Never heard of Marc Carroll? Given he’s an exceptionally talented musician who’s paid his dues and has 7 albums under his belt, we think it’s high time everyone knew his name.
The 44 year-old alt-rock musician who hails from Ireland and lives in southern California has been lauded by the likes of David Crosby, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. Think “Marc,” like Mark Knopfler but with a “c.” And what are those special melodies we love hearing over the holidays, carols? Think “Carroll,” just spelled differently. Marc Carroll.
His new album “Love is All, or Love is Not at All” encompasses several different genres (rock, Americana, jazz, instrumental) and succeeds in remaining as varied as it is cohesive.
Moving musical eulogy “No Hallelujah Here” is the opener. It pays somber musical tribute to 4 young boys – all from the same family – who were killed by gunfire while playing soccer on a Gaza beach. “I was in London at the time,” says Carroll, “where this devastation was quite literally the headline news for the duration of the entire so-called conflict.”
High-powered “Ball and Chain,” a winning rocker – is a rallying cry for brotherhood over war and separation, while “Your Ghost” is a subdued acoustic folk ballad.
Then there’s Carroll’s beautiful “Oh Death, Don’t Yet Call Me Home,” a shimmering arrangement with sublime, amber-toned harmonies and stunning, etherial guitar.
Behind the music
PRP had a chance to interview Carroll this week and glean some insights into his latest.
PRP: “When did you first get your calling as a musician, and when did you relocate to California?”
Carroll: “I was 9 or 10 when music started to infiltrate my life, my mind and my very existence. I was buying records from a young age; the very act of buying an LP was, and still is, and incredibly emotive thing but at a young age it really is the start of something extraordinary in your life. I then bought the Sex Pistols LP and that really was the start and end of everything.”
“I have always loved America for its musical culture and heritage. It still enthralls me to this day and California in particular really had a profound effect on my own life and writing, ever since I first went there in 2005. It’s an extraordinary place, utterly insane but somehow manageable. My shoulders drop each time I land back in Los Angeles, nobody can find me and that’s very appealing.”
PRP: “The song “Oh Death, Don’t Yet Call Me Home” is a beautiful arrangement – is that a fan favorite?”
Carroll: “I don’t play live very much, so I really wouldn’t know if it were a fan favorite. There are very, very small pockets of people across the world who are aware of what I do. Maybe that will change one day…before death actually does call me home.”
“Oh Death, Don’t Yet Call Me Home”
PRP: “Despite the title, “Lost and Lonely” is actually a very uplifting track and one that PRP is adding to our playlist. Who are the musicians on guitar? Also, it’s a bit reminiscent of Roger McGuinn. Were you ever a fan of The Byrds?”
Carroll: “That’s the type of song that I write very quickly and quite easily. Each album I make I always swear that I will not write a 3 minute guitar song…but I end up doing one. Jody Stephens, the drummer (from) Big Star agreed to drum on that song so I thought it best to finish it and bring it into the recording studio. I play the guitars.”
“There wouldn’t be enough time in the world for me to try and express my gratitude and love for Roger McGuinn and The Byrds,” says Carroll. “I met Roger very briefly and also Chris Hillman. What can you say…they are there on Mount Rushmore for me.”
“Lost and Lonely”
The new album closes out on the transcendent notes of “Against All Odds;” both guitar and keyboard progressions are eloquent and moving.
Carroll calls it “perhaps the record’s defining moment, for me anyway. It expresses more feeling, truth and honesty than any words could hope to do. It says more about me, my life, my thoughts, the joy, the sorrow, the love, the pain, than any song I have ever written. It’s all there in 7 minutes. It ends and resolves the entire record perfectly and considering that I went into this project as if it would be my last….I think it’s a fitting epitaph.”
If there’s another zenith moment to the new release it’s likely “Brightest of Blue“; you’ll love its superlative electric guitar passages, compelling lyrics and great drumming.
“I had to sit myself down at the drum kit and do it myself,” says Carroll. “The album was recorded in Los Angeles but the sessions broke down and I did it all again in London with somebody I could rely on to get the results that I was looking for.”
“I think it’s about friendship and loyalty. Being kind to one another, showing care, expressing and sharing love and trying to understand others sounds like a worthwhile thing to me….but what do I know?”
“Brightest of Blue”
We think he knows a lot about good music and a great album being the sum of its parts.
Carroll says as yet he has no plans for touring; let’s hope that changes…we think Portland is ready for him.
You can find his music on iTunes, or on his website .