At the age of 22, South Carolina musician Marcus King is already a seasoned road warrior.
“It’s a lifestyle you have to sort of embrace,” King says. “I left high school in the eleventh grade, and I started out on the road. I still haven’t turned back.”
NUVO: I know you grew up in a musical family. Tell me about your early music memories and when you were first introduced to the blues.
MARCUS KING: I was lucky enough to grow up around music. My earliest memories are that of my great grandfather’s porch and the music that was shared there between my grandfather and his sisters and brothers and my father and his brothers. It was a blessing being around that. They mostly played folk music and Southern gospel hymnals.
My father was the first one to introduce me to blues music. He did that with B.B. King, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and Willie Dixon. Over the years, I’d start listening to other people. I love Son House, John Lee Hooker…the list goes on and on. It’s just an incredible style of music that I don’t think can really be recreated. It was just a feeling and a time of people really singing what was hurting them the most.
NUVO: You came up playing music with your father Marvin. How beneficial was that to you?
KING: It was an extremely beneficial opportunity, and I saw it as such. He had been on the road since the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, so he’s seen it man. He’s been around the block. [laughs] So he kind of helped prepare me for a lot of real-life situations, which is something I can never really repay him for. Just something as simple as how to deal with a club owner.
NUVO: You’re from South Carolina. Where were some of the places you played in your pre-teen and teenage years?
KING: There was a place called Brown Street Club, where all the musicians from Greenville gave me a shot. They’d sneak me in and let me play. They would all play there on Thursday nights. It was a group called the Gypsy Souls, and there were members of The Marshall Tucker Band in that group. It was just a really great place for me to hone my craft. That’s where I got more into jazz, funk, and soul music.
NUVO: Talk to me about the relationship you’ve built with Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule over the years and what it’s meant to you.
KING: Warren has always been someone that’s offered sage wisdom and advice in the form of stories. That can be said for all of my heroes that are now friends. The people I take the most from are the ones that can give you advice without barking it at you. It takes a very special talent to be able to sneak the advice in there without you really picking up on it. It’s kind of a subconscious thing. You walk away from the conversation with a feeling of understanding about something that you didn’t have before. Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi are people that really carry that talent as well.
NUVO: I actually interviewed Derek Trucks earlier this year. What’s something you’ve learned from him?
KING: I love to work with people that also lead a large group of people, and he leads a group that’s twice the size of mine. So [I like] talking to him about how to be a better bandleader and how to be a good person to follow. He’s really just one of the sweetest human beings alive.
NUVO: With your latest record, Carolina Confessions, you worked with producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson). What did you like about working with him?
KING: I got introduced to Dave over the phone because I was out of the country. We spoke on the phone for only about five or six minutes. From that, I think we both knew it was going to be a pretty organic experience. Once we got to the studio, we really just hit the ground running. We got a tune tracked and practically mixed in the first day. It just felt so damn good man.
NUVO: You’ve already had the opportunity to meet so many heroes of yours. When you reflect on where you are currently in your music career, is there any part of it that’s surreal?
KING: I always ask my tour manager, “How’d we do tonight?” What’s different from a year ago to now is a lot of the venues are sold out, and there are a lot of people coming out and showing support. We’re really feeling the love wherever we go. It’s been such a great past few years. We’ve really felt some good growth.
NUVO: You’ve mentioned idols of yours, but what music are you listening to right now?
KING: I’m just going to read you what’s on my recent plays on Spotify. I’ve been listening to the record Bitter Tears by Johnny Cash. I’ve been listening to a lot of Tame Impala. There’s an artist from Netherlands by the name of Blackbird. I’ve been listening to her stuff. And go ahead and put Dr. Dog on there. I’ve been digging them a lot too.