Pleasanton’s Firehouse to host Marc Broussard’s soulful bayou blues
By Lou Fancher
If listening to an authentic voice minus politics during this year’s election cycle will cause you to weep with joy, bring tissues to hear singer/songwriter Marc Broussard.
The 34-year-old vocalist and his band hail from Louisiana and appear Oct. 14 at the Firehouse. They come to downtown Pleasanton with sincere, soulful, nonpartisan, musical messages about home, love, wandering, companionship and sleeping late on Saturdays.
“I find myself sympathetic to people and causes, but my place is to sing songs, to take people out of their daily routines and the things plaguing their lives,” says Broussard. “My role involves keeping my political inclinations to myself.”
Audiences might greet the statement with relief, followed by curiosity if they’ve not had the good fortune to have heard “Carencro,” Broussard’s most successful 2004 debut album, or “Bootleg,” an album from which 100 percent of the proceeds went to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina in his native state.
Broussard is the son of guitarist Ted Broussard, who played with Boogie Kings and accompanies his son on the latest CD released Sept. 30, “S.O.S. 2: Save our Soul: Soul on a Mission.”
“My dad used gigs on the weekends to make extra money,” says Broussard. “His taste in music swayed to instrumental. There were weeks on end when I’d hear only jazz records. When he went wild-hair, he’d play Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding. Finally, I heard someone singing to me.”
The sound of a human voice raised in song — or more often carving deep, unforgettable R&B and bluesy grooves — sent the young Broussard exploring. He sought artists whose work he connected to lyrically and whose messages were conveyed with what he heard as sincerity: Brian McKnight, especially the song, “One Last Cry;” R&B group Boyz II Men, jazz/gospel/soul singer and pianist Donny Hathaway and others.
“I started playing music and earning a decent living at age 17,” he says. “But I wasn’t a full-time, engaged, professional musician until a few years later.”
While developing his craft, Broussard worked as a runner for a law firm, stocked produce in a grocery store and cut grass to earn a living. He and his wife, Sonya Broussard, are the parents of four children younger than 14. Broussard and his band, drummer Chad Gilmore, bassist D.J. Raymond and guitarist Joe Stark, are touring independently in 2016, but Broussard has also appeared with Bonnie Raitt, the Dave Matthews Band, Chris Isaak, Willie Nelson, Maroon 5, Gavin and performed on the Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Late Night.
In an interview, he downplays his lineage and the considerable philanthropic work of his SOS (Save Our Soul) Foundation. Instead of stardom, he emphasizes what keeps him centered. “My wife keeps me grounded,” says Broussard. “She doesn’t mince words. Having someone who calls attention to how I’m relating to things outside of myself is important.”
As “a guy who doesn’t get caught up in populist movements” and “rejects collectivist thought,” he is still enamored by “guys and girls that can sing the lights out of a building.” Aspiring to be the same kind of singer, he’s learned to value hard work and to protect his “instrument.” Songwriting, he says, is a discipline.
“The muse doesn’t always show up: it’s not as reliable as you’d think. The value of forcing yourself to work even when you don’t feel inspired means not everything is great, but it’s like a muscle you learn how to flex.”
Until three years ago, Broussard never warmed up his voice before a show. “I understand my instrument more now — and respect how fragile it is.”
An independent streak supported by the 21st century’s live-streaming, self-producing music industry has Broussard cutting his former recording contract strings.
“What’s driving it predominantly is a frustration with the timelines we’re forced to work with,” he says. “The wait time between recording and releasing a label’s album is about a year-and-a-half. By the time the record comes out, I’ve already moved on. We want to be more prolific. I’d love to see us put out one or two records every year, or release singles every two months.”
Operating outside of the major label structure allows him to take risks, like stampeding into the band’s latest recording session with nothing.
“We just went from the groove up. The music I hear in my head is wild, cinematic, huge: thousands of voices singing in harmony. Taking it down at that stage, the way a label does, is ill-advised.”
Looking into an imaginary future that would include time travel, Broussard says he admires the war sentiments and civil right struggles of the 1960s, but isn’t sure if his nonpolitical stance as an artist would allow him to “navigate the waters” and “throw myself into the fray.” Other daydreams have him visiting Johann Sebastian Bach to admire the composer’s choral music — or flashing forward 50 years to see where music is taken by new technology.
The 90-minute Firehouse show will feature primarily a setlist from “Carencro,” his most popular album. “It’s also the most familiar to the band. The longer you have a relationship with a song, the more you can improvise and have fun during a show.”
Ah, authentic fun. Great music. We can all use a dose of that good stuff right about now.