Marc Broussard has a style that’s unmistakable, and a voice that’s undeniably soulful. With six studio albums, a live record, and three EP’s under his belt, Broussard has carved out quite a niche for himself as one of today’s premier vocalists and songwriters. He often moves effortlessly between genres, incorporating aspects of R&B, soul, blues, rock, and folk into his albums and blending them together into a style all his own that is often referred to as “bayou soul”. His latest studio offering, A Life Worth Living, was released in July of last year and is not only his most personal album to date, but was also met with critical acclaim. But as prolific a career as Broussard has had already, there was one project he had been wanting to tackle for some time – a Christmas album. With his newest release, Magnolias and Mistletoe, fans are treated to a Christmas record Broussard style.
“The opportunity just kind of presented itself this year, and luckily I was in a position to capitalize on it,” Broussard says.
“It was more serendipitous than anything else.”
The 10 track record boasts eight covers of holiday classics and two Christmas originals – “When Christmas Comes Along” and “Almost Christmas” – penned by Brousssard. While most pop Christmas albums are often over-produced, slick, and gimmicky, Broussard’s Magnolias and Mistletoe offers listeners stripped down and organic versions of holiday favorites, often featuring nothing more than a piano and Broussard’s stellar vocals to propel the songs ahead.
“It was a pretty easy decision on our part,” he says of the bare bones arrangements.
“With songs that are classics, I like to stick to the basics and not try to reinvent the wheel. Even when I do something like sing the national anthem at football games and things like that, I typically sing a very straight version because that’s the version that everybody knows, and that’s the version everybody wants to hear. People don’t want to hear some jackass up there trying to totally reinvent how the song sounds. And so this was a really natural decision for us in these arrangements.”
Broussard goes on to say that he did his homework before hitting the studio, and that solidified his and his team’s decision to keep the arrangements and instrumentation subdued.
“I did a bit of research before this project listening to various other artists’ Christmas records, and at the end of the day we all felt really strongly that we needed to keep it as bare-bones as possible. The first time I got to hear these arrangements, I couldn’t have been more pleased,” he says.
“I sat on the couch, put some headphones on, and really enjoyed hearing the final product and hearing how bare it was, it definitely put me in the Christmas spirit.”
Fans of Broussard will remember his 2007 album S.O.S.: Save Our Soul – a cover album comprised of classic R&B and soul songs from artists like Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Al Green. While both S.O.S and Magnolias and Mistletoe are albums made up of almost entirely cover songs, Broussard points out that the process of making the two records couldn’t have been more different.
“Our intention with S.O.S. was to hone in on the original arrangements and sounds, and recreate those original recordings as best we could,” he says.
“There was quite a bit of energy spent there in making sure that I knew every important nuance of those original songs. With this project, we wanted to take a stab at recreating the sentiment of the original songs that people know so well, most people know these songs as they would hear them traditionally in, say, church. And so our goal was to take those instincts to go really traditional, and then let me, as a vocalist, interpret them as I will.”
In addition to the eight classics, the album closes with Broussard’s two Christmas originals, a decision that he says was far more intimidating in theory than it actually was in practice.
“It was more daunting thinking about writing the songs than it was actually writing them. As a songwriter, I’m accustomed to getting in a room with other songwriters and getting the job done, and so these two songs weren’t really much different,” he says.
“We started with the music, and I might reference one or two songs that I liked the feel of, and we kind of started with an idea or a theme lyrically, and go from there. And the lyrics for both of the songs came fairly quickly, the entire writing process for these two songs only took about five hours or so.”
As if recording a Christmas album wasn’t enough, Broussard is currently on the road through the spring, playing solo shows across the country, and playing a handful of dates with his latest project Southern Soul Assembly – a songwriter-in-the-round style performance featuring Broussard, JJ Grey, Luther Dickinson, and Anders Osborne.
“In my opinion, Southern Soul Assembly is the coolest thing that I’ve done as an artist,” says Broussard.
“To be able to share the stage with three other guys who are as talented as they are is a real treat for me. I almost liken it to being in the high school choir again, because you have likeminded individuals who all share that stage. For example, when I’m out with my band, I’ve got a drummer, a bass player, a keyboard player, and a guitar player, and their job is to talk to each other, while my job is to communicate to the audience. And as a musician, my experience differs greatly from those guys – they’ve never had to have a discussion about what the first radio single is going to be, or worry about photo shoots or video shoots much. But with Southern Soul Assembly, I’m sharing the stage with guys who have all had very similar experiences, and so there’s a brotherhood there that reminds me being back in a chorus in a way.”
But while Broussard is known for his voice, his songwriting, and his involvement with Southern Soul Assembly, there is one other thing he is well-known for; his beard. Having been grown and trimmed to various lengths throughout his career, his face has rarely been bare, and Broussard is quite content with that.
“The reason I rock the beard, to be completely honest – outside of the fact that I don’t like shaving at all, I hate the idea of putting a razor blade on my face – is because my wife is over the moon about it. The longer the beard gets, the hotter she thinks I am,” he laughs.
“It’s a great scenario, I run into guys all the time who are like, ‘Oh man, I wish my girl would let me grow a beard, she hates it,’ and I’m like ‘I’m sorry for you, pal!’ But I think the beard has been around long enough to have achieved permanent status, it’s far more than just a trend. Beards have always been real hip, and the fellas that know it either grow their beards, or really really wish they could grow their beards.”
To pick up your copy of Magnolias and Mistletoe, and to see when Marc is coming to your town, visit marcbroussard.com.