A STORY OF THIRD CHANCES & ROCK N’ ROLL.
Text: David Moreu
Marc Ford is often regarded as one of the most influential guitar players of his generation, mainly thanks to his work with the Black Crowes between 1991 and 1997. After that life-changing experience dealing with fame and excess all over the world, he started a prolific solo career and also became a successful session musician (playing with such popular acts like Ben Harper.) This year he’s been on a roller-coaster because he has released a much acclaimed album called “The Vulture” with the Neptune Blues Club and started playing with The Magpie Salute as well, together with Rich Robinson. I had the chance to interview him after his last concert in Barcelona in order to revisit his career and see where his new projects are heading to. A magic carper ride with an amazing musician and very a spiritual person.
Let’s start this story from the beginning. How was it growing up in Los Angeles during the 70’s and when did your passion for the music started?
I was a kid in the 70’s. It was The Harlem Globe Trotters, Evel Knievel, Fat Albert, Dick Clark and, every once in a while, I would stay up later than was allowed, sit as close as I could to the television and watch Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert without getting caught. Or Saturday Night Live. In 1980 I was 14 years old, so I came of age in a very strange time for music. A transitional period. At least from where I was coming from.
In the late 80’s you started your own band (Burning Tree) and released just one album. What do you remember about those days? Do you regret any decisions you took?
A few of those songs still hold up. I don’t have regrets. It was a blast.
You joined The Black Crowes in 1991, when they were really popular, and quickly recorded a second album. Was it hard dealing with fame and popularity in such a short period of time? Do you remember any special moment when you noticed your life was changing so much?
At the time, it just was. Yes, it was difficult. Growing up can be difficult for anyone. Add idolatry, obscene amounts of money and a license to act like a fool. When a bank gave me a loan to by a house, I knew things were different.
One of my favourite albums is “Three snakes and one charm”, the last one you did with the Crowes. Which songs do you enjoy the most? I have read that the band met in a house and it was like a family gathering again…
I always loved “Girl from a Pawnshop.” There are a lot of great tracks on that record. I have great memories making that record. And it was a very dark time for me. The hard drugs started to take over.
Then you started your solo career and released an amazing album called “It’s About Time”. Was it hard being the main focus for the first time? What was the biggest challenge with that album?
It was what I needed. I had no other creative outlet besides the Crowes for a few years and, prior to that, I always wrote the songs and fronted the band whether I was singing or not. So I needed that personally. The biggest challenge for me was to write the best ones that I knew how at the time.
At the same time, you joined Ben Harper on his tours and recordings. What do you remember about working with The Blind Boys of