I believe in the power of music because it lifts us, connects us and helps us transform our emotional state. It is one of the only ways to communicate truth and it is the universal language. I feel very fortunate to be making music that has the ability to lift others. On this note, I would like to be at the forefront of the movement that helps people remember their own power.
As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Marcus Eaton.
Marcus is a singer-songwriter, guitarist and composer known for his work as a solo artist and his collaborations with two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee David Crosby, who praises Marcus as “one of the best young singer-songwriters in America — maybe even the world. And he plays guitar like god on a good day.” In addition to composing his first film score to the Grammy-nominated documentary David Crosby: Remember My Name, Marcus is releasing a solo EP in the spring of 2020. Marcus was raised in Idaho, and lives in Los Angeles.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in the rural mountains of Idaho. We only had one or two intermittent TV stations so my older brother and I had to be creative and find various ways to entertain ourselves. My dad is a singer-songwriter (my grandparents were also opera singers) and had a recording studio in our basement which was really rare at the time. His influence was very profound and we always had interesting musicians visiting to make recordings or write songs with my dad. I fell in love with music and playing guitar but also with nature and painting, drawing and sculpting. Growing up in the mountains really helped me develop my creativity.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was five or six, I began taking piano lessons from my grandmother (my father’s mom) who was also an opera singer and vocal coach. I really loved playing the piano but then I discovered my dad’s guitar. I remember opening the case, strumming the strings and trying to figure out how it worked…it was too big for me to hold properly.
When my mom and dad saw that I was taking an interest they gave me a little nylon string guitar for Christmas. When I received it, I was so excited that I took it to my room and disappeared for a few hours even though there were still many presents to open! The interesting thing is that I already knew how to play it as if I had done it before. Thus began one of the most important relationships of my life: me and my guitar.
I think that music chooses you and when you are chosen, it is your job to follow the muse. So I remain true to my muse and follow my inspiration wherever it leads me.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I have many interesting stories but one of the most interesting is how I met the amazing luthier Roy McAlister and the birth of my signature model McAlister Guitar.
This story has many facets. I was introduced to David Crosby by a friend who thought that we would really hit it off. His instincts were correct and a few months after first meeting and playing for Crosby, he invited me to play in his album (now known as Croz.) When we first got together, Crosby and I exchanged some songs we had recently written and he also handed me a guitar saying “this is one of the best guitars I have ever played.” The guitar was a C-Model McAlister.
While working on the recording, I was able to play a number of Crosby’s prized guitars but I kept going back to the spectacular McAlister. He took note of the fact that I loved it so much and surprised me by having one of these guitars made for me.
Roy and I became very close because I am also very inspired by the art of making guitars and I understand what it takes artistically. He invited me to travel with him to Sarzana, Italy for The Acoustic Guitar Meeting. It is a mashup of beautiful acoustic performances by various artists and a showcase for incredible luthiers from around the globe held in a castle that was a vacation home for the Medici family — Epic! To this day, I believe it was the most profound show that I have played and trip I have taken. I reconnected with my Italian roots and my family who lives there and completely fell in love with Italy. The experience completely changed the course of my life and my career and I am forever grateful to Roy for inviting me along and to Crosby for making this introduction.
On the way back, Roy and I spoke on the plane and he said ‘If I had seen how you play, I would have made you a completely different guitar.’ Over a number of hours, we discussed wood choice, aesthetics, playability, the pickup system and essentially every aspect of this future guitar.
Roy, also being extremely inspired by our journey, began working on the new guitar right away and implemented every aspect we spoke about. I didn’t even know he did this until the guitar was nearly complete. When it was finished, I went to visit him at his home and shop in Gig Harbor, Washington. I played a small house concert and used the guitar the whole night… it’s very difficult with a brand new instrument, but I was in love. The guitar is a masterpiece and it has gone with me everywhere since 2015.
He really honored me by creating the Marcus Eaton Model and now it is available as one of his standard guitars. I am very flattered and I have always felt like I have strong “Guitarma,” a word I created that is a mix of Guitar and Karma.
I am a very fortunate guy to have an extremely inspiring guitar (matter of fact two of them!) made especially for me and having a guitar named after you is something that most people never get to experience.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Well, I believe that mistakes are really the greatest and only teachers because that is how we develop our awareness. I don’t really consider this a mistake but one funny story that comes to mind is when one of my first bands opened for Merle Haggard. My band was a three-piece power trio that was the first incarnation of the type of music that I am playing now; like original progressive singer-songwriter, rock stuff. The concert took place at the country fairgrounds where the local rodeos were held. I guess the promoter knew his clientele well.
We began to play and it was just like a scene from Blazing Saddles; half of the crowd was quite enthusiastic and the other half was booing and waving their hats in disgust. The monitor man, a friend of mine, sensed the growing aversion and came to me after 20 minutes or so and said “maybe just one more song.”
Meanwhile, in the bathroom, a friend was at the urinal when a cowboy-redneck type stepped up to the urinal beside him. He was fully decked out in cowboy gear; 10-gallon hat, Wranglers, belt buckle, and boots and his lower lip was stuffed with chewing tobacco. He looked to my friend and said; …my friend replied, “What is ?” The cowboy replied “This opening band man!” My friend said, “Why is that?” he asked.
“My parents almost got divorced over Merle Haggard, and I’ve got to listen to this Hootie And The Blowfish !”
Needless to say, it was a very funny experience and it just makes me laugh to think about it.
Even the location of the stage in the middle of the rodeo grounds and surrounded by a fence to protect the crowd from livestock. The scene also reminds me of the Blues Brothers because I suspect if we could have played Rawhide, we could have won them all over!
