The members of Southern Soul Assembly may not be as high profile as other so-called “super groups”— the Traveling Wilburys immediately come to mind — but, after two tours, the Southern powerhouse has plenty of concertgoers begging for more.
Southern Soul Assembly consists of four recording artists with deep catalogs—Marc Broussard, JJ Grey, Anders Osborne, and Luther Dickinson. They came together three years ago and recently completed their second tour.
“Just like food in the South, our music is greasier than most,” is a great line Broussard uses when describing the foursome.
Broussard has a lot of special memories from the two tours.
“Watching the guys perform every night while sitting just feet away is something I cherish,” he says. “I'm a massive Anders fan too, so it's a special treat to watch such an incredible artist go to work. Each of the guys has brought me to tears on several occasions, but the most memorable moment from the shows might just be the time we paused the show so a guy in the audience could go pee. He stood up in between songs and hollered out for us to stop playing, so he could excuse himself without missing any of the show. It was a first for us — and a last.”
The members of Southern Soul Assembly have many common musical favorites, but their differences add to the uniqueness of the group.
“If we were asked to make a 100-song playlist of our favorite songs, there'd be about 30 songs duplicated across all four lists,” Broussard says. “The other 70 percent of our musical influences are what set us apart from one another.
“JJ is heavily influenced by Otis Redding and Muddy Waters, but also by Southern storytellers like Jerry Clower. He's one of the best storytellers I know. He has a deep intellect and a flair for the esoteric that shines through in his music and his daily life. Luther plays like he sold his soul at the crossroads. He's yet to either confirm or deny my inquiries into the matter. He has abandoned rules in favor of instinct and heart when it comes to songwriting. He trusts his gut on most things, I think, and he's highly creative.
“Anders is the most prolific writer I've ever known and a stunning performer. With flawless vocal pitch and throat power that can deafen the unsuspecting, he's a force of artistry. He's a masterful instrumentalist with all of the intangibles. If the music business had a draft, he'd go first round.”
Throw in Broussard’s Louisiana R&B, funk, and Americana stew, and the result is a songwriters-in-the-round performance that is full of insightful stories and celebrates American Southern culture.
The future of Southern Soul Assembly is uncertain, but more music together is likely.
“I think everyone involved is interested in growing this into something more,” Broussard says, “but logistics and time make getting the four of us together fairly difficult. I can't make any promises, but know that we're all working to get together more.”
Broussard, the son of Boogie Kings guitarist and Louisiana Music Hall of Fame member Ted Broussard, has recorded eight albums during the past 15 years.
“My last original record, (2014’s) A Life Worth Living, was a major signifier of things to come,” he says. “My career vision really started to come into focus around that time, and I feel like I finally hit my stride. Since that release, things have been moving swimmingly, and we've managed to put out two records independently, raising tens of thousands of philanthropic dollars with one.”
Broussard says his three biggest musical influences are Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, and James Taylor. “If I can come close to honoring those artists, I'm doing all right.”
Broussard was born and still lives in a small town on the outskirts of Lafayette, Louisiana. “Lafayette is called the Hub City for its place at the center of the Cajun culture,” he says. “The culture is stronger there than almost anywhere I've been, and it exerts a mighty influence on me as a man, and in turn, as a songwriter.”
Blake Mills and Emily King are two artists that he regularly listens to. “Both have demonstrated to me a high level of artistry and a highly developed vision for themselves,” he says. “They make recordings that make my ears smile.”
Prince’s Musicology tour in 2004 provided the best concert Broussard has seen.
“We played a show in Knoxville, Tennessee, earlier that same evening and scored some last-minute tickets to see the Purple One at the arena. He was the greatest performer on Earth. I cried several times during the show, knowing that I would never achieve that level of badass. He owned every inch of that building. Saucy!”
Broussard declines to single out a live show that had a particular influence on his music or performance.
“Every show I attend gives me something I can use,” he says. “I'm still trying to figure out a lot of this music stuff, so I'm still very much a student of the game. Every performer, good or bad, can be a teacher.”
Broussard is humble when asked to evaluated his own accomplishments.
“I still don't even really know why people like my singing voice. I haven't the faintest why me and not some other schmuck gets to do this for a living. I know tons of singers that can sing circles around me. Many can currently be found waiting tables at restaurants near you.”
Marc Broussard is putting the final touches on a new album of originals. He showcases one song from it each week on his radio show Sunday nights at 9 on 106.3 Radio Lafayette.