There was likely never a question that Marcus King would be a musician.
The singer, guitarist and leader of South Carolina’s Marcus King Band is a third generation working musician, so being part of the “family business” is second nature. He’s just 20, but he’s already proved his mettle with a 2014 debut album “Soul Insight” and he’s really making waves with “The Marcus King Band,” which came out this fall and is produced by Warren Haynes (Gov’t Mule, the Allman Brothers Band).
The 12-songs set showcases the sextet’s broad blend of roadhouse blues and Southern-friend soul, rock and Americana, mixing ferocious aggression with tight, polished arrangements. And when King is playing alongside Haynes and, on another track, Derek Trucks, he shows off skills that belie his youth...
• King says there was never “a conscious decision” to play music, but with a father and grandfather ahead of him, another career path was unlikely. “It was just something I knew I was going to do,” he notes by phone from his home in Greenville, S.C. “I just felt like it’s what I was supposed to do, even though all the career guidance tests I took and (stuff) like that told me to disregard the notion I was going to play music. But I just had this drive and tenacity about it, and I wasn’t gonna take no for an answer.”
• The King family patriarchs were not only supportive but also provided plenty of guidance -- in life as well as playing. “My father and my grandfather, as you know, were both tour musicians and they all told me how hard it was, but they gave me nothing but support in it,” King recalls. “They told me what to do, and they old me what NOT to do, which is really important. My grandad always told me there’s three things that’ll ruin a musician’s career -- the wrong woman, the wrong drugs and alcohol. And I’m still here...” (laughs)
• Making “The Marcus King Band” was a decidedly different experience from “Soul Insight.” “Going from that one to the second one we learned a lot more about song structure and we learned about having more patience in the studio,” King explains. “The first one went so smoothly I guess we didn’t really notice that we rushed through it a little bit. With this one, (Haynes is) a really big believer in taking your time on an idea and not giving up right away, which I something I differ on. So he taught us a lot about patience and the structure of a sing and bringing it together. That was a really big part of what he brought to the table among other things he brought -- which was everything.”
• The band, meanwhile, brought “two more years of experience” with it, which King is confident can be felt throughout the album. “Two more years of really heavy playing is a lot different than the years of playing I’d done leading up to our first record,” King says. “All the years leading up to ‘Soul Insight’ were practicing four or five hours a day at home ‘cause I don’t have anything else to do. I just played my guitar all day. The last two years have been what I know a lot of bands go through, when you don’t have a lot of crowds and you don’t have anybody to really try t put on shows for, but you still love to play. You find yourself trying to impress the musicians you’re with, trying to outplay yourself from the night before. It’s like a competition against yourself to make yourself go further just for your own self-confidence, really, and to make yourself a better player.”
• He knows he’s young, but age is relative to King. “I think the only time I really feel like a 20-year-old is when I try to have a drink and I’ve got big X’s on my hands (laughs),” he says. “I’ve always felt that age and time is really relative to what you’re doing. I don’t think that blues has an age limit on it. Somebody asked me what gave me the right to write sad songs at such a young age; I had to tell them that you can be hurt at a young age, too. There’s no age limit on that kind of pain. And there’s no age limit on playing this kind of music, I don’t think.”