Moving to Nashville to become an artist, Kendell Marvel found success from his very first day in Music City when he sat down for a writing session with Casey Beathard. Penning the track Right Where I Need To Be together, Kendell saw his very first track being cut by Gary Allan which went on to be a top five hit. Gaining industry attention and becoming a sought after songwriter, Kendell placed his artist dream on hold and concentrated on songwriting solely which has seen him win Grammys and cuts by major artists.
Country Music has no expiry date, that’s one of the things we love about it, the writing never gets old, the songs are often timeless and Kendell Marvel is an excellent example of that. This year Kendell made the wise decision to finally release music himself which we and many others are very grateful for. Sticking to his own style and tradition, Kendell released his fantastic debut album Lowdown and Lonesome in the UK earlier this month (May 2018). A mix of traditional country, blues and southern rock, Kendell has gifted country fans with an album they will treasure for years to come.
Having recently written with Brothers Osborne for their current album Port Saint Joe – Kendell joined John and TJ on their UK and Ireland tour and completely blew fans away with his live music which was delivered acoustically. Imagine what his show would be like with a full band when acoustic is that good.
There is no stopping Kendell’s talent and he is really starting to make a name for himself as an artist as well as a writer.
We caught up with Kendell in Bristol before his first UK show. Kendell has such a kind heart and was such a joy to talk with. We hope that this is the first of many UK trips.
Hi, Kendell – welcome to the UK – how has the tour been so far?
We have had a great time; we started out in Ireland and we came over on the ferry and spent the evening in Bristol going out. We had dinner and hit some pubs – the weather has been awesome.
You brought it with you!
Apparently! Everyone has been saying ‘Don’t get used to it, if you stay here long.’
Is it hot close to Nashville, because usually, our definition of ‘hot’ isn’t even remotely close to what you’re used to? Sometimes what we think is hot, artists from the US wear their hat and scarf!
No, it feels like home, but not humid like home – it’s like springtime.
How were the audiences in Ireland?
Very receptive, small, 300/600 people – and a rowdy bunch!
How did touring with Brothers Osborne come to be?
I have known them before they even had a record deal and we have written songs together, so when I made this record they were kind enough to ask me to join them on tour. It is a big opportunity for me to come out over here on a tour like this; a lot of guys don’t get the opportunity to come over to a large crowd and then play for a cool band like these guys.
The response you had when you were announced was amazing.
You are about to release your debut album in the UK on May 18th called LOWDOWN & LONESOME’. Can you tell us a bit about it and the creative process?
It’s kind of a concept record. We had the title track – I wrote that song years ago with my producer Keith Gattis, and Randy Houser and we built everything around that one song. All the songs are either Lowdown or are Lonesome, so everything had a common theme. It’s Country but I call it ZZ Top meets Merle Haggard. It’s got some Southern rock and roll and, in the band we used, one of the guys is from The Black Crowes. Also we have some Country guys who played for Jamey Johnson; it was the perfect storm of musicians to make the record sound a little different.
Tell us a bit about yourself, because you moved to Nashville to be an artist but started out as a songwriter for years.
Yes, I moved there to be an artist but started getting songs recorded and having hits for other people. My kids were little at the time and I was making a lot of money writing songs – I was like ‘This is pretty good, I am just going to stay doing this’. Then my kids grew up and Country music took a turn that I am not particularly fond of; it’s not my bag, not many albums you want to listen to the whole way through. Most of my favourite songs to listen to or grew up on were not hit songs, they were just buried on a record somewhere. If you make a whole record great, then people will buy the whole record, but these days people just want to buy the one song.
I still struggle with downloading but there is nothing like having a physical album to hold.
Right, opening it, seeing who wrote the songs and who played them.
Yes, and we love seeing who wrote songs over here.
Speaking of writing – you wrote nine out of the ten tracks on the album?
Tell us about the track you didn’t write, why did you decide to place that on the album?
It’s called Drinking My Baby Goodbye – it’s a Charlie Daniels song from the eighties. My producer asked “Have you ever thought about doing a cover?” I replied “No, I haven’t, but I am open to it. What do you have in mind?” He suggested “Let’s look for a cover like Drinking My Baby Goodbye” and I said “What the hell’s the matter with that one? Lets just cut that song, I love that song.” Then Jamey Johnson came and sang on it with me – he is one of my favourite Country singers in Nashville.
