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more... ArtistsJuly 2008Marcus Eaton

Northwestern Exposure: Marcus Eaton Interview


I was listening to Dave Matthews and I really paid attention to the guitar parts. I eventually realized that Tim Reynolds played a lot of the guitar parts on his albums. He is this incredible guitarist that I’ve since had the chance to play and tour with.

So how did you get a chance to play with him?

I went down to Utah when I was 20 with my girlfriend at the time to see a Tim Reynolds show. But I couldn’t get into the show because I wasn’t of drinking age – if you’ve ever been to Utah, you’ll know the drinking laws are a little draconian. So I was standing outside and saw Tim get out of his bus with his road crew. This one guy in particular got out of the car and I thought, “This guy is from a different planet.” We’re good friends now, so we can laugh about it, but his name was Fluffy.

Northern Exposure
Kevin Rogers, Marcus, James Monson
His real name?

Yeah, and he’s got these purple camo pants and gold and silver bracelets covering his entire right arm. He had hair down to his butt, tied back and a beard. And then Tim got out, and he is like five feet tall, a little guy, and I was thinking, “Holy shit, these guys just stepped off Mars.”

So I talk to Fluffy, because I’m thinking he might have some pull. He tried really, really hard, but still couldn’t get me into the show. So I got his information and said, “I’m a musician and I’d like to send you some of my stuff.” Long story short, we just kept in touch over the next couple of years. By 2003, my band, Marcus Eaton and the Lobby was taking off, and we had been touring the Northwest. Tim was coming through Boise, Idaho and we got on the show as the opener. We’ve done a lot of touring together since then – I believe we’ve played 26 different places with Tim over the past two years.

What have you been able to pick up from watching Tim play?

He’s just one of those people that can do anything. He’s so fluid, and what inspires me about his playing is that he can get up and there’s no question about what he’s doing. I don’t know if that makes sense, but sometimes guitarists can get frazzled by bad monitors or the crowd or their sound, if it’s not right. You would never know that with Tim – he just gets up there and plays.

It’s probably an oversimplification, but Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds both fall under that jam band umbrella. Do you like that kind of association? How do you relate to it as a musician?

I relate to it in terms of musicianship. I think that Dave Matthews and all of these guys are really unique musicians because they’re inspired by so many different types of music and they’re able to incorporate that into their own sound. Being around my dad and listening to all of these different types of music has shown me that you can mix various styles and still have it be your own. So I relate to the jam bands in terms of the music, but I kind of shy away from jamming for too long.

I have a three piece and for the past three years I’ve just been doing looping. The looping really helps me lock my song ideas down because I have to stick with certain things. I have to stick to rhythm and cover all of the different parts by myself. So that’s helped me to not be too self-indulgent, you know? As long as it’s musical I’m down with it – as long as the song is going somewhere. Once you start getting out into the 20-minute range, it starts losing some of that excitement.

Your blending of various genres and sounds really comes through in your latest release, Story of Now. It’s a very ambitious album, and I’m wondering how you approached writing it. How do you boil things down when there are so many sounds to choose from?

The song choice was fairly difficult because I have a lot of material. I think it stems from when I was working with the Lobby, because I was having a great time, in terms of writing.

One of my main influences is Victor Wooten. One of the first tours I got to do with my band was with Victor for three dates. We just got to watch his show – it was incredible and anyone who’s met Victor will tell you that he’s the nicest guy on the planet. That was a really inspirational time and I was writing a lot. Having those kinds of experiences with those types of music really makes you push yourself and become more ambitious.

It definitely shows in the tracks. For example, “Standing Still” has this kind of tripping, rhythmic intro – it’s not necessarily something you’d expect to hear on an acoustic album. Can you tell us about how that song came about?

“Standing Still” is based around a drum loop, something I came up with after my brother turned me onto Reason. It’s based on these cool delay patterns – dotted quarters – and, like you said, it’s supposed to sound trippy.

I think a lot of players might be afraid of mixing two distinct sounds like a rhythmic drum loop and an acoustic. What do those loops do for you?

You know, I think it just adds something – it’s cool to have two different elements like that. I like to have an electronic element coupled with something really organic, like my acoustic. It makes for a cool juxtaposition and an interesting sound. The delay parts are really what make the song take off, and you’ve got a really transcendent wah part in there, too.

If my research serves me correctly, Story of Now has really been an independent effort on your part – there’s no label behind it?

There’s no label behind it. It’s all been an independent process. I had a label deal before but it just didn’t work out.
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