Born Joshua Hayes Carll, Texas singer and songwriter Hayes Carll received his first guitar at the age of 15 and almost immediately began writing songs influenced by the likes of Bob Dylan, John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, Dead Poets Society, and the Beat novels and writings of Jack Kerouac, all of which continued to reverberate in his mature songwriting style. After graduating with a history degree from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas in 1998, Carll returned to Texas, settling in Crystal Beach, where he played his own material in the local bars. After a stay in Austin, he returned home and continued to play gigs in the Galveston and Houston area, picking up a loyal following. He signed to Compadre Records and in 2002 released a debut album, Flowers and Liquor, which garnered him favorable comparisons to Townes Van Zandt. Turning down a deal from Sugar Hill Records, Carll released his second album, Little Rock, on his own Highway 87 Records; produced by R.S. Field, it reached the top spot on the Americana charts in 2005. Carll signed with Lost Highway Records a year later in 2006. which released Trouble in Mind in 2008, featuring the clever and increasingly iconic “She Left Me for Jesus,” a song Carll had co-written with Brian Keane.
Four of Carll's songs appeared the 2010 film Country Strong, with Gwyneth Paltrow in the starring role.
Now firmly established as a next-generation singer and writer in the Townes Van Zandt/Guy Clark/Ray Wylie Hubbard style of maverick country-folk, Carll released a second album for Lost Highway, KMAG YOYO (the title comes from the military and is an abbreviation for “Kiss My Ass Guys, You’re On Your Own”), in 2011. The album won the Americana Music Association's Album of the Year award and was placed on several year-end best-of lists by various media outlets.
Carll and Lost Highway parted company the following year. He and his wife also divorced. He began reassessing his career while never quite taking a break. Though he managed to stick closer to Austin, he still toured the U.S. and Europe regularly over the next few years. Lee Ann Womack covered his song "Chances Are" and scored a hit. The song, its performer, and songwriter, all received Grammy nominations in 2015.
In January 2016, Carll issued the pre-release single "The Love That We Need," co-written with Allison Moorer and Jack Ingram. The album Lovers and Leavers, recorded with Joe Henry, followed in April on Thirty Tigers. ~ Steve Leggett