Louisiana musician Marc Broussard has always been good-natured, both through the close relationship he has maintained with his loyal fans over the course of his career, or the charitable causes he has been known to champion. If there’s one thing Marc cares about as deeply as doing what he can to help out his community, it’s soul music. This lifelong devotion to soul music has always been a presence in his own work, perhaps more distinctly on some albums than others. Back in 2007, Marc had a damn fine idea to bring together his passion for soul music with his devotion to giving to those in need. Out of this idea came Save Our Soul (S.O.S.), a charitable foundation anchored by the release of an album of covers of legendary artists like Al Green and Marvin Gaye. The proceeds of the album would go towards organizations like United Way and Red Cross.
Now, almost ten years later, Marc has released S.O.S. II: Soul On A Mission. This time around he covers classic soul tunes by the likes of Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, Stevie Wonder, and Sam Cooke among others. Besides the cover selection, he is also investing himself more personally in the charity side by donating 50% of the album proceeds to a charity of his choosing, City of Refuge. Recently we talked with Marc about his philanthropy, musical career, and deep love of soul music.
You’ve managed to always keep honesty as a central theme and with your second cover/charity album, you further emphasize that spirit. While many artists have looked the other way at philanthropy, what has allowed you to remember to always put it as a priority?
The biggest reward I’ve gotten from all my travels, I think, is the ability to become just another geek on the street. When I’m home or on stage, everyone knows me and wants to hang out or talk. When I’m roaming the streets of San Fransisco, no one knows or cares who I am. What I’ve found is that there are lots of people that fit that description, except they don’t have anywhere to go at night. They don’t have money for food. I see them in every city we play. I got tired of walking by them, so I decided to build charity into my business.
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Looking back on your philanthropic and public service work, what stands out to you as most memorable and gratifying?
I’ve only just begun to get really active with this work. Everything we’ve done before was fairly passive. We used to just raise money and give it to the United Way or the Red Cross. Now, I’m vetting organizations personally and delivering checks personally to these orgs, so I think the memories are yet to be made.
The new SOS album is a collection of cover songs from Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, Sam Cooke and other soul legends from the 50’s and 60’s. Your 2007 S.O.S. album featured song from the 70’s. Which era do you feel more a kinship to and which album was more difficult in choosing the songs?
I’ve always had a love affair with the music from the 70’s and I don’t think that’s gonna change soon. Both records proved to be much more difficult than initially thought when selecting songs. It’s not that we couldn’t find enough great songs for either record, but that we were struggling to narrow the list down to 10 or 12 songs out of the 100s that we’d really love to cut!
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How do you go about choosing songs for a cover album – as an artist yourself, your inspirations are vast – do you narrow them down by certain qualities by ones that have had an impact on you personally or just ones you think your voice can conquer the strongest?
It’s a team effort. Between myself, my band, my producer and my manager, we all make suggestions and add them to a master playlist that we all use as a reference. After about a month of adding songs to the list, we all sit in a room together and work our way back down to 14 or 16 songs. We usually record more than we’ll actually release just in case we have some bad performances or overall lack of vibe on a given song.
You’ve been performing as a solo artist since 2002, so almost 15 years later are you where you expected to be at this point? What albums or accomplishments are you most proud of?
I am where I need to be but definitely not where I expected to be 15 years ago. That’s because back then I was a 19 year old idiot who had no idea what realistic expectations looked like. And since no one cared enough to tell me how stupid I was, I believed I’d be bigger than Michael Jackson by now! What a moron?!?!
There have been some singles you’ve had that have done well, but there hasn’t been a big breakthrough mainstream hit. Is that something you would want sometime? Or, having seen the ups and downs of the music industry are you appreciating your creative integrity over commercial success?
I’m not gonna change my plans for the future to chase some hit record. I’ve compromised with my labels in the past about this very thing and it has never paid off like they all said it would. So, if I have a commercial hit in the future, it’ll be a small part of a much bigger plan. Any money that would come my way would just be re-invested in making more music for myself and working with new artists.
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What are your thoughts on the direction of roots music today and what artists do you feel are still providing hope for younger generations to appreciate “real music” to learn how to play an instrument and not fall prey to electronic music?
I don’t think we can just write off all electronic music. Artists are going to use whatever tools they can and these tools aren’t going away. Obviously, the success seen by the likes of Chris Stapleton is extremely encouraging. But we cannot discount the value that guys like Bruno Mars bring to the table. There’s a whole lotta real serious music being played on those Mars tracks.
What is the greatest misinterpretation you’ve found people to have of Marc Broussard and his music?
That I’m an old black man.
Being the son of Ted Broussard, you’ve shared company with many of Southern roots music’s most endearing artists. Is there anyone in particular that has taken you under their wing some or been a big personal influence to you musically and personally?
Yes. Richard “Dickie” Landry is one of my all-time heroes. He’s a saxophonist, painter, photographer and all around badass from Cecilia, LA and I cherish our friendship. He was in New York hanging with Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg in the late 50’s and took pictures constantly. He was in on the ground floor of the Neo-Dada scene. He taught Phillip Glass how to plumb and played a private, solo saxophone concert for Fidel Castro. He’s a huge inspiration to me and I’m blessed beyond measure to know him.
On a lighter note, in the past few years you’ve grown quite a “boss” beard. How’s it treating you and has it in some way added something to your overall confidence, presentation and sound?
I only ever grew it out because my wife wanted me to. She’s really into the long beard so it’s here to stay. As far as having affected who I am, I think I’m just much more confident generally these days because I’ve found my purpose in life and am living inside that purpose. Not all my fans like it and I get asked a lot by fans to shave it off, but I don’t have to share a bed with any of them so…the beard stays!
S.O.S. II is out now. To order the album and find out more about Marc Broussard visit marcbroussard.com.