Wednesday March 14, 2012 9:00pm - 9:40pm
@ Maggie Mae's Rooftop
(323 E 6th St)
Marcus Foster could have had it easy. He could have dropped names; doors could have flung open. Had he pursued the frequently garish route of your usual Next Big Thing contender, he'd have got it quite easily, T4 specials and all the rest of it.
But Marcus Foster is no ordinary singer songwriter, and so he was never going to be quite so easily tempted into the tried and tested route of overnight success and instant fame. "Organic" is an awfully clichéd word, especially in such circumstances as a music biography, but his slow and stealthy gestation into a new artist of genuine note has nevertheless been just that. When you hear his songs, you realise it could never really have gone any other way.
After much anticipation and preparation, his debut EP is finally ready for release. Entitled Tumble Down, and featuring four tracks rich with languor and melancholic life, it sounds like the work of someone who has been doing this for years, forever. You listen to the four songs here, particularly the slow six-minute burn of the title track and the exquisite ache of Shadows of the City, and at no point do you imagine him to be only 24 years old. These are folk songs and bluesy too, but nobody would ever be able to describe them as "nu", which, frankly, is a relief. They sound, like many great things, as old as the hills.
"I love narrative in songwriting, always have," Marcus says. "The ability to delve into character and story, and to lose yourself completely in wherever the song takes you."
He explains that he rarely sets out to write from an autobiographical standpoint, but that when he returns to his compositions several months down the line, sometimes even several years, he realises that the songs were in fact about himself after all.
"It's like their meaning changes over time, they can become something else entirely," he marvels. "I like that. It gives them life, I suppose".
Marcus Foster was born in London. He was six years old when he felt inexplicably drawn to the piano for the first time, and began to take lessons. This was unusual, he points out, because although his family were a family of music lovers, none had a particular penchant for playing themselves. But Marcus did, and he became quietly obsessive about it.
By his early teens, he had discovered his artist father's Bob Dylan records, and his journey was now well underway, sparking an interest that would take him backwards rather than forwards. This means that while friends at school were lamenting the loss of Kurt Cobain and obsessing over an emergent Britpop, Marcus was instead stumbling into a kaleidoscopic world of Tom Waits, Van Morrison and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. His reading was out of time too, Jorge Luis Borges and Kerouac, so no wonder the songs he was writing sounded like they came from the pen of a much older scribe.
"I was particularly obsessed with Tom Waits," he recounts. "Not only did I love his voice, but also how he wrote his songs. They had such depth, so many layers, and were filled with the most amazing characters. He completely influenced the way I set about writing my own songs."
Marcus Foster could have had it easy. He could have dropped …
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