Exile Interview: Marlon Hargis On “Kiss You All Over” 40th Anniversary

Exile Interview: Marlon Hargis On "Kiss You All Over" 40th Anniversary

When I worked in radio, Exile was a staple of my playlist. I just knew that I could play them and, not only do I love their music, but I knew my audience would, too. They just have that sound, you know? Everyone knows “Kiss You All Over” and I absolutely love that song, but other personal favorites of mine are “Nobody’s Talking” and “I Can’t Get Close Enough.” Can you believe I haven’t seen them in concert though? That’s all about to change on Labor Day and I am super excited about it. I got a chance to talk with Exile’s Marlon Hargis about the band’s anniversary, their current tour schedule and more. Read on for all the details.

Exile Interview: Marlon Hargis Talks Labor Day And The Anniversary Of Their Mega Hit “Kiss You All Over”

Marlon Hargis: It’s probably about 90 right now, I am in Nashville. It’s been hot all summer, but I guess it’s hot everywhere, hopefully not as bad up there [Exile will be playing in Saltville on Labor Day].

EPR: For real. So what’s your tour schedule like now?

Marlon Hargis: It’s busy. We’ve got over 50 dates this year plus we did about a dozen Opry [shows]. Right now is actually our busiest time of the year. We’re out pretty much every week and really across the country so it’s actually very busy.

EPR: I will be seeing you at the show in Saltville. Can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect at that show?

Marlon Hargis: Basically, we try to do all our hits that we can. But actually sometimes in shows we are lucky enough that we don’t have time to get everything in which it’s good to be in that position. Over the years we’ve had 11 #1 hits and tons of other Top Tens. An interesting thing that a lot of other people don’t know about is that band members have written a lot of songs that other groups have had hits with.

EPR: Like “Take Me Down.”

Marlon Hargis: Yeah, exactly. “Take Me Down” and “The Closer You Get” by Alabama were originally Exile songs. We actually released those before Alabama but they didn’t really do much. One of our guys wrote a huge hit for Restless Heart called, “When She Cries” and wrote another song called “A Beautiful Mess” for Diamond Rio. Les write another song for Janie Fricke back in the 80s called “It Ain’t Easy Being Easy.” So, we do a medley of those songs which crowds really seem to like and a lot of people are surprised to know that those were originally Exile songs basically.

There’s another big hit in the rock field, Huey Lewis had a big hit called “Heart and Soul” back in the 80s which again was an Exile song. It was a song written for us and we released it, so hopefully you will recognize pretty much every song you hear in our show. And we do a couple of other little surprise things. We just try to entertain and make people feel good and get up and dance and have a good time. We want you to feel better when you leave the show than when you [got] there.

EPR: I know that you have done a lot of songs for others, either that you have performed yourself or that you have written. But you also have a lot of hits of your own, particularly “Kiss You All Over.” It’s the 40th year anniversary of that song going to #1, right?

Marlon Hargis: You are absolutely right. I think it hit #1 in September 40 years ago and we have a bunch of little celebrations coming up here in Nashville at the end of the month to celebrate that. It’s kind of hard to believe it’s been 40 years. I know we’re old, speaking for me personally, but it doesn’t seem that long ago. And actually, the band has been around for 55 years. This is the 55th anniversary of the band.

EPR: A lot of bands just don’t stay together all that long. “Kiss You All Over” doesn’t sound dated. It doesn’t sound like a 40 year old song. To me, it just sounds kind of like a timeless song.

Marlon Hargis: That’s good. I’m glad you feel that way. In a way, I guess it is. I mean, there are a lot of other songs from that time period that sort of hold up well. And that song, over the years, has been used in some movies and TV shows so it’s never really gone away. And the interesting thing is, a lot of young people know the song as well as someone in their 60s. It kind of appeals to everybody and we’re very lucky. We’ve had a career, I wouldn’t say based around that song. But that song has had a lot to do with us still being around 55 years later.

Exile Interview: Marlon Hargis On "Kiss You All Over" 40th Anniversary

EPR: You play the keyboard, but you also play other instruments, too, right?

Marlon Hargis: I do. With Exile I play keyboards and do some percussion stuff but through the years I’ve also played guitar and saxophone and some other stuff in bands. But that’s basically what I do with Exile. I play keyboard and do some percussion and background singing. A lot of our songs have a lot of keyboards in them so that keeps me busy just covering all those parts.

EPR: When you joined Exile, you went from being paid like $400 a week in your previous job to just $75 a week. That’s quite a leap of faith. What made you decide to do that?

