Interviews,  Music

Grammy Winning Songwriter Kendell Marvel, Drops New Album And Hits The Road With Chris Stapleton

**Photo Credit: Alysse Gafkjen

Nashville, Tennessee is the undisputed center of the Country Music universe. There are a million reasons that Nashville is one of the fastest-growing cities in our Republic with more and more people seeking opportunities to chase their dreams than ever before.

Artists, musicians, songwriters, videographers, photographers, dancers, you name it, have packed up and placed their bets on Nashville.

One artist that made the move several years ago, is Kendell Marvel. Marvel moved South from his home state of Illinois. He then had some early success as a songwriter. He penned one of my favorite Gary Allan songs in “Right Where I Need To Be.”

With that success, Marvel has gone on to work with folks like George Strait, Jake Owen, and Jamey Johnson.

By now, you’re likely wondering why I’m writing about an Illinois songwriter that lives in Nashville. Why should you care? I’m glad you asked, and I’ll happily fill ya in.

I first became aware of Marvel as he was a co-writer on the song, “Hank Crankin’ People.” If that song title sounds familiar to ya, it’s likely because Kentucky’s Tyler Booth has had some good success with that song and, in my humble opinion, is on the fast track to success in Nashville as well.

There are two more Kentucky connections I want to present to you. First and foremost, Marvel has written and composed many songs with Kentucky’s own Chris Stapleton. Stapleton and Marvel won a Grammy for their song, “Either Way.”

So let me throw a couple more connections at ya. Breathitt County’s Sturgill Simpson recorded ‘A Sailor’s Guide To Earth’ with David Ferguson at the Butcher Shoppe Recording Studio in Nashville. Sturgill then helped Lawrence County’s Tyler Childers record two records in Nashville with Ferguson. So what does that have to do with Marvel? Kendell also recorded with Ferguson and Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) at the Butcher Shoppe.

Those connections should paint a pretty clear picture of why you should give Marvel some attention. Especially if you’re seeing Stapleton at the Yum Center in Louisville next month because Marvel is on that tour.

With that all out of the way, I was given the opportunity to chat with Marvel about his recently released album titled, ‘Solid Gold Sounds.’ With that many Kentucky connections, you know I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Welcome to the Capture Kentucky family, Kendall. I appreciate ya taking the time to be a part of our journey.

I’ll jump right in here.

Capture Kentucky (CKy): With your first single, “Hard Time With The Truth”, you conjure up the sounds of some of the greatest Country records ever recorded. The 1970’s were the gold standard for what real country should sound like. It seems now that artists like your buddy in Chris Stapleton and Tyler Childers are having great success in creating a retro vibe with a modern twist. When choosing the first single, was that part of the process or was it merely “following your gut” kinda thing?

Kendell Marvel(KM): First of all, thank you! I think artists like Stapleton and Tyler just do what they do and it’s a natural sound for ’em, and using the band that we did for my record that’s the way those guys play–they sound natural. I would have been happy with any of the songs on my record being the first single, but Dan wanted this one and he seems to know what he is doing. Ha!

CKy:’Solid Gold Sounds’ was co-written and recorded rather quickly with Dan Auerbach and David Ferguson. Tell us a bit about that experience and how it came about.

KM: It was the most fun I’ve ever had musically. From writing the tunes to recording them, everything was magical and was a very easy process. I was introduced to Ferg by Clay Bradley and he suggested we go meet Dan. We just immediately hit it off and we were off and running.

CKy: Auerbach was also heavily involved in Yola’s new album. I can hear threads here and there where I hear Dan’s influence shining on both albums. I can also hear some of those classic rock sounds influencing your album. Moreso in setting moods than structure. Take “Cadillac’n” for example, much like Creedence Clearwater Revival’s classic “Born On The Bayou”, the music seems to transport us to a time, a scene that is painted vividly by the story and movement. When writing, do you start with an idea like that in your mind or do you simply follow the path the music takes you on?

KM: I always say that all the acts on Easy Eye have a common thread though we are all completely different stylistically. I compare it to a good craft brewery that has something in all of their beers that you can’t quite put your finger on. Dan is that thread. What he does nobody else can do. “Cadillac’n” very much has a Creedence swamp feel. That era of music is so cool to me. When we write we start with a guitar riff or a title and just see where it takes us.

CKy: My personal favorite cut is “When It’s Good.” That song seems like the ultimate collaboration of your songwriting skills, composing with Chris so often and allowing Dan to put his stamp on the music itself. It seems incredibly smooth and an easy melody to fall in love with. Give us some insight on how that song took shape.

KM: Thanks! I love that tune as well. I had the title and as soon as I said it Dan started playing the intro lick that’s on the record. We wrote it with Pat McLaughin who is one of Dan and I’s favorite writers to work with. He is so good with melodies. That song was done in an hour or so. We also wrote “Easy Rider” which is another favorite of mine that same day.

CKy: You’ve obviously earned your stripes as a songwriter, so what makes now the right time for Kendall Marvel to step into the spotlight?

KM: Commercial country music took a turn for the worse, and I just couldn’t make myself try and write the kind of songs you have to write to get on the radio nowadays. Then Stapleton came along and blew the doors open doing cool music along with Tyler, Sturgill, Jinks and Brothers Osborne, and I thought it was time for me to do something different too. Glad I did because I’m having the time of my life right now.

CKy: I’ve conducted many interviews over the years and a tradition that I like to revisit when I can, is ending on a random question. So here goes, you find a time machine and you’re allowed only one trip. Where do you go and why?

KM: I would jump in a time machine and go back to when my kids were little. We were pretty poor back then, but that was definitely the best time of my and my wife Randa’s lives.

CKy: Best. Answer. Ever.

So there ya have it. Another great artist that went against the grain of Nashville and found success. That’s something that I’ll get behind every time I can. So again, if you’re headed to see Chris Stapleton at the Yum Center next weekend, get there early and catch Kendall’s set. I’ll betcha enjoy it, I know I will!