The Marcus King Band is led by singer, songwriter & guitarist Marcus King, who was raised in Greenville, South Carolina and brought up on the blues, playing shows a pre-teen sideman with his father, the fellow bluesman Marvin King. After releasing their debut album Soul Insight in October, 2015 on Warren Haynes label Evil Teen Records, King rapidly road the roller-coaster to the upper registers of the musical scale, as his debut reached No. 8 on the Billboard Blues Album charts.
As with many musicians that set the bar of expression high, Marcus became inspired at the notion of pursuing his musical vision as a lifetime career at a young age. “All my family played instruments on the front porch of my grandfather’s house in Blue Ridge and I became very aware of its powers at a young age,” reflects King. “My grandfather played the fiddle and along with my father, those two were my biggest influences.”
“When you start pursuing the architecture of music deeper you discover there are many factors that shape a sound. Growing up at a young age listening to a lot of guitar players I started to realize that each artist that drew me possessed an individual spark; nothing sounded like a regurgitation of something I’d heard before, which is what I wanted to stay away from.”
“The route I took to achieve this goal was by not listening to guitar players, but by starting to sift for different qualities applied by vocalists,” he continues. “I would listen to artists like Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, James Brown, and later Sharon Jones, and tried to start applying some of their vocal qualities and nuances to the guitar. And then I’d try doing it with horn players like John Coltrane. From there I would move to organ players and pedal steel players – anything that wasn’t a guitar, really; so I could get some different ideas about ways to approach the guitar in terms of shaping my sound.”
“I would consciously thread those influences together as I approached each project; and the more you play it becomes more evident that music is a language for our souls to speak through our body,” states Marcus. “The more you hang around somebody you hear a vernacular that they use – a particular way they might phrase something used in everyday conversation that you may not have heard before.”
When Marcus looks at the contemporary scene that he is carving his own niche within and striving to achieve new heights creatively, does he feel that music is commercially and creatively in a good spot right now?
“My goal is to try to make people more aware,” explains Marcus. “Everybody has a need to express themselves and this applies to any kind of artistry, not just music. Even if you enjoy jogging or boxing or any type of hobby, I believe we pursue these things to get the negative energy out that’s buried deep inside of us. I feel people are always molded to repress their emotions so their expression often comes out in a negative way. I’m an advocate for the opposite, so people get their emotions out in a positive way.”
“Too often the music industry attempts to position artists in glorifying positions and puts musicians at each other’s throat,” states Marcus. “Music is not a competition for me. I remember the first talent show that I entered and came away from that experience thinking there was something contrived and not right about it.”
When asked what fans can expect from his upcoming Bay City appearance, Marcus says that while he’ll be covering new material along with material spanning his entire catalogue of material, for this latest tour he is approaching things a bit differently.
“Every show that I perform is different and it really depends upon the crowd,” he reflects. “Choosing and drawing up my set list is a bit like a ball and chain if you stick to it, so I use it more like a guideline. The band has come together in a way where I know who to cue, as to whatever song will be coming next, and he’ll alert the next guy, who will alert the drummer; and the organ will know right where to fit; but being on the road is like that and we like to make our shows so we can adapt to the energy of the crowd. This is also good for the crowd because they get to engage in a conversation with the musicians on stage musically, while we engage with them in terms of spirit. The audience sets the tenor of how the show goes. If we need to get something out or feel something needs to be said that can also happen, because with certain situations I’ll feel something negative in the air and combat that with something like love that’s focused on this whole aura of peace. Musically, we channel energy by our demeanor.”
Are there any specific artists that inspire Marcus or have given him invaluable advice in terms of keeping focused upon what’s important? “Yeah, lots of folks have given me great advice, “ reflects. “Warren Haynes and Cody Wright both gave me a lot of good advice about keeping music the number one priority; and allowing that to be your focus. It’s important to steer clear or away from whatever inhibits or represses your energy.”
Finally, are there any high-water marks or landmark moments that stand out in Marcus’ mind as epitomizing defining moments in the arc of his career? “There’s certain things you look back on and then try to vision what’s to come against the backdrop of what’s already been that makes you more content with the place you’re in,” he notes.
“I think about the first time we opened for Gov’t Mule in my hometown two years ago, which was a big landmark and an added bonus; and recently we performed in Macon, Georgia and the spirits were coming around and I could feel an energy in the room. My father sat in for a song and simultaneously, my amp quit working. My amp was acting out and everything fell apart, but we handled it professionally, which was another important milestone. “
“Basically, you play things off as well as you can and should always remember not to let hardships deter you. How you handle the good with the bad helped me evolve my attitude as a musician.”
The Marcus King Band will be performing at Arbeitoer Hall, 1304 S. Wenona, on Friday, March 24th. Doors open at 6:30 pm and showtime is 7:30 pm. Tickets are $20.00 and available at Electric Kitsch in Bay City, B&D Mini Mart in Munger, and Records & Tapes Galore in Saginaw, as well as at the door. For more information visit MarcusKingBand.com