Following a big year for Marcus King in 2017, the young guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, and bandleader has a slew of exciting plans in place for this new year. Next week, he will set sail on his first Jam Cruise with The Marcus King Band. Later this month, he’ll head down to Widespread Panic‘s annual Panic En La Playa destination event in Mexico. This spring, his band will join Umphrey’s McGee for a run of dates, and mount a 7-stop tour in France. And that’s just the beginning…
This week, King was announced as part of two separate hotly-anticipated tours: One as a member of Chris Robinson‘s new Black Crowes-themed project, As The Crow Flies, and the other with MKB serving as one of two supporting acts for Tedeschi Trucks Band‘s annual “Wheels of Soul” tour. In the wake of these two huge announcements, we spoke to Marcus about As The Crow Flies, “Wheels of Soul,” and the other various plans he has in store for a busy 2018.
[Photo: Robert Forte]
Live For Live Music: When did Chris Robinson first approach you about potentially being a part of As The Crow Flies?
Marcus King: It was this past fall, almost winter time, when I first got that call from Chris, and I can honestly say I was immediately excited about the idea.
L4LM: Did you have an existing personal or professional relationship with Chris prior to his reaching out to you about As The Crow Flies?
MK: We’ve run into each other a number of times at shows and at festivals our bands have played together. Chris and I have always had a good time just hanging out and talking at those gigs.
L4LM: Did you immediately say “yes” to the offer or was it something you had to take a few weeks or longer to think about?
MK: Although it was something I was instantly excited about, I did have to pause and take some time to digest the whole idea. From a sheer gut standpoint, I thought it sounded like a whole lot of fun. However, after I took some time to think about it, I also thought how cool it could be to be around a group of musicians as seasoned as the players in As The Crow Flies, and that I could really learn a lot from all of them.
I also thought the As The Crow Flies tour could present me with a unique opportunity to just go out and be a guitar player in a band for once, as opposed to being the front man in my own band. All in all I think it will end up being a very humbling experience for me.
L4LM: Any thoughts on your singing on the As The Crow Flies tour? Most folks who follow the Marcus King Band often praise your vocals…
MK: As far as the fine details regarding the shows, we have yet to work all of that out but I can say we’ve talked about my singing a few songs and I’m sure I’ll be contributing backing vocals on some of the tunes we’ll end up doing.
L4LM: Did you have any trepidation with regard to how the Marcus King Band’s fan base would react to you being a part of this kind of project?
MK: I did, and I do. The Marcus King Band is stronger than ever right now. We didn’t want to send out nor create any false narrative that our band was coming to any kind of an end because that’s far from the truth.
Once [MKB’s] next big tour starts, we will be coming out of the studio having just spent two months straight together. We always try to take a little time after long tours like that to clear our heads. Thus I thought the timing for the As The Crow Flies tour sounded kind of perfect.
[Photo: Robert Forte]
L4LM: Many MKB fans will likely see the As the Crow Flies tour as an opportunity to introduce you and the Marcus King Band to a brand new group of die hard music fans. Do you think the tour will benefit the your band in terms of exposure and growing your own fan base?
MK: To be honest, that was never my intention. I only do something if it feels right to me personally, musically, and spiritually. When this came along, it just felt right to me in my heart. I can, however, say in retrospect that I have given some thought to how this tour could help bring some exposure to the Marcus King Band and I think it will end up being a good thing.
L4LM: While you’re out on the As The Crow Flies tour, will the other members of the Marcus King Band be engaged with some of their own side musical projects?
MK: All of us already go and do separate gigs when we’re off the road. Jack [Ryan, drums] plays with his band the Shady Recruits, and Justin [Johnson, trumpet/trombone] plays with a number of musicians including April Bennett and her band April B. & The Cool.
Every band member has music projects outside of the group that they are excited about, and we all think that’s a real healthy thing. When all of us come back to the Marcus King Band, we’re able to approach both our old and new material with a fresh spin, and that condition’s existence allows things to stay creative within the group.
