27 October 2018 (released)
06 November 2018
South Carolina native Marcus King has been selling out shows across Europe promoting his latest album Carolina Confessions - produced and mixed by Grammy-winner Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell) and recorded at Nashville’s iconic RCA Studio A. At only 22 it’s his third release following Soul Insight, and the self-titled Marcus King Band. A deeply personal record, it exhibits his growing maturity not just as an artist, but also a songwriter.
This is not the first time King has been to London. He’s played here numerous times in increasingly larger venues, and for this visit he's booked to play Islington’s Assembly Hall. We’re sitting backstage, and King apologises for not removing his sunglasses. “It's real bright in here” he tells me, “the light hurts my eyes”. He doesn't need to though, as the emotion in his voice tells me all I need to know as we discuss his earliest musical memory on his great-grandfather’s porch in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with his aunts singing gospel tunes.
Marcus King: It was an incredible way to be introduced to the idea of music, and then I started looking back at some old footage of my father and he has played in more rock n roll groups you know. The Marshall Tucker Band and the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd that wave kind of rushed over me. I was a real shut-off kid and I didn't have very many friends. I think it was a lot of anxiety from a non-ideal childhood at times. I never wanted for anything with my parents, with my dad, but music was a way for me to escape. Growing up in my household that's what I was doing. I was playing or listening to music.
Music News: Barry Warren: And it was your father Marvin King who taught you how to play?
MK: Yeah, he did. My dad gave me my first guitar. It was a miniature Les Paul and he taught me how to play on that. After that he bought me a squire Stratocaster and I used that up until I was able to buy a Gibson SG when I was 11. It was a ’70 or ’71 SG and it's featured on the cover of Soul Insight.
MN: I interviewed Warren Haynes last year (Music-News.com 17th Nov 2017) and he described you as “a triple threat” in terms of guitar playing, vocal, and songwriting abilities. How do you feel about that?
MK: That’s a real big honour coming from Warren. He’s also a triple threat and he’s one of my favourite guitarists. One of my favourite writers, and favourite singers. So it’s a huge honour coming from him, but he’s a dear friend.
MN: On Carolina Confessions you’ve progressed from the experimental and blues and soul to an album steeped in Americana, something you’ve only really nodded to previously. Was this the influence of producer Dave Cobb?
MK: I think the reason that Dave was a great choice for this record was because this was the kind of music I was writing and that was what I was feeling in my heart. We’ve always been more of an Americana group because the roots of Americana is the fact that it's just the roots of all American based music; would it be gospel, soul, blues, jazz or folk. So it's kind of an amalgamation of all these different genres of music that we do.
I was working on them, and most of them really had just the lyrics and the guitar parts. They were more like folk songs. I was really scratching my head to see how am I gonna put the rest of the band behind these songs and make it sound good. Working with Dave was the answer for me. He really was instrumental in making it happen, and obviously the band too when they started adding their parts. It just all fell together in the studio.
MN: The mature lyrics to Goodbye Carolina are those of a man beyond your years. What’s the story behind it?
MK: That one was a really delicate number for me on this record. I wrote it about a friend of mine. He killed himself about a year and a half ago. He was a songwriter, and I wrote this tune from his perspective. The way it came about was that I was in a hotel room in France last March and I had been working. I had just been writing a lot, and I was laying on the bed, with ideas running through my mind, and “Goodbye Carolina” came into my head. So I got up and wrote it down and that's all. It was a premonition. My friend came to me, and the rest of the song was written like that. So I feel like he wrote it vicariously through me, because I had a body that was still here.
MN: It was recorded at the legendary RCA studio A in Nashville. What was it like recording in such an iconic room?
MK: It was humbling, man. Yes, incredible. You know as soon as I walked in there, it was the same feeling I got when I walked into the Big House Museum in Macon. The same emotions fell over me. Just the history that was there, and the amount of magic that came out of that room, and the ideas that had been spawned there. The creativity was still there. A big part of the record was getting the sound of the studio as part of the album, as we wanted the studio to have a voice.
MN: You recently joined Chris Robinson's faux Black Crowes project As The Crow Flies. How did that come about?
MK: We had been on the road, and I just got the call. They said Chris wanted to see if you could do this project with him. So I said “Well sure that'd be great. Let's do that”. So what ended up happening is that, I think, Chris called Luther (Dickinson) and Luther is a good friend, but he couldn't do it. He told Chris “You gotta call Marcus. He’ll do it. He’d love to. That’s the right man for the job”. So, they gave me the gig and they sent me the catalogue to learn. I think a huge inspiration on this album is The Black Crowes because the whole time I was writing this record the only things I was listening to was their records, and what I was writing. So definitely some Chris and Rich Robinson inspiration about this record.
MN: Because of your age and with the obvious comparisons that were going to be made between you and former Black Crowes guitarists, was the rest of the band protective?
MK: They kinda just threw me in at the deep end. It was funny cuz I didn't think about the fact that Audley Freed had been in that group, so obviously he was gonna play the Audley Freed parts. So it only left one job for me to do, which made it that much scarier. Rich’s parts were very…. well, him. So with me playing them, the only shot in hell I had of doing anything with it was if I put my own spin on it, and just hope that people dug it. Cuz I wasn't going to try to play his parts note-for-note. I felt like that would be offensive. But like you said there was a massive age difference and it just made for an incredible learning experience. It was a tremendous opportunity. I had so much fun.
MN: And lastly, what's next for the Marcus King Band?
MK: Live album. That’s what’s on my horizon, man.
Marcus King Band - Carolina Confessions (Fantasy/Snakefarm Records)
Release Date 05 October 2018
Photo Credit: David McClister