THE NORTH COUNTRY PRIMER #2: MARCUS EADS, ELK RIVER, MN
Originally published at North Country Primitive in March 2015
Our second instalment of The North Country Primer, where we ask a musician a series of questions ranging from the blindingly obvious to the downright dubious, takes us to Minnesota and to guitarist Marcus Eads. Our thanks to Marcus for indulging us.
Tell us a bit about yourself and the musical journey that took you to a place where you concluded that playing an acoustic guitar on your own was a good idea…
I bought my first guitar, a $100 Hohner acoustic, when I was fifteen, using paper route money. I taught myself to play on that guitar and it served me well for ten years. I think I’ve always more-or-less played solo, although back in college my older brother and I would occasionally play live shows together. I have a lot of fun these days playing blues guitar with my father-in-law.In the last year or so, since discovering more of the open tunings - mainly open G minor and variations on open C - the guitar has become exciting for me again – as exciting as it had been at fifteen. I really don’t see any limitations for where acoustic guitar music can go.
What has influenced your music and why?
I spent the nearly the whole of 2013 listening to nothing but 70s era Steely Dan. I still don’t know which album I like more, Aja or Gaucho. Relevant influences right now would be Chuck Johnson and Glenn Jones. Their styles of playing are just effortless sounding.
What have you been up to recently?
I’m a soon-to-be dad, which is really exciting. My wife and I are having our first child in May. So, I’ve been slowly working on an album of American Primitive-style lullabies… on an open-tuned ukulele. So far I think it’s turning out pretty good - but it’s been more difficult than I’d anticipated. Most of the music you can hear on my Bandcamp or SoundCloud page are improvisational pieces. I record them, and usually never play them the same way again. But an opportunity has come up recently to play a show with two awesome Minneapolis-based musicians, Christoph Bruhn and Nic Garcia. So now I’m having to re-visit and memorise some of my earlier songs in order to create a set list for the evening. It’s fun, but it’s also really stressful. I’m also playing a solo show at the public library in July.
What are you listening to right now, old or new? Any recommendations you’d like to share with us?
I’ve been listening to this great compilation that came out recently on Tompkins Square called When I Reach That Heavenly Shore: Unearthly Black Gospel, 1926-1936. I’ve also been listening to Jose Gonzalez’s new album, Vestiges and Claws. Aside from that, I listen to Jazz 88.5 on my way to and from work and of course I’m always scouring the internet for fingerstyle guitar.
The guitar nerd bit: what guitars do you play and what do you like about them? Is there anything out there you’re coveting?
I have three acoustic guitars. The one I play the most is my steel string Cort Earth 70 NS. I also have a hand-me-down Yamaha steel string that I keep permanently in Open G minor tuning. My latest find has been a classical stringed Yahama that I found at the Salvation Army for $20. I love my guitars, but if the opportunity every came up, I’d love to have a Guild guitar like the one that Daniel Bachman plays. It has such a full sound.
Banjos: yes or no?
My goal in the next few years is to learn the banjo. I just need to find one first.
What are you planning to do next?
Well, aside from a banjo album, I’d also like to become more proficient in slide guitar. I’d also like to start playing live more. I’d also like to get my ring finger involved in my fingerpicking. Right now I mainly play with thumb, index and middle. I’ve always got something in the works. I would expect an album at least every few months for the foreseeable future.
What should we have asked you and didn’t?
I’m a native of Seattle, Washington native, where I lived till I was eighteen, I lived in Portland, Oregon for ten years after that. Now I live in Elk River, Minnesota. A lot of the inspiration for Sherburne County Instrumentals was drawn from visits to the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge just north of where I now live. It’s 30,000 acres of land where you can walk or run for miles and never see another person. It’s a beautiful area.
You can listen to and download Marcus’s music at his Bandcamp page.