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Marcus King is quickly becoming one of the hottest names in the guitar community – and with good reason. The young axe-slinger just released his much-anticipated LP, El Dorado, produced by Grammy Award winner Dan Auerbach, a genre-infused mix of soul, blues, hard rock and everything in between. We caught up with the young 20-something just days before the album’s release to chat about his career, life on the road and the making of the record.
You’ve recently started touring for your new record El Dorado. How’s the tour coming along?
Everything on the El Dorado Tour is going great! The audience is responding positively to the new material and the band sounds great playing the new tunes.▼ Article continues below ▼
Which cities have you enjoyed playing in the most so far?
That’s really hard to gauge since every city has its own unique qualities. We had a really great time in Bloomington are looking forward to getting back to NYC.
Isn’t touring kind of in your blood? I read somewhere you’re a fourth-generation musician in your family. Didn’t your dad and grandpa perform professionally when you were younger?
That’s correct. My father, grandfather, and both uncles all played music professionally. My great grandfather and great uncles performed as a hobby. It’s something that runs in my family. It’s in my blood and in my DNA.
Did they teach you anything about a practice routine or give music business advice?
My father, more importantly, told me what not to do and what to avoid. I still go to my father for advice and with questions on what I’m up to in my career and decisions I have to make. He’s still my trusted confidant.
What were some of the first guitar riffs you mastered as a kid?
The first song I learned to play on the guitar was “Secret Agent Man.”
Who were some of your musical influences growing up as a teen?
Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, James Brown, William Bell, Janis Joplin.
Let’s talk a little bit about your new album El Dorado. The band has a real cool ’70s Little Feat/Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band vibe. What makes El Dorado different from the last record Carolina Confessions or your first album Soul Insight?
With every record it’s kind of my hope and my goal, even if inadvertently, to be a bit more mature in the songwriting and performing. This one, being my first solo record, sets it apart from the rest.
El Dorado was produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. How did you link up with him?
Dan reached out to me when I was in Phoenix, a couple of years ago. I went straight to Nashville [to mewt with him] and the rest is history.
When you went into the studio were you trying to emulate or follow suit in the sound of certain Black Keys hits?
No, not at all. There were touches of certain sounds because the cats that played on this record played with guys like Dusty Springfield and Elvis. There were touches of inspiration from these guys from their time in Memphis. The main goal was to pour all of me into this album.
“Wildflowers and Wine” is one of the singles off the record. When did you write that song?I wrote
“Wildflowers and Wine” a couple of weeks before we recorded it with Ronnie Bowman and Dan Auerbach.
Which guitar did you use to record the solo on that one?
I used Dan’s Telecaster on this record, it’s a ’62, I believe.
What’s your songwriting process like? Do you imagine or sing a melody before finding it on guitar?
It really changes with every song that I write. For this album it was more of a process where we would all get together with a piece of paper and it was a little more diligent. Which is different than my personal writing style, which is a little more all over the place.
Does your singing and vocal inflection affect the way you play guitar?
Singing and playing the guitar are fairly exclusive in the way I approach them.
I really dig your look in the video for the “The Well” — who filmed that video?
Thanks – that was directed by Reid Long.
When you recorded that in the studio, what kind of rig were you using?
I was using a couple secrets of the trade!
Let’s talk a bit about your band. How did the Marcus King Band originally form in South Carolina?
I walked into a bar in Greenville, SC called Gottrocks and heard Jack Ryan playing the drums; I knew we had to start a band together. That was in early 2013.
Who helped you guys all along the way?
There was a guy Bill Haun who helped us out a great deal in the early days. He made it possible for us to do our first record. The lessons we learned from that are that it takes a lot of work and you need to trust the people you work with.
Do you have any last words about El Dorado or any other upcoming projects?
There’s a lot more to be expected from my solo career and especially with The Marcus King Band. There’s a lot of new stuff on the horizon!
photos by Alysse Gafkjen