Interview: The Marcus King Band Evolve for Self-Titled Sophomore Album
It's been only about one year since the Marcus King Band released their debut album, Soul Insight, but there's been plenty of evolving on the band's part in those 12 months. New members, new songs and an iconic new producer have made 2016 a busy, and formative, time for the group.
"[The Marcus King Band] is, essentially, a re-introduction to the idea of the Marcus King Band," the band's frontman and namesake, Marcus King, tells The Boot. King and MKB drummer Jack Ryan are the only two members who were with the band when Soul Insight was recorded; they added Matt Jennings on keys, bassist Stephen Campbell and Justin Johnson (trumpet, trombone, backing vocals) shortly thereafter, and saxophonist Dean Mitchell a little bit later.
"[This album] was really wanting to kind of showcase what the band is now and what it's going to remain, because it feels right," King continues. "I think my songwriting took a different turn, too ... Just as anybody hopes they do, I feel like my songwriting evolved a little bit from the first record to the second."
And while King admits that playing live (which the band has done plenty of together) and recording in the studio (which ... well, they hadn't) are "two different worlds," they opted to record the album live -- all together in one room, no click track -- to keep things familiar and natural.
"None of us are seasoned in the fashion of recording, so there was definitely some areas where we were green," King recalls with a laugh, "not quite hitting it the way we want to be, but Warren really helped us in a lot of different ways in the studio."
The "Warren" of whom King speaks is Warren Haynes. The iconic artist first heard the Marcus King Band in 2014 and took a liking to the group. They've played his annual Christmas Jam concert, opened for Haynes' band Gov't Mule and jammed together onstage; MKB are also signed to Evil Teen Records, the president of which is Haynes’ wife, Stefanie Scamardo.
"To work with one of your heroes is intimidating," King confesses, "but at the same time, you trust their judgement, and his ideas are golden, man ..."
In addition to his role as The Marcus King Band's producer, Haynes also contributed slide guitar on "Virginia," one of 13 tracks on the album. And he's not the only big name with a guest spot on the disc: Derek Trucks plays guitar on "Self-Hatred." Although he couldn't join King and company in the studio due to his tour schedule, Trucks "knew exactly what needed to be done," King says.
"As soon as he laid the stuff on [the track], we heard it, and it was pretty much like having him in the studio," King notes. "I mean, not nearly as fun, but you know, it certainly brought that song to life."
In addition to making The Marcus King Band available on iTunes and Amazon, the MKB launched a PledgeMusic campaign to help raise awareness about the project; various album bundles are still available to those who pledge, but the biggest rewards -- a VIP meet and greet, a signed drum head, the band playing a Front Porch Session at your house -- are sold out.
"We're always surprised with the amount of people that are showing us so much love, and it's gratifying at the same time it's surprising," King admits. "Surprising in a good way, if that makes sense."
The band has logged quite a bit of road time in recent months, and they'll stay busy through the end of 2016, including a run of European dates in late October and early November. In fact, some of the songs on their new disc have been part of their live set for quite some time.
"That's a big part of who we are as a live band, is trying to constantly move forward and add something new for the people to listen to with us," King notes, "and see how they're reacting to how we're trying to evolve as a band and as writers and performers."
Yes, the Marcus King Band's shows are the band playing and the audience watching, but, at the end of our conversation, King stresses that it's meant to be much more than that.
"It's an experience that we want to enjoy together," he says. "To have a release of emotions and to kind of let go of everything that's been on you all day and just lay it right there on the stage with us and just kind of -- almost like a meditation type of thing for us, and we want people to join in on that with us."
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