Soul singer Marc Broussard, son of Louisiana Hall of Fame and Boogie Kings guitarist Ted Broussard, does it the old-fashioned way. His latest album, S.O.S.: Save Our Soul, a collection of R&B classics, from Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues," Al Green's "Love and Happiness" and Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long" to more obscure numbers by Bobby Womack and Rance Allen, was recorded mostly live to analog tape, in order to retain the gritty, earthy vibe that once made music — in his case, soul music — inviting to the ear. "We're taking people to school a little bit, onto some quality soul music and what it was all about," says Broussard.
But even a staunch R&B supporter like Broussard has his doubts about where the current musical climate is headed. "I never thought there would come a day when I would stop liking R&B music," he says. "But there isn't much out there today that I can stomach anymore."
The culprit? "I think it's the big fish, Clear Channel, point blank. These guys are basically dictating things, dictating what it is that people are hearing, and then the industry says, ‘Oh, well, this is what people want to hear.' It's not really what people want to hear; it's just what Clear Channel put on the radio. I can't get on the radio. Hip-hop artists are getting into the studio and they have to make this ‘booty booty booty everywhere' (music) so that they can sell their record."
The answer? "If you stop making that kind of music, then Clear Channel can't play it. There has to be a significant shift and it's got to take an artists' alliance across the board to say, ‘We're being treated unfairly,' for one, on the record industry side, and, ‘We're not going to make that crappy music anymore. We're going to make music that says something.'"
Broussard doesn't mince words. But whether he's biting the hand that feeds him is questionable, since, as he points out, he can't get his records played on the radio anyhow. Instead, he's relied on what most musicians count on these days: grass roots and word of mouth.
"Absolutely, for my music, it's word of mouth," says Broussard. "We have fans who champion it and that incorporates the Internet, because they get on message boards and share my music and talk about it. If I owned my own records, I'd be giving my records away for free. You come to the show, you get a free CD. But I don't own my own records. The labels own the records and they own them outright. It was virtually impossible for me to make any money. I didn't make any money with Carencro `his 2005 release on Island`. Luckily, I've now got a great label with Vanguard that gave me more than a fair deal. I can make records for way cheaper than major labels. I can do one for less than 40 grand. When you do that, it's much easier to motivate people to spend money on promotion."
But has downloading, file sharing and CD burning cut into his bottom line? "I'm sure it has," says Broussard matter-of-factly and without a trace of bitterness or injustice. "But the only reason people have started downloading music in the first place, it's not worth it buying a whole record for $20. There's only one song they want to hear. But if people were making records that looked cool, that had good artwork and not just some dude standing on the cover of the record, or an album of quality material, I think people would be inclined to go to the record store. It's fun to go to the record store. But kids are spoonfed bullshit all across the board and it's so accessible they just download it from their friends."
As far as Broussard's concerned, he's got the best job in the world and the business end takes care of itself as long as he stays true to the music. He hires great musicians and lets them loose. Sound simple? Sure. Yet, Broussard's aware of how people screw up such a simple plan.
"Today, music is, you hire a great fucking drummer and on the record you have some representation of that drummer's performance, but it's not that drummer's performance. He lays down a couple measures of the groove and they take that one section and paste it over and over, and it takes out the humanity." Broussard pauses. "I'm not into that."firstname.lastname@example.org