Official video for Hayes Carll 'Times Like These' from the new album 'What It Is'. Carll’s sixth LP, an album that came from “getting off the sidelines.”
Hayes Carll’s high-school teacher was one of the first to notice a particular quirk possessed by the Texas-born singer-songwriter: a penchant to look toward the endings of things, not the beginnings — and most certainly not the here and now.
“Every one of my poems and songs and short stories were about opportunities being missed and time running out,” Carll tells Rolling Stone Country. “And, for whatever reason, that’s always been on my mind. My teacher would write it in the notes: ‘This seems to be a common theme,'” he adds, chuckling a bit. “But writing about it is one thing. Doing something about it is another.”
For years, Carll — who is now engaged to songwriter Allison Moorer — never really shook that preoccupation with the passage of time, even as he ticked all the conventional boxes, and then some: success (including a Grammy nomination for Lee Ann Womack’s version of his “Chances Are”), marriage (and then divorce), and fatherhood, all of which he tackled artfully and intentionally on his last LP, Lovers and Leavers. But it’s hard to enjoy any of it, or even heal from it, when looking at everything in the context of its inevitable end. A watched pot may never boil, but a watched person most definitely still gets old.
“I’ve spent a lifetime obsessed with the idea that life was going to pass me by,” Carll says. “And, meanwhile, it was.”
What It Is, his lasta album, is packed with plenty of his familiar dry humor while retaining the meditative voice he chiseled on his last record, it’s Carll’s testament to the power of slowing down and appreciating the moment: to having fun, to loving another, to parenting, to engaging with the world around him in a enduring and meaningful way. Some songs are declarations of commitment, some are reflections on the tempestuous political climate and some are those signature humorous observations all laced with a sense of newfound peace.