Roads To Rock N Roll #6
One of the most interesting features in Classic Rock’s – sadly recently discontinued – Blues Magazine was ‘The First Time I Met The Blues’ where a musician was asked what got them interested in blues music in the first place. While it’s perhaps a little foolish to try to pin an artist down to a particular genre, in this series we’re going to attempt to do it anyway!
What we’re really interested in is the journey a musician takes to discover the music that’s important to them. Are there songs which have stayed with them from an early age? Have they just recently discovered something which changed their entire outlook? What got them to where they are today?
We’re hoping to find out some of these stories here.
Americana/Jazz – Chris Marshall (Red Pine Timber Company, Solo)
(Interview by Cameron Arndt)
Hailing from Perth in Central Scotland, Chris Marshall recently released his debut solo EP, So Long. The release highlighted his multi-instrumentalist credentials, with him performing almost every instrument – including vocals, guitar, bass, drums, trombone, harmonica – as well as writing and arranging each of the three tracks. In our review we described it as ‘a seriously impressive record, with a solid folk/Americana vibe that helps maintain cohesion among an excellent group of songs that display a tremendous array of styles and moods in a short space of time.’
This was hardly a surprise though as, despite still being in his early 20s, Marshall has already amassed a significant musical cv. Currently trombonist/harmonica player/backing vocalist with Perth-based Americana group Red Pine Timber Company, he has previously played drums in Same Jane, trombone in Bar Room Crawl, guitar with The Marshalls and also run open mic nights around his home city.
With such a resume, and huge range of talents, we were especially intrigued as to what Chris’ biggest musical influences were, and how they got him to the point he’s at today. We therefore demanded an interview with him in return for us getting the honour of being first to review his EP… yep, win win for us!
You’ve had a very varied career thus far, so we imagine you must take inspiration from a lot of different places. We’d like to immediately make you to put them in as small a box as possible and ask if you can narrow it all down to one genre that influences you most these days?
I do find myself taking inspiration from many different genres, but I gravitate more towards artists who play about with styles, such The Band, John Martyn and Snarky Puppy. Jazz, Americana and Rock will always be big influences though.
Jazz was the first genre I discovered on my own so I feel a certain attachment to it as it influenced a lot of my trombone and drumming style. Americana is the genre I play most often and discovered by playing with other artists. Jamming every Sunday in the Twa Tams in Perth, we found ourselves starting to play the same kinds of songs: Pete Seeger, John Martyn, Springsteen etc. I find that Americana encapsulates so many genres from country and R+B to dixie and rock and it’s this cross-genre characteristic that keeps me interested and makes me want to play it more and more.
What, for you, are some of the key Americana albums/artists?
The Last Waltz (1978) by The Band is a master class in live-performance and musicianship. It also features the who’s who of artists who were big in 1976. From Van Morrison, Eric Clapton and Neil Young to Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Muddy Waters, they travel through the Americana.
So where did this start, what’s your earliest musical memory?
My earliest musical memory is hearing the middle-8 of The Who’s Who Are You (1978). It has this thundering chord change from an E to a D with quick G chords thrown in between. I was maybe only a couple of years old but when I listened to the song properly when I was about 13, I instantly recognised it from when I was a toddler
What was the first record you bought?
I’m only 22 but I cant actually remember the first record I bought!
What made you start playing music yourself, and how did that evolve?
My mum was adamant she wanted me to learn an instrument and she knew a drummer who offered to give me lessons. I picked it up pretty quickly and just took it from there – but it was seeing Marty McFly go to town on his Gibson ES-345 (a guitar which wasn’t actually invented until 1958 but there you go!), that made me want to learn the guitar, which kick-started my passion for learning instruments.
My first experience playing with other musicians was in High School where I played trombone in the Brass Band, Wind Band, Swing Band and the Orchestra. I then joined a local band looking for a drummer who eventually called themselves The Doll Drums. We played one gig and we weren’t that great!
I ended up playing in another high school band called Limitless which eventually evolved into Same Jane. Three of the members then formed Bar Room Crawl and we recorded an E.P and an album. For the past few years I’ve been with Red Pine Timber Co.
How does the music you listen to inform the music you play?
As I discussed earlier, I find it really important to be trying to listen to varied genres as much as possible. In my trombone playing, for example, I have influences from guys like Chris Barber and Tommy Dorsey who were jazz legends, to people like Rico Rodriguez (Bob Marley/The Specials) and Fred Wesley (James Brown). However for the lighter, more delicate playing, classical music provides great inspiration with how you can play with different tone and impact.
How about live music, what was the first gig you went to? What impact did it have?
My first was the Magic Numbers here in Perth. I only played drums at the time so that was all I focussed on. But the first gig I paid for with my own money was Velvet Revolver at the then Carling Academy. That gig made me see what a rock band could achieve and gave me the bug of wanting to perform in front of people.
What live shows have most inspired your own performances?
Seeing The Lone Bellow last year in Glasgow really inspired me to think about my presence on stage. They have three main singers, two men and a woman. The men play guitars and she plays mandolin. They harmonise beautifully and they just connected with the audience in a way that I’d never seen before. They really looked into people’s eyes whilst they sang, and they were clearly genuinely grateful for being on the stage.
Are you able to pick one album that most defines your musical taste today?
It’s got to be The Last Waltz. As I said before, it encapsulates so many styles and The Band are at the top of their game, nobody had the same groove that they did.
You recently released your debut EP after a successful kickstarter campaign, what’s next for you?
I’ve just begun writing my first full-length album and Red Pine are deep into production on album two. It’s been in the pipeline for a couple of years now but we should reach completion this year. So a lot going on at the moment! I want to tour, both with the band, and as a solo artist – that’s the only thing I haven’t done yet as a musician.