Dublin singer songwriter Marcus felt the urge to write and perform music from a very early age. He learned to play guitar well before he was a teen, and spent a lot of his childhood writing songs, before giving it up as he hit adolescence. At 19 however, the urge to write hit him once again, and it was too strong to ignore, leading Marcus to commit more seriously to his craft. He left university, and set out on pursuing his career on Dublin’s open mic circuit. This involved stints at Dublin’s legendary Whelan’s venue; even so he wasn’t confident enough in those early days to tell his friends what he was doing. As soon as he started posting videos on Facebook of himself singing, his friends and family realised the talent in their midst.
Marcus self-financed his first releases, working in a pizza restaurant, and in 2020 he dropped his debut single, ‘Obey’, via Tunecore. This was picked up by a number of big and influential Spotify playlists, and saw him receive praise from the likes of Hot Press, and Earmilk, as well as RTE, and Buzz.ie, among others.
Marcus’s new EP, ‘Not Real’, is out today, preceded by latest single, ‘April’. Marcus’s voice is unusual; it’s raw and yet it’s very real, with his Irish accent coming through strongly against the light instrumentals. It’s a friendly, welcoming sound, and it shows the influences and inspirations from his musical upbringing. Think Billy Bragg or Shane MacGowan; even Bob Dylan. It’s not just a folky sound though, it’s fairly clear that Marcus has listened to a lot of hip hop over time (case in point, track 3, ‘The Juice’), and that has helped with the storytelling aspect of his songwriting. Similarly, there’s a hark back to the traditional music of Ireland, exemplified by the song, ‘Redemption’.
Lisa had the opportunity last week to speak to Marcus about his new EP, and his music, and you can check it out below.
Hi Marcus, thank you for agreeing to speak with us! First up, what’s the Marcus story?
I was born and raised in Dublin. My Dad plays the guitar and my mum is a good writer. I was exposed to a lot of music as a child and writing comes pretty natural to me. I began playing the guitar and writing songs when I was ten, but during my teenage years I stopped and I didn’t really start playing again until I had left school. I dropped out of college after my first year and began writing and performing as much as possible. It’s weird thinking back on. It’s been a really enjoyable journey so far.
Your new single, ‘April’, is set for release on September 17, ahead of your EP, ‘Not Real’. April feels quite autobiographical, would that be right in saying? It’s folky, but there’s an edge to it that’s almost undefinable – Tell us some more about it.
There are a couple of influences behind this song. One was a couple who used to live on the end of my Dad’s road when I was younger. They were pretty dysfunctional, one moment you would see them shouting at each other and the next embracing. I wrote the beginning of this song through his perspective, but it developed into a unique story which I can’t say is completely representative of them. I think there is a folk element to the song but the production style sets it apart a little bit from that genre. We used electronic drums and a sub bass which gives the track a unique sound.
There’s a lot of acoustic guitarists coming out of Dublin, what is it about you that sets you apart from the rest? What do you feel is your Unique Selling Point?
There are a lot of very talented songwriters in Dublin. The open mic scene here is great and I’ve got to know some really good artists over the years. I think I am unique in the sense that I’m not traditionally trained. I never took music lessons as a child and learned to play and write through trial and error. Because of this I use some odd chord progressions and have developed a sound I can call my own. I also listen to a lot of hip hop and began rapping before I started singing. I think coming from that world into the more acoustic world has helped set me apart also.
You financed your EP by working in a pizza restaurant – so you know what it’s like to have to earn your way in the music business. What advice do you have for others who are seeking to break into the industry? Especially in a country like Ireland, which has a strong musical culture, and so many talented artists?
I think the most important thing for an artist is to be true to yourself. It can be tempting to jump on trends but authenticity is what will set you apart in this game. You can’t be afraid to put your money where your mouth is either, I financed a lot of my early recordings and it can be quite expensive but, unless you’re a competent producer, it has to be done. I would also advise artists to play live as much as possible, living in Dublin helped me do that because there are so many open mic nights where you can try out new material.
At the time of writing, Covid-19 restrictions are starting to relax in Ireland. What’s kept you going throughout the pandemic? What are your hopes now that indoor music venues are going to be allowed to open again? Do you have hopes to tour?
I was lucky in the sense that I began recording this EP just before Ireland locked down. This meant that I had this project to keep me occupied. If I hadn’t been invested in the EP I would have had a lot of idle time. The lockdowns gave me time to really focus on writing and recording and that definitely helped me get through the pandemic. Now that restrictions are easing I can’t wait to start playing live again. Firstly I’ll play a show in Dublin and then look at booking some gigs further afield. We’re looking at a couple of dates and venues but I can’t confirm anything just yet.
Who’s your musical inspirations? What about in life?
I find J Cole inspiring. He just comes across as a really humble guy, that can be a breath of fresh air in this industry. He invests himself fully in his projects and holds his output to an incredibly high standard. I think it’s important for successful artists to give back to their communities and he does this through his Dreamville Foundation. In life I draw inspiration from anyone who is positive, honest and hard working. My family fit that bill and have been a big inspiration to me.
What question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does?
One day I would like to delve a little deeper into some of my earlier struggles trying to get a foot in the door as an artist. I still have a long way to go so I’ll probably hold off on that until I’ve become more established. I learned a lot in those early years about consistency, working hard and staying positive. One day I would like to share some of these stories for anyone who is pursuing something and feels like the cards are stacked against them.
Listen to ‘Not Real’ below. Let us know what you think in the comments!