Marlon Hargis: It was a leap of faith. $400 doesn’t sound like a lot now but remember, we’re talking early 70s and that was quite a lot of money [then]. You know, that’s the thing about this band, really that happened with almost every member that joined the band. Everyone went from making a decent living to, I wouldn’t say starving, but it was pretty close to starving a lot of times. I think it’s just that we had faith in the band. We believed there was something there. I think that’s been the key to this band through the years. Through the good times and also the lean periods a couple of times through the years, we still had the faith in the band.

I think that’s the reason that some of the original 5 of us reformed about 10 years ago. It’s that we love that sound of the band. There’s something when we get on stage that just happens, that you can’t really explain. I think we said that if we tried to figure it out, we would probably screw it up. Any musician has to have faith in what they do, I think. And that’s what it takes because it’s not an easy business. There’s a very small percentage of acts that are successful.

EPR: I know there have been quite a few members of Exile that have come in and out of the band over the years. Are there any members who are no longer in the group that you would really like to work with again one day?

Marlon Hargis: You know, I think you’re the first person that’s ever asked me that question so I’d have to think about it. All of the former members that are still in the business, we are all still friends and acquaintances. There’s a couple of guys that were in the first band back in 63 that come to a lot of our shows. We always introduce them and I’ve even done a couple of gigs with them. There’s one former member, Paul Martin, who has a great family act that we work with sometimes. We do sort of still work together from time to time over the years, and at one point or another, I think I’ve worked with everybody that’s been in the band. I can’t think of anybody that I’ve missed along the way. So I guess the answer would be that I’ve pretty much already done that.

EPR: In 73, the band changed it’s name to Exile when it was originally The Exiles. What was the reasoning behind that?

Marlon Hargis: The original name, The Exiles, came about because back in 63 there was the Cuban Missile Crisis and they were talking about the Cuban exiles. A lot of bands just shorten their names and I don’t think there was any huge reason behind it. I guess it was just because other acts were doing the same thing. I don’t think there’s any huge hidden meaning there.

Exile Interview: Marlon Hargis On "Kiss You All Over" 40th Anniversary

EPR: I read about a flight that you guys took to South Africa one time, where you weren’t expecting the amount of popularity you had there, that a lot of people where waiting for you at the airport on arrival. Tell me about that and what it felt like getting off the plane to that surprise that you weren’t ready for.

Marlon Hargis: In retrospect it was kind of funny. We don’t tell the story to be egotistical, it was just kind of funny. This was after “Kiss You All Over” and we had had a couple of other minor hits in the States. But we had been booked to tour South Africa and what no one had bothered to tell us was that we had a whole bunch of hits there. We had released other songs in Europe and other countries through the years and we were like a huge act there. We were huge stars but we didn’t know it.

We had this 20 hour flight and were tired [because we] had been on a plane and that was back when we’d had a couple of glasses of wine or a drink or something. So we get to the airport in Johannesburg and we were tired and had been flying all day and all night. We were hungover and kind of dirty and disheveled from being on a plane. So back then the planes still landed out on the tarmac and you got off the plane and walked to the terminal, maybe 100 yards out of something. And so, we’re walking down the steps of the plane and we noticed there were 3 or 4 thousand people standing on the roof of the airport and we were literally looking around behind us and wondering who’s on the plane with us that we didn’t know about that people are here to see that’s so popular. Then at a certain point we realized they were there to see us.

So we tried to get ourselves together a little bit and tried to look presentable and be able to say something that makes any sense. It was just one of those odd moments that you will always remember. And we went on to have a great tour of the whole country. But it was like one of those moments from a movie.

EPR: That sounds like a really cool, surreal moment. I don’t think it makes you sound egotistical at all, rather quite humble.

Marlon Hargis: Yeah, we kind of are just making fun of ourselves. And also we were kind of wondering why management hadn’t told us this ahead of time.

EPR: Maybe your management thought it would funny for you to have that moment.

Marlon Hargis: That’s true. I hope so. It’s just one of those things that we laugh about now.

See Exile On Tour

You can see Exile on Labor Day for FREE thanks to the town of Saltville. Bring a chair or blanket. For more information, call 276-496-5342. Exile will also be local in West Jefferson later this month. Check out the rest of Exile’s tour schedule here.

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About Dawn McAlexander

Dawn has been a music lover her entire life. She went to college in Boone, NC, an area that is rich in music and culture. She also worked as a radio deejay for 8 years and grew up in Southeastern, Va, a melting pot of different musical styles and traditions. She has been to more concerts than she can count in every genre you can imagine. She resides in North Carolina with her furbabies and her massive collection of Disney memorabilia.

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