A kid in Carencro sings like he was raised in Motown. But Marc Broussard is out to prove that he’s more than just another pretty voice.
August 28, 2002
Marc Broussard stands in his parents’ kitchen in Carencro, barefoot, sleep still in his eyes. His hair is still wet from his shower. He’s fumbling with his belt, trying to thread it through the loops on his jeans.
The 20-year-old will soon be hitting the road after the release of his debut compact disc, Momentary Setback. Right now, though, he’s operating on about an hour and a half of sleep. His mother, Pat, is preparing a breakfast of bacon and biscuits. His father, Ted, is putting on a pot of coffee. Ross duPré, his 25-year-old manager, is there to drive him to the Lafayette airport. He’ll catch a plane to New York for the weekend where he’ll meet with record executives in hopes of landing a major record deal.
“This is the busiest three weeks I’ve had so far,” Marc says. “It’s not hell because it’s fun. But if heaven has a not-so-wonderful part, that’s what the next three weeks of my life will be like.”
He’s made another recent trip to Los Angeles to meet with more record executives, and there are three more record labels to meet with before the release of the record.
He’s tired, but he’s not complaining. These days he’s sitting on top of the world.
He pulls out his guitar and starts to play. Everyone in the room, including his older brother, Chris, stops what they’re doing to listen to him.
His face is beet red. His neck muscles are taut. His voice is older than his body. When he sings he sounds as if an old man with a truckload of soul has slipped into his skin.
Pat leans over and whispers, “Not many musicians can sing that well so early in the morning.”
Mothers generally aren’t the most objective critics of their own children. Their love for their kids tends to blur their vision.
But she’s still right.
Around here you can’t swing a cat without hitting a musician with it. They’re as common as mosquitoes and as thick as the humidity. Most of them don’t pay their bills playing music, but there are some who manage to make decent livings at it. The love of music keeps them playing, despite the all too common hardships.
Marc knows the story well. For him, his story begins with his grandfather.
Albert Broussard lived in Loreauville and worked for Exxon. He played guitar and raised a family of musicians – a guitarist, a pianist, a singer and a drummer. He played music on the side and shelved his musical dreams to raise his family. Marc has acknowledged his grandfather’s sacrifice by dedicating Momentary Setback to him.
Marc says, “I’ve got some cousins who are just extremely talented. I just wanted – for my family’s sake, for the musicians in my family especially – to know that I know who started it all for us. And that’s Paw Paw.”
When Albert Broussard passed on his love of music to his children, Ted Broussard became one of the inheritors. An accomplished guitarist in his own right, he once led his own band, Ted Broussard & Uptown Express, and later performed for a three-year stint with the Boogie Kings. His latest gig was providing the guitar for his son’s new album. Like his father before him, Ted held down a steady job (he’s a housing rehab specialist for the city of Lafayette) while he and Pat raised their four children.
At the age of 5, Marc begin singing with his father on stage. Wen he turned 17, the two began performing together as a duo at local clubs, a collaboration that lasted for two years.
Marc says his greatest influence has been his father.
“The biggest blessing that I’ve had in this life,” he says, “is having my siblings never be jealous of our relationship. That was a really big factor in my formation as a musician because I never had any conflict. And my dad never pushed it on me either. I just always wanted to do it.”
Marc grew up listening to his father’s music – Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Donny Hathaway, Chick Corea, George Benson and Earth, Wind & Fire. At the time, he didn’t agree with his father’s taste, but “now that I look back at it, I love it and I know that it was a huge part of why I’m doing what I’m doing now.”
Brian McKnight also influenced Marc’s musical tastes, so much so that some of his middle school classmates called him Brian McWhite. He says McKnight’s music “touched me at an early age, and his music has always moved me.”
He began playing guitar at the age of 11, and a year later he began writing his own songs, what he calls “simple songs.”
“There’s something really special about performing an original show and moving people with your own music, the music that you’ve created. There’s something that’s really special there. Songwriting is a huge part of what I do.”
‘Just Like That’
Ross duPré was friends with Marc’s brother Chris when they first met. He was working with the youth ministry at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church and Marc was one of the youth who regularly attended retreats. duPré was also involved with the church’s music program and was managing Jivin’ Sister Fanny, which later evolved into Strawboss. Today, duPré runs 333 Entertainment, an artist management firm.
He says, “The first time I heard Marc I knew he had something special.”
“When I think of music today and music of the past, Marc has an old soul,” duPré says. “I can envision him performing during the times of Otis Redding and all these great entertainers. He’s a performer. He just has a gift, and I think that’s what he was born to do. He has the ability to capture an audience with his persona and his voice.”
duPré later begin booking Marc to open up for Strawboss.