L4LM: Black Crowes fans are both notoriously loyal and vocal. When both Luther Dickinson and then, later, Jackie Greene, joined the Black Crowes, there were certain segments of their fan base that reacted quite negatively. Surely many of their fans will show you love, but the haters will undoubtedly make their voices heard too. What, if anything, do you have to say to any detractors regarding As The Crow Flies and your decision to be a part of it?
MK: I have had this tendency at times where I’ve let myself get really overwhelmed by some of those kinds of things. However, I’ve learned from a number of people that have been in the business much longer than myself to just do things for the right reasons and to have your heart in the right place. If people can get with it, then that’s a wonderful thing. And if they can’t, you just try to get up on that stage and prove them all wrong.
L4LM: How familiar are you with the Black Crowes catalogue and their music? Are there any Black Crowes songs you’re personally excited to play with on the As The Crowe Flies tour?
MK: I’m definitely a fan of the Black Crowes, and in particular the Marc Ford era. I’m getting really excited about playing those songs and having the opportunity to put my spin on them. I’m a huge fan of Marc Ford and like many people in and out of the industry, I think he’s one of the best southern rock guitar players to ever play. I see it as a real honor to be able to go out and play those songs.
L4LM: Fellow As The Crow Flies member Audley Freed was in the Black Crowes for the By Your Side (1999) and Lions (2001) years. It would seem that, from a guitar dynamics standpoint, you might be a fit to play lead on the earlier Marc Ford catalogue with Freed playing lead on the band’s later work. Is that something that has already been discussed and or worked out, or are those the kind of details that are going to be ironed out as you rehearse more as a collective?
MK: I think that’s something we will talk about and work out more once we get deeper into the rehearsal process. In the early going I think we’ve at least agreed in principle that both Audley and I will share the lead role.
Everyone in this group is a real tasteful player and a gifted musician. I think one of the most important things I learned from people like Warren [Haynes] and Derek [Trucks] was to understand when not to play–or, to put it more bluntly, when to shut up [laughs]. Hopefully I’ll be able to remember that once I’m up on the stage with these guys.
L4LM: You’ve discussed already that you have some familiarity with Chris, but do you have any sort of previous relationship with the other musicians that will comprise As The Crow Flies in Audley, Adam [MacDougall], Tony [Leone] or Andy [Hess]?
MK: I’ve hung out with Audley a few times and I know him through Warren, but I don’t think we’ve ever played together. I’m just stoked that I’m going to be able play with him and the rest of the guys in As The Crow Flies.
L4LM: Chris has already intimated that the As The Crow Flies tour this spring will be a one-off thing that he doesn’t anticipate will extend beyond this initial tour. He did, however, leave the door open to more dates in the longer-term future. Would you be open to being a part of a future As The Crow Flies tour if things went well this time around?
MK: I will always say the door remains open for anything, but the fact that this was a one-time thing was one of the main reasons why I was initially interested in being a part of it. I see the tour as an opportunity to just go out and have a really good time with some incredible folks.
L4LM: You’ve played with Derek and Susan [Tedeschi] before, but this summer’s newly announced “Wheels of Soul” tour will be the first time that MKB will go out on an extended tour with Tedeschi Trucks Band. How did the Wheels of Soul tour come to fruition? Is touring together something you, Derek and Susan have talked about doing for a while now?
MK: It’s kind of been in the air over last couple of years, and we all agreed that everyone would love to do it. We always have a lot fun and laughs when see each other, and fortunately the planets aligned to make the “Wheels of Soul” tour possible this year.
[Photo: Derek McCabe]
L4LM: Can you describe the nature of your personal and musical relationships with both Derek and Susan?
MK: Derek and Susan’s personalities both on and off the stage are very warm, and they both welcome you in with open arms. It always feels like a warm and cozy bed when we’re around them. Derek, Susan and their entire band have all become very close friends of mine.
