Over the last handful of months, I’ve managed to write a bit about the rapidly rising Greenville, SC-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, Marcus King. King is a fourth generation musician, who has followed in his family’s footsteps by becoming a musician and singer/songwriter of note itself. Playing professionally since he was 11, King was discovered after a video of him performing at Norman’s Rare Guitars went viral. Now 23, King has been performing for the past 15 years, establishing himself as a world class guitarist, vocalist and highly sought-after session player.
Since 2015, King has been relentlessly touring with his backing band The Marcus King Band — Jack Ryan (drums), Stephen Campbell (bass), Justin Johnson (trumpet, trombone) and Dean Mitchell (sax, still guitar) — playing 140 dates live shows last year alone. Adding to a breakthrough year, King and his backing band have played on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, made his debut at The Grand Ole Opry — and he opened for Chris Stapleton during his last US arena tour, playing in front of 17,000 people every night.
King’s Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut El Dorado was released earlier this month through Fantasy Records. And as you may recall, King’s debut continues his successful (and ongoing) collaboration with Auberach, which began with “How Long.” El Dorado was cowritten with the acclaimed singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer over three days at his Nashville-based Easy Eye Sound Studio. Much like Grammy Award-nominated, JOVM mainstay Yola’s Walk Through Fire, King’s debut is a contemporary sonic exploration of classic rock, blues, southern R&B and country soul.
“Marcus is known by so many as a phenom guitar player, and rightfully so,” Dan Auerbach says of his time working with Marcus King. “He’s regularly the best player in the room, hands down. I was equally blown away by the way he can sing — so effortless, so soulful, straight to the heart. He’s a naturally gifted writer too, which was clear right away. Everything for him is so innate — that’s why he can always go right to the heart of a song and connect in a deeper way. He’s really one of a king and I’m proud I got to work alongside him on this record.”
Last year, I wrote about three of El Dorado‘s singles: the slow-burning, one part Muscle Shoals soul, one part Southern rock, one part R&B, one part classic blues “Wildflowers and Wine,” the Slowhand-era Eric Clapton and Texas Flood-era Stevie Ray Vaughan-like “Say You Will,” and the Curtis Mayfield and 70s Motown-like “One Day She’s Here.” And earlier this month, I wrote about a gorgeous, live acoustic session of album single “Beautiful Stranger,” a drinking and love song centered around a familiar and age-old tale: lost and lonely souls in a dimly lit bar, desperately hoping to find that beautiful stranger before last call.
The latest footage from that live session is a slow-burning acoustic version of album single “Break.” As King explains the song tells a story about two dysfunctional and hurting people in a dysfunctional relationship in which they don’t know how to love — and worse, yet, in which one person knows they’ll do something to hurt the other, and the second person knows that they’ll be devastated by the actions of their lover. As a result, the song — and in turn, it’s narrator — are achingly self-aware and bittersweet, as its centered around a darkly ironic desire and acknowledgement: that if your heart was going to be broken anyway, at least let it be me. Much like its immediate predecessor, the song manages to portrait a familiar scenario with an unflinching honesty and empathy.