Sometimes musicians can be evasive or cryptic when you ask how a song came to be. That’s not the case with Kevin Carducci of the Easy Leaves, a roots duo based in the San Francisco area.
By email, he tells CMT Edge the message of “Fool on a String” was inspired by an ex-girlfriend, but the music and mood came from listening to the powerful soul singer James Carr:
“At the time, I had a job working at a plant nursery where I basically stood around all day seeding, pruning and listening to obscure old-school funk and soul records that my boss had on his iPod,” he explained. “Pretty sweet gig. I discovered a ton of great Southern soul and R&B stuff I’d never heard before and started digging deeper into all of it.
“One of the artists that I got hooked on was James Carr, who had a hit with ‘Dark End of the Street.’ He has this rich powerful baritone voice, and I got really into his tortured love songs like ‘You’ve Got My Mind Messed Up,’ ‘Love Attack’ and ‘Pouring Water on a Drowning Man.’ Lyrically, they read more like country tunes, and the instrumentation has a real country-style soul flavor to it.
“At the time, I was going through a tough breakup, and needless to say, I was into this kind of tortured love stuff. I think part of what really hooked me was the power and control that Carr seemed to derive from the pain of the songs. He meanders back and forth from fragile tenderness to commanding howls and spasms of emotional torment but remains completely in control the whole time. … It’s really classic stuff.
“It was while I was internalizing all this new (to me) music and the breakup that I churned out most of ‘Fool on a String,’ pretty much in a single sitting. I just stumbled onto the opening lyric while I was writing in bed one night, got excited about it and ran with it (the ‘messed up mind’ lyric in the first verse being an outright nod to James Carr). … A few weeks later, I played it at a gig, and it turned out my ex was in the crowd. She said she loved it and asked me to never play it again.”
Of course, her request was denied, as “Fool on a String” landed on the band’s newest album, American Times. Plus, they’ve completed a creative music video with director Frank Door. Check out the CMT Edge premiere of the Easy Leaves’ “Fool on a String.”