L4LM: Tedeschi Trucks Band and the Marcus King Band seem to share some of the same musical DNA, with both your fan bases seeming like a natural fit for one another. Can fans expect Derek and Susan to join your band and vice versa for some unique collaborations on the “Wheels of Soul” tour?
MK: I think that’s something that’s engrained in our nature. The fact that we enjoy each other’s company off the stage, it’s kind of just a natural extension to bring that vibe up to the stage with one another.
L4LM: The Wheels of Soul tour will see the Marcus King Band playing venues in the 10,000 to 20,000 capacity area, so outside of the festival dates you’ve done, you’ll be playing to some of the biggest audiences the band has ever played to on tour. Do you see that as a challenge? Do you foresee any obstacles in translating the intimate vibe of a typical Marcus King Band show to much larger audiences?
MK: It’s going to be something different for us, for sure. We’re definitely going to try and translate our intimate vibe into those larger venues and shows. It’s going to be a challenge but it’s one we’re all very open to and super excited about.
L4LM: Beyond you and Tedeschi Trucks, Drive-By Truckers will also be along for the ride on the Wheels of Soul tour. Can fans expect your two bands to combine forces onstage for some covers and or takes on each other’s music during the tour?
MK: I definitely foresee that as a possibility with Drive-By Truckers because they have a very similar vibe to us. The first time I met their drummer [Brad Morgan], I was in high school in jazz band class and our teacher, Bruce Caldwell, he had this special guest come in that turned out to be the Drive By Trucker’s drummer. So it’s kind of like things have come full circle for us.
L4LM: Your father, Marvin King, is quite the guitar hero himself. You’ve called him the “best guitar teacher anyone could ever have.” Is there any chance Marvin joins the band on stage for a few tunes anywhere on the Wheels of Soul tour?
MK: It’s always a possibility. If and when Papa King ever wants to come out and hang, there’s always a spot for him if he feels like jamming. We always love it when my dad comes up and plays a few tunes with us.
[Photo: Robert Forte]
L4LM: The Wheels of Soul and As The Crow Flies tours are still months away. In the interim, the Marcus King Band will be out on the road. Can you talk a little about what plans the band has for the remainder of the winter, spring and the first half of 2018 in regard to tours or recording?
MK: We actually will be doing our first-ever Jam Cruise in a few weeks, and I think there’s going to be a bevy of collaborations on that tour. Then, in early February we are going to be headed out to do some dates with Umphrey’s Mcgee, which all of us are extremely excited about. Whenever we listen to those guys play, we all end up wanting to go back into the shed and practice more because they always seem to push us in these really positive directions.
That will then be followed by the band doing a run through France throughout most of March where we’ll basically be touring the entire country. Around this same time frame, we’ll also be going into the studio for a couple of weeks to try and wrap up our third studio album. We are hoping to release a single before the Wheels of Soul tour starts and we’re also hoping that the new album gets released sometime later this summer.
L4LM: Final question, Marcus. Recently, in New York, you were asked what fans could expect on MKB’s French tour this spring. You were quoted as saying, “There’s going to be a lot of mustards on that tour.” Would you care to expand on that thought?
MK: There are lot of us in this band that are very big fans of various mustards, cheeses and baguettes. France has always been really good to us in terms of providing us with quality mustards and cheeses so I think we’re all looking forward to that.
For a full list of upcoming As The Crow Flies tour dates, head here.
To get the low-down on this summer’s annual Tedeschi Trucks Band “Wheels of Soul” tour featuring Drive-By Truckers and The Marcus King Band, head here.
For a complete list of upcoming Marcus King Band shows, head to the band’s website.
Contributing writer Robert Forte serves as the Managing Photography Editor at Rock Revolt Magazine, in addition to working as a freelance music writer and professional concert photographer.