"
"I only care about the music."
"The business side of it someone else can take care of - I only care about the songs."
Hey! Manchester promotions have hand-picked Carroll for tonight's show, but as he's opening for San-Fransisco songwriter BHI BHIMAN, his set got cut painfully short to just a half hour.
But though his performance was all-too brief, as well as 'naked', his experience told, as he somehow managed to get the job of promoting the new record done in just eight-songs.
Bathed in the glow of a soft, single spotlight, Carroll got off to a typically low key start, but the lonely-looking veteran's performance soon intensified into a radiant showcase of the diversity of the songs on 'Stone Beads & Silver'. This was underlined by the back to back renditions of both of the album's singles, with the intensive, brand-new melancholy of 'The Fool Disguised In Beggar's Clothes' preceding the massive melodic contrast of radio-friendly jangle-pop, namely 'It Was Lust Not Love':
His attempts at on-stage banter weren't so much self deprecating as self-scathing:
"That's got to be the dullest song I've ever written - c'mon, let's be serious about it" he admitted of the latter:
There was also an anecdotal explanation for his reluctance to engage with tonight's audience:
"Last night I was playing in Newcastle, and I told a joke about Sunderland" he explained:
"It wasn't offensive, but it wasn't very funny either"
Afterwards, there are plenty of fans ready to show their appreciation for Carroll (a man known for rarely touring), whose plans for a quick getaway are temporarily scuppered.
Carroll couldn't have been more accommodating, but true to his earlier comments about press feedback, his parting shot is to tell me "If you didn't like it, write it".
"It is what it is - I know my position and I'm alright with it."