One evening in December, Marc was performing at The Bank at 500 Jefferson, opening for Tribal Spirits, when his path crossed with Leah Simon’s. Born and raised in Lafayette and a graduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Simon had migrated to California to work for Elektra Records. Nine years ago, she and her husband, Del Williams, formed Alternative Radio Marketing Strategies, based in Santa Monica, Calif. She handles the artist development and publishing of new bands while Williams consults alternative radio stations across the country. Record labels hire Simon to navigate young bands to stardom. She’s been involved with the careers of Train, Seven Mary Three, Five for Fighting, Athenaeum and Better Than Ezra.
Simon is also co-owner of the sushi restaurant Tsunami. On that December night, she was working at Tsunami when Cory Guidry, a waiter and the singer for Strawboss, asked her if she intended to check out Marc’s set. She had never heard of him, and her employees insisted that she go see him.
When Simon got to The Bank, she was too late. Marc had already played his opening set. duPré introduced the two. Simon apologized for missing the set and said maybe she could catch his act the next time she was in town, probably around Mardi Gras.
Marc wouldn’t hear of it. Instead, he brought Simon out into the parking lot, sat her down on a curb and played for her three of his songs – “You Lie You Cheat,” “Gotta Be More” and “Just Like That.”
“He was 19,” she says. “He was the whitest kid I’d ever seen and he blew me away. What in the hell is going on with that voice? His range is phenomenal, and he has perfect pitch almost every time. The boy’s the real deal.”
A month later, Simon flew Marc and duPré out to Los Angeles to meet with record labels to discuss a possible record deal. duPré says they traveled “Elvis style.”
In California, they met with record executives from Capitol, Warner Brothers and DreamWorks. Marc played acoustically for all of them in their offices.
duPré says, “They were all blown away. They all asked, ‘What are we going to do with you?’ They were wondering how in the world they were going to package this kid.”
Simon says, “All these people freaked out, but no one did anything.”
Simon later had a dinner party at her house and Marc was playing when he captured the attention of Marshall Altman, who was then an A&R representative for Columbia Records. Altman said that whatever Marc was about to get into, he wanted to be in on it.
Instead of waiting for a record deal, Simon decided to record Marc herself and created Ripley Records for his debut release. She is the executive producer of Momentary Setback.
duPré says that because the record labels couldn’t understand where Marc was coming from or where he intended to go, they were going “to show them what direction he was going to go in.”
“Sometimes record deals, even when the label is ready to sign an artist, can take as long as six months,” he says. “We’ve already got an audience with 400 people coming to shows that want to bring Marc home. At the same time, we’ve got a starving artist who needs to be out there and he needs to put food on the table.”
Marc has a difficult time describing his music, but if he had to choose a style to file his record under in the record stores, he says he would create a new bin altogether – “White Soul.”
While each song varies in style and approach, there’s a strong pop sensibility to it all, from the funky “Blue Jeans” (which will be released as the record’s single) to the straight-forward driving rock number “Gotta Be More” to the spiritually riddled “My God” and the soulful ballad “French Café.” Every song on the CD could easily be added to the rotation of mainstream, pop radio stations. But what makes Momentary Setback stand out is the arsenal of South Louisiana musicians Marc has enlisted to bring his dream to fruition.
Momentary Setback was recorded at Electric Comoland Studios, the base of operations for Grammy Award-winning engineer Tony Daigle. The compact disc features Dave Ranson on bass and Mike Birch on drums, the tried and true backbone of Sonny Landreth’s powerhouse trio.
While Marc sings and plays acoustic guitar throughout the album, his father also plays guitar on most of the tracks. Shawn Carter provided the keyboards and Harold Guillory, aka Game-beeno, provided the programming beats. Marshall Altman signed on as the producer, and David Egan played piano and organ on the song he wrote on the album, “French Café.” He also co-wrote the songs “Gotta Be More” and “Momentary Setback.”
Egan is an accomplished singer/songwriter whose songs have been recorded by Joe Cocker, Percy Sledge, John Mayall, Irma Thomas, Marcia Ball, Maura O’Connell and Tracy Nelson. He’s currently playing keyboards with Filé and Lil’ Band O’ Gold.
Simon had originally contacted Egan in hopes that he would sit down with Marc, to help steer him with his songwriting and maybe even provide him with a Louisiana song for the album.
Marc got more than he bargained for. He says that their working relationship turned into “a really beautiful friendship. I love David.”
The first time they met, Marc visited Egan at his home. They played songs for one another and hit it off from the start. Egan admits that he was leery of sitting down with a 19-year-old and collaborating on any level. He says he tries to be open-minded, but so much of what he hears today of younger musicians seems to be written in a secret code, a cryptic language that should never be understood by parents. If it can be comprehended, it’s apparently not rock ‘n’ roll.
