Marcus King chasing down the sound playing in his head


via Herald Courier

Marcus King sings like an old soul son of the South.

Only thing, he’s 21, a ramblin’ man with a lot of room to roam.

Make welcome the Marcus King Band. Southern rockers whose style encompasses and exceeds their widely varied roots, they headline Thursday Jams in Abingdon on June 22. Presented by the Abingdon Music Experience, the show includes Asheville’s Get Right Band in support.

“Being considered a son of the South, I wouldn’t take offense to that,” said King by phone from his home in South Carolina on Monday near the midnight hour. “I certainly love my family and the South. It’s beautiful down here. You can feel it in your heart.”

Hear the South in King’s vibrant music. As with the Allman Brothers Band, he leads a Southern rock group that’s more than simply a band of rockers. They filter jazz, country, and generous helpings of the blues into the stewing mix.

“I think what Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi are doing is beautiful. They’re defying stereotypes,” King said. “That’s what we’re doing. It’s a Southern rock thing, but at the same time we’re staying out of the box. I want to hear what’s inside you.”

Speak with King. About music, he’s as apt to refer to John Coltrane as he is Gregg Allman or Son House.

“John Coltrane said you’ve got to be willing to die for the (music),” King said. “It’s all about attitude. You put it out there. Like, I would rather hear the right player play the wrong note, but I can’t listen to the wrong player play the right note.”

King broke out in 2015 with “Soul Insight.” Listen to songs including “Dyin’” and “Boone.” He sounds like a branch from the Allman Brothers’ family tree. The album cracked the top 10 of Billboard’s Blues albums chart.

“I was 18,” he said. “Shoot, I’ve never really been too keen on my voice. I think the reason I sing the way I sing, my grandfather had a rough hewn voice. He had a howl.”

Then there’s King’s guitar. Like another voice that strains from the strings, soul strips bare and runs naked and raw through his backbone rhythm and primal leads.

“I take a lot of inspiration from Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin for guitar purposes, to apply their voices to my guitar playing,” King said. “Unbeknownst to myself, I was taking them on as influences. Coltrane, Miles (Davis), Charlie (Parker). I love their saxophone playing. They liked to breathe on the sax. Yeah, I have to breathe on the guitar.”

King breathes fire and blues power on last year’s self-titled album. Produced by his mentor, Warren Haynes, the collection of originals scaled Billboard’s blues albums chart to number two.

“The first album, we did in San Diego. The second one in Connecticut,” King said. “We need to bring the next one back home. There’s something down here you can’t find anywhere else.”

In the days that precede the band’s next jaunt on the road, King’s been recording demos of songs he’s written that may appear on his forthcoming third album. Ask him. Clarity as to the album’s direction has yet to emerge.

“We were in the studio today, recording demos,” he said. “We’re getting ready to get back in to the studio this fall. Only thing we know for certain is we’ll do it in the South. I want a more vulnerable album, more personal.”

Therein and forevermore, King classifies as a musician on the run. In search of an ever-elusive sound that plays in his head, he’s Lewis and Clark with a destination in mind yet one that he hopes he’ll never quite find.

“I think that’s the most important thing,” he said. “We always want to strive to do a little better. Every day we get closer to that goal. I never want to see the day when we hit the goal. I don’t want to be that guy who says, ‘There it is. We did it.’ I always want to be looking for the goal I want. My sound.”

Like a flame in want of wood, the journey keeps King hot.

“I’m like a duck,” King said. “Up top, I try to stay composed. Down under the water, my feet are kicking.”