Q&A: Guitarist Marcus King set to fly off in new directions

Tahoe Onstage

Marcus King is part of a brand new supergroup heading to Lake Tahoe: As The Crow Flies.

Marcus King has accomplished quite a bit for any artist, let alone a 22 year old. Young Marcus shared the stage at an early age as sideman to his father, bluesman Marvin King, and more recently with the likes of Southern guitar titans Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks. King, out front of the soul-influenced, psychedelic Southern rock band that bears his name, has toured hard in both the U.S. and Europe for the last two years.

Finally having a little break, he headed down to Key West for some deserved R&R. He had no idea his next collaboration opportunity, to play guitar on Black Crowes hits behind Chris Robinson as a member of As The Crow Flies, would present itself as he strolled about town with his girlfriend.  Tahoe Onstage connected with Marcus as he waited to board a plane from Nashville on his way to New York to begin rehearsals for As The Crow Flies, which includes guitarist Audley Freed, bassist Andy Hess, and fellow Chris Robinson Brotherhood members Tony Leone (drums) and Adam MacDougal (keyboards).

Oddly enough as we began our conversation he paused, laughed and said, “I hate to interrupt, but they’re paging someone named Crow, so I guess your timing is good.”  We both had a chuckle and began discussing his joining As The Crow Flies, which kicks off in New York April 17 before arriving in South Lake Tahoe at MontBleu on May 12.

How and by whom were you contacted about joining ATCF?

“It was back in November when the idea first came about. First through my management. Chris had hit them up and asked if I’d be interested in coming out. I was down in Key West when I got the call, and I was having an ice cream cone with my girlfriend (laughs).”  King continued, “I got the call and I was like, whoa, yeah, of course.  I said absolutely l I’d like to do it. I didn’t know the extent of it at that point, but I knew I’d be into the idea.”

After letting management know you were interested did you speak with Chris?

“Oh yeah, we got on the phone and chatted real low key. He just said ‘we’re gonna play some Crowes tunes.’ He was very nonchalant, which was great for me. I like that.”

Are there any particular tunes in the Crowes catalog you’re itching to play?

“Yeah, ‘High Head Blues’ has always been one of my favorites and ‘Wiser Time’, I like that stuff. A lot of that part of the catalog has always really spoken to me. Everything off the first couple of records is bad ass. I’ve got my buddy Peter setting me up with a custom amplifier to try and recreate some of those tones that (former Crowes guitarist) Marc Ford was getting, just to get as much of the sounds as possible.”

Chris Robinson has been clear in interviews that he will only be singing in As The Crow Flies, and you’ll (at least primarily) only be playing guitar. How do you plan to use the opportunity?

“That was really another reason I wanted to take the gig.  I figured it was a great opportunity to spend a month as guitar player and teach myself a lesson in humbling myself as just another member, and not the leader of a group. I’ve never really been the guitar player that just plays, so I’m really just excited about the notion of doing that. My Dad always taught me from an early age to take what I do and really hone in on it. I’ve always kind of played that role (as the leader of a group) so it’s almost a welcome treat for me as a leader of a group to go and work with someone that’s been a leader of a band for a lot longer than I have and play the role of the guitar player. I think it will be a nice, humbling experience.”

Will ATCF be an opportunity to stretch a little bit and might it have a positive effect moving forward in your own band?

“I think there’s going to be opportunity for that, absolutely. It’s also an opportunity to play with Audley Freed. I don’t usually play with other guitar players, especially in my own group. I also see it as a way for me to work on my rhythmic comping. I usually go off of my keyboard player. Now, in certain areas there’s going to be three of us playing rhythm and I can get really clunky really quick.  It takes a certain kind of ear and all of us listening to each other and what we’re doing so we’re not all clonkin’ on the same chord, ya know?”

All indications point toward Black Crowes staples dominating the set list, but I’ve also seen more than one mention of possible Led Zeppelin, as well. How do you feel about taking on Jimmy Page? 

“Uh…terrified…ya know, always! (laughs).” All I can really do is put my own spin on it, and play it like Marcus King. I admire Jimmy Page. He’s one of my heroes and idols and somebody I’ve been listening to a lot while I was in the studio when I was focusing on tones. I’m really excited to play some Led Zeppelin tunes, too.”

– Michael Smyth

About Michael Smyth

Michael Smyth moved to Reno in 2007 after living more than 40 years in the Bay Area. In addition to going to live shows, he enjoys golf, skiing and fly-fishing. Check out his website www.bombilations.com

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