But Marc’s songs touched Egan. They were written in plain English, in a non-cryptic manner that spoke to his own heart. And, to boot, Egan was impressed with Marc’s singing ability.
“That voice will stop you in your tracks,” he says. “It touches all those nerves and it makes you think.”
Egan played for Marc one of his newest songs, “French Café.” He wrote it while he was performing in France with Filé. At the time, his wife was pregnant and at home in Lafayette. Egan says, “Here I was in the company of nothing but bearded men and I was sitting in this beautiful country and my wife was at home across the ocean.” The song muses on how love can be so strong, even when surrounded by beauty in a foreign country and being separated by an ocean from the object of your affections.
The hook of the song goes:
I can’t stop drinking the wine
I can’t stop counting the days
A world apart and an ocean away
Just loving you, baby
Sitting here loving you from this little French café.
Egan says the song was on the top of his mind, and he would have played it for anybody that walked through his front door.
“What was really cool,” he says, “is that (Marc) wanted to cover a good Louisiana song by a Louisiana songwriter. This was the song he picked. To my triumph, he picked this song as a Louisiana song and there’s no crawfish or pirogues or bayous in any of it.”
‘Gotta Be More’
If his singing is what’s propelling him into the spotlight, Marc hopes that his songwriting abilities are what keeps him there. He’s not measuring success by a hit single or a hit album (even though either one would be nice) but by looking at the bigger picture. He envisions himself further on down the road, writing his songs and having other artists cutting them on their albums.
For now though, he’s interested in learning as much as he can about the nuts and bolts of the music business. And while he’s learning he continues to write. He says this isn’t about making it big, but delving into his own soul and finding the songs to sing about.
“Basically,” he says, “I’ve been finding out a lot about myself and using my songwriting to shed some of my social masks and reveal me as a person, to be really honest and open with people. That’s all that it really boils down to. If you’re straight up honest with people, just be straight up, then they’re going to like it because it’s honest. That’s one thing the world is lacking in my opinion – honesty. Nobody’s honest with each other anymore.”
Through his honesty he hopes “to show people that there’s more to me than just a voice.”
While Marc has high hopes for his future, he’s adamant that he will not forget his roots in Carencro. He says, “I don’t ever want to move away from South Louisiana. I love this place. I want to raise my children here. I want to get married here.”
There’s still work to do, though, before any of those dreams are fulfilled. There are still at least three more major record labels to meet with in addition to returning to the other labels he has already courted. Hopefully, Momentary Setback will serve as his calling card, proving to the majors he means business.
For now, he’s looking forward to setting out on the open road in support of the new record, but he’s also being cautious.
“I recognize that a lot of things are going to change real soon,” Marc says. “I’m going to start hitting the road and I’m going on tour. I just want to make sure I’m OK before I leave here. I want to get my head right. I don’t want to lose my head out there. I want to stay strong-minded and make sure I can come home with pride and integrity and give a good name to South Louisiana. That’s for sure.”
Simon says that if Marc succeeds in breaking nationally, it will reopen the doors to southwest Louisiana and shed national attention on the area’s music scene. She says, “This is going to be good for Lafayette. He’s going to put the town back on the map again and have people wondering what’s going on down there.”
But then there’s still the fickle tastes of the music business, where we could wake up tomorrow morning and polka is avant-garde and every kid in the neighborhood is getting a piano accordion for his birthday.
Egan doubts that Marc will be “another flash in the pan.” He says while no one knows what the future holds, success can’t be measured with a hit song or even a hit album. The true measure of success will be how he continues to grow as a songwriter.
He says, “He’ll always have a song in his heart and to have a voice like that, you’ve got the repertoire of the world at your disposal, to be able to sing an Otis Redding tune without making a fool out of yourself. What a gift. I think he’s got the heart of a champion. I don’t think he’s going to go away. He was born to sing. He’s a stone singer.”
Marc has his feet firmly planted in the Carencro soil, but he’s looking toward the horizon and hedging his bets on a brighter day. And through it all, he’s not afraid to make some revisions on the course he’s charted to find new songs.
“I’m just getting started,” he says. “This is just the beginning. I may reinvent myself 20 times before I find myself.”
Marc Broussard’s debut compact disc, Momentary Setback, will be released on Ripley Records Tuesday, Sept. 3. There will be a CD release party at Grant Street Dancehall Saturday, Sept. 7. The doors open at 8:30 p.m., and the show starts at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $6. There will be free draft beer on tap.
You can also catch Marc on Medicine Ball Caravan on KRVS 88.7 FM Thursday, Sept. 5, and on Passe Partout on KLFY Channel-10, Friday, Sept. 6.
For more information about Marc Broussard, including sound clips from Momentary Setback, photos and tour dates, visit www.marcbroussard.com.