Interview with Kendell Marvel: Music is “the Only Thing I’ve Ever done”


Last year, Kendell Marvel released his album Solid Gold Sounds, which was produced and co-written by Dan Auerbach. On top of that, it garnered some much-deserved attention for Marvel, whose songs have been recorded by noted country artists such as Chris Stapleton and Blake Shelton.

Recently, Marvel released a cover of Lee Hazlewood’s song “Houston”. It had been recorded at the same time as the other songs on Solid Gold Sounds, but was not included on the album. By phone, he discussed his decision to record “Houston”, being an artist that is dealing with a pandemic, and what’s next for him.

Americana Highways: What was it about “Houston” that made you want to cover it?

Kendell Marvel: Man, my co-producer Dave Ferguson, Ferg we call him, brought this one in. I liked it immediately. I wasn’t familiar with Lee Hazlewood’s stuff, aside from the Nancy Sinatra song. Ferg brought me this Dean Martin version of the song. I just like the way it sounded. As soon as I heard it, I knew I wanted to cut it. If we could make this song feel like a Waylon Jennings song, I’m in. I’d already practiced it a bit to make sure it feels right. It’s a song about a guy who’s ready to go back to where he came from. It kind of describes Nashville actually. If you come here, you might be a big fish in a small pond. You come here and you see how good everybody else is. Sometimes it sends you home with your tail between your legs.

AH: The video is pretty interesting.

KM: Josh, that was his concept. I loved it. I was glad to get my old dog Sugar in there. She’s 16. I’m not sure how many years she’s got left. We had to get her in there for sure.

AH: How come that didn’t make the album?

PS: We had several that didn’t make the album. When you’re doing a record, you just hear songs that flow with the record. Dan liked it enough that he said, “Let’s record a version.” We knew we really loved that. He mixed that and said, “We’ll put that out as a single at some point.” It sounds so different than everything else on the record. I think we have five or six songs that we recorded that did not make the record.

AH: Those might be on the next one?

KM: Probably. We’ll probably write some new ones. We might revisit them. Sometimes when you hit the chord. It doesn’t work for one reason or another.

AH: What’s your message to those holding concerts in the midst of a pandemic?

KM: I’m an independent artist. I’m as ready to go back to work as anybody else. I don’t know if you read the full quote. They didn’t put it all in there. I had said that I was supposed to be on the Chris Stapleton tour right now. As a 50-year-old, that’s a big thing for me. If we have to wait another year to do that, so be it, if it saves lives. They cut the back half of that off, and kind of made me look a little bit selfish. I didn’t like that. My point is that if we all do one thing, like the mask thing. If everyone would do it for just a little while, from what I hear, we could get a handle on it. I just don’t know if everybody’s going to do it. I understand people want to work. I want to work too. I’ll do what I have to do for the greater good of things.

AH: It’s not an easy situation, but you have to play the hand you’re dealt.

KM: Sure. I just think the longer we drag our feet with it, the longer it’s going to drag out. Right now we’re looking at 2021 before we get back to work. I think we should buckle down now. Otherwise, I think it’s going to snowball into more problems next year. I have nothing against people working. I want to work too if all the promoters and venues can promote social distancing and do it right. I’m not going to go to a concert and wear a mask. I’d rather not go personally. I understand that. But if we can do it right, like these drive-in shows, that needs to be working. But when you’ve got artists just posing in photos, it’s like “What are you guys doing?”

AH: What’s next as far as recording at least?

KM: I don’t know that we’ll do anything this year. We might start working on some stuff this fall. I presume we’ll do another record. I’d love to do another one with Dan. I really enjoyed making that album. We’ll make another record, probably next year sometime. Solid Gold Sounds was a lot of fun. We wrote that whole record in four days. It was 15 or 16 songs. It was a lot of fun. It was probably the most fun I’ve had in my entire career as far as recording. All the guys that played on that record were pretty well retired. Dan brought them out of retirement.

AH: Was that unusual for you to knock out the album so quickly?

KM: It was pretty unusual. Dan and I had never written together before. It was the perfect blend of a rock n roll/blues dude and a country guy. We jelled and wrote well together. It was fun. When you have fun doing stuff like that, it just makes it that much better.

AH: What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?

KM: It’s the only thing I’ve ever done. I’ve had a couple jobs I enjoyed. If I had my choice, I would fish, something to do with fishing. I love to fish out in the ocean he Gulf. I’d like to learn how to guide and do that kind of stuff.

“Houston” is available now on YouTube. Solid Gold Sounds is available everywhere. Find your copy here.

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