Charlie’s version was more fiddle based, as he is a fiddle player, whereas ours was a little more guitar driven and a little different from his, so we put our own stamp on it. It’s a great song to play live too. I don’t play it on all my acoustic shows, but with my band shows we always kick the show off with that song.
Tell us about Gypsy Woman – that song seems to be a fan favourite.
It has been, yeah. I actually got called out on social media because the first night in Ireland I ran out of time and didn’t get to play it, but I have replaced another song with it.
That’s nice on your first trip – and not your headline tour – to have people wanting to hear certain songs and being gutted they didn’t make the set list.
It is. The crowds here too; it’s funny because a lot of times in America they don’t show up for the opening act. They come in and get drinks and we are 20% full but, shoot, over here it’s packed from the get go and it’s so much fun; its not like that in America.
What’s the story behind Gypsy Woman?
That’s a song my producer Keith Gattis had started and he said “Man, we need something like this.” He sang me a verse of it then the chorus and I was like, “What’s the rest of it?” He told me he hadn’t written it so I said, “Hell let’s write that.”
So, we wrote the rest, finished it up that day and it’s now one of the fan favourites. It’s also one of my favourites – but not my very favourite. I am really fond of a song off the album called Hurtin’ Gets Hard; lyrically I like what it says.
I haven’t got tired of any of this album – usually I get bored with my songs, but I am really proud of the production that Keith put on it.
Keith Gattis produced the album as you have said – tell us about working together.
It was great; we are old friends. I actually don’t think that I would have made a record if he hadn’t agreed to do it. I love the way his records sound – he is a great writer and makes records himself too, which are so cool sounding and have such a different tone. It wouldn’t have even been close to the same record if he hadn’t been a part of it.
What song took the longest to write?
You know, none of them. None of them took any time, we just sat down and had most of them done in a day or an afternoon or something. We didn’t struggle and that was what was fun about doing it, we had a goal of what we wanted and it was fun to do.
Tell us about writing Right Where I Need To Be which was recorded by Gary Allan. I read that you wrote it on your first day in Nashville with Casey Beathard and it got picked up right away. How did that co-write come to be and what was the writing process like?
That doesn’t happen. I have never heard of that happening to anybody else. It is a pretty unique story. Casey was on the cusp of becoming a huge songwriter at that point – he had a few cuts but nothing that big yet. As soon as that song came out he blew up and got Songwriter of the Year for a couple of years. He helped me with that, I was pretty green to songwriting – he had the title and we wrote it together. We actually wanted Mark Chesnutt to record it, that’s what we were thinking, and then his A&R guy came in and said that he didn’t like it for Mark but did like it for Gary Allan – and we were cool with that.
The demo was way different, it sounded like the old song Werewolves in London, which is a rock song of the sixties. It had a real cool feel to it and it’s what it sounded like originally, but when Gary cut it, it sounded completely different. It had a big guitar riff at the front and it was career changing for him. Every time he sees me he says how that song changed his life and hey, it changed my life too. I went from making $400 a week to not sweating and making a name in Nashville and getting my foot in the door.
It was a top five hit too?
Yeah, it was on the charts for a year or so – I had never made that kind of money in my life. I don’t think I ever will again. That song is by far the biggest paying song I have ever written – it has been on several albums and ‘greatest hits’ so it’s done well for us. I would like to have another one like that!
I am sure you will. One of the many things that I love about Country music is its celebration of the songwriters – and the fans care, we want to know who wrote them. I could listen to a pop song and in no way be able to tell you who wrote it and fans of those pop songs will not likely be able to tell you who wrote them either.
That’s right – and it’s sometimes nine or ten writers in those songs.
Any plans to return to the UK?
We are working on something.
Good, and I hope this will be an ongoing relationship with us in the UK.
I hope so!
You will always be very welcome.
Thanks so much for chatting today.
Thank you so much for your time.
Listen to Lowdown and Lonesome here
Purchase Lowdown and Lonesome here