Marcus King Band Returns to Haunt with Fiery Tunes

via Ithaca Journal

For the fourth time in less than a year, the Marcus King Band will visit Tompkins County to perform at the Haunt on Sunday night. Fronted by its eponymous 20-year-old singer-guitarist, the South Carolina-based band draws on rock, soul, funk, jazz and blues influences to create its fiery sound.

That musical gumbo is no accident, King noted in a recent phone interview.

“I wanted to try to glean influences from as many different channels of music as I could,” he said. “Not just guitar players, because I find myself kind of bored just running all of Ed King, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix’s stuff. Certainly my favorite guitar players — Duane Allman, Robin Trower — I’ve gained a lot of influence from, but I never wanted to emulate their playing. I like to take influence from a lot of saxophone players, particularly Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. As a guitar player, when you listen to sax or trumpet players, it shows you that you need to breathe between your phrases.”

In October, the Marcus King Band released its self-titled album, which was produced by Gov’t Mule frontman Warren Haynes.

‘’Marcus is a great guitar player, but he’s also a great singer and songwriter, so the sky’s the limit for him,” Haynes said in an interview last fall. “He’s got a wonderful band, I think their future is extremely bright, and they’ll just continue to get better and better. He’s an amazing player, which is rare in itself, but there are very few great players who can sing with the kind of soul that he does.”

Haynes has invited King to sit in with his band on several occasions; the Marcus King Band also has opened for Gov’t Mule.

“We enjoy any time when we get together with Warren,” King said. “When we started working together initially, right off the bat you could tell it was a really good partnership as far as working together and being friends. We both came up in the same area of the world — he’s a good ol’ Southern boy, just like we are — so we all get along famously.”

The Marcus King Band also features Jack Ryan on drums and percussion, Stephen Campbell on bass, Matt Jennings on keys and organ, Dean Mitchell on saxophone, and Justin Johnson on trumpet, trombone and backing vocals. All contribute to the band’s material.

“We’re on the road a good bit, so a lot of soundchecks turn into these quasi-rehearsals,” King said. “We all bring different kinds of sounds to the group, which is what I think has led us to this path of ambiguity with our music. We’re not necessarily conforming to any particular genre, we’re just trying to create something that makes us feel good, just trying to express all of our emotions in a musical context.

“I do the fair share of the writing — I’ll write something on an acoustic guitar and bring it to the band, and then it will take on a completely different life by the time it hits the stage, once they put their flavor into to it. It’s certainly a team effort, 100 percent. I couldn’t do this without them, and there’s an immense amount of respect within the group. We all feel very blessed to be able to work with one another every day.”

“My father and my grandfather are always on my shoulders every day,” he said. “More importantly, they told me what I shouldn’t do, rather than what I should do, what to avoid and to stay away from. There’s a lot of temptation everywhere, and lot of temptation take your mind off the workload and the pressure and the hours that we keep. There are a lot of things that could make that a lot easier, but it’s really not worth it at the end of the day.”

King is looking forward to returning to Ithaca this weekend.

“Every time we come back we’ve gotten a bigger house of people,” he said. “There’s an immense amount of love and mutual respect up there — everyone is kindhearted and really digs what we’re trying to say.”