From this experience, I learned that you should always know your audience but also that you can still move people who wouldn’t normally listen to your music. After all, half of the crowd really appreciated what we were doing!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I have just finished my new EP album entitled Invisible Lines. It is my favorite album to date for many reasons but I feel that my songwriting has reached new heights and the mixes and production really sound amazing.
The title Invisible Lines refers to the physical and geographical boundaries that divide us which have now been erased by technology. The world is more connected than ever before yet we are still looking for connection. I wonder if we will grow further apart or use our connectedness to find common ground and improve the world.
There are three acoustic tracks and three full-band tracks and I am really excited for you and everyone to hear the songs! It will be released soon. Also, last year, I did my first film score for a documentary about David Crosby entitled David Crosby: Remember My Name. The film was directed by my brother A.J. Eaton and it was our first project together. The film premiered at Sundance and also received a Grammy nomination so it has been an amazing ride!
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and music? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Diversity is actually a simple concept to me; it means that we need to see the world from other people’s perspectives. We all have a unique approach to the way we think and act and it’s important to look at life from different angles.
Musically, I actually wish we had the ability to simply listen to music instead of viewing it. After all, people forget that music is its own art form and has nothing to do with the video or the image of the artist making the music. This would open us up to more perspectives and more music instead of using our eyes to determine what we “listen” to. In fact I believe it would lead to more diversity. In effect, we would be blind enough to hear the truth.
With film, the actors are using their bodies and image to represent characters and it is nice to see progression towards more diversity and perspectives. I know there is still a long way to go.
Technology has influenced our culture SO much over the past few years and people are constantly finding new and innovative ways of expressing themselves artistically.
My hope is that soon we will find ourselves in more balanced times. We are living in very volatile times now and completely out of balance. Those who have not had a voice are fighting to find one and those who have are being pushed aside in a type of power struggle.
I believe there is room for everyone from every background, every color, every race, every and we need those perspectives to make us whole.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Here is a very simple list of five things off the top of my head. I feel fortunate to have discovered them for myself but I also feel like they are obvious.
- Be cool. All you have to do is be cool — maintain your composure in all situations and stay relaxed. It is not as big of a deal as it seems. It’s amazing to be able to navigate different situations with confidence in life and you have to cool!
- Be someone who you’d like to be around. If you want to work with someone or be part of their lives in any capacity, you have to be someone that others want to be around. So you have to be introspective and take time to develop more than one aspect of yourself.
- Be Kind. I think this is pretty obvious. Life is just better when you are kind and the world becomes more receptive.
- Follow Through. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Communicate and don’t leave people hanging. I still prefer phone calls over texts because there is so much less miscommunication.
- Be open and grateful. Life is here for you and when we are open, magic starts to happen. We need other influences and inspiration which is everywhere around us. If you’re ever struggling, look around and get inspired. It’s also important to be grateful for these incredible lives we live. The more we live this way, the better things get.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I believe when you are truly connected to your purpose, then you really can’t burn out. Everyone feels like they have to struggle to make things happen but I think it’s just the opposite: the more connected we are and the more we stay open, the less ‘struggle’ and ‘work’ is involved. We get into a better flow where we aren’t working against ourselves out of fear of something not happening. So really, my only suggestion is get very clear on your purpose and intention and relax into it. If you’re struggling, you miss all of the things that are already waiting for you.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
There are so many things we could all do that could help the world to become a better place.
I believe in the power of music because it lifts us, connects us and helps us transform our emotional state. It is one of the only ways to communicate truth and it is the universal language. I feel very fortunate to be making music that has the ability to lift others.
On this note, I would like to be at the forefront of the movement that helps people remember their own power.
We can all make informed decisions about what we consume and each dollar we spend is a vote towards our future. Corporations that treat workers and the environment badly need to disappear. Companies that make the world a better place should be supported by us and it is our job to be informed.
Our survival depends on our evolution right now and I hope my music will help empower people.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have been tremendously fortunate to have help from a number of people in my life. Having a career in music or any creative field means that, inevitably, there will be some ups and downs. My mom has really been my major supporter throughout my journey and she continues to be there for me. I have a friend named Norm (and he is so humble that I suppose he may shy away from being named) who has been instrumental in introducing me to some people that have changed my whole career trajectory. He is passionate about music and he also happens to be very successful. Unlike many people who are in his position, he uses his success to help others and bolster their lives and careers. I met him years ago when I was opening for one of my favorite guitarists, Tim Reynolds, and we have been friends ever since. He has helped me in so many ways and it’s just wonderful to have someone who I can really look up to. I admire his generosity and compassionate nature and I hope I can help others and much as he has helped me.
I am very grateful to have a wonderful group of friends throughout the world. I have worked to surround myself with the best people I can and I feel very fortunate.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I don’t really have a favorite life lesson quote because they all tend to be quite clichéd and life is not black and white. However, relative to a question you asked earlier, I would say, “actions speak louder than words.” These days it’s easy to create a very false persona online or otherwise. People produce tracks and songs that lack substance or anything real. I really admire those who are authentic and have integrity artistically or in any facet of life. When someone steps on stage or demonstrates their ability in a pure way (such as one person with just a voice and guitar) that’s what moves people. The more real a person is the less they seem to talk about it and I keep my eyes and ears open for people like this!
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to get together with Elon Musk for a number of reasons. One is because I am passionate about the environment and I love Tesla and the future of solar power. The second is because I would like to work with him on a new platform for music that actually values artists. You may or may not know that many companies that stream music are fighting against artists’ rights: yes it is counter intuitive because we are the ones who create the content they are using. I KNOW there is a much better way and a fair royalty rate for people like me who have dedicated their lives to making music. Elon, let’s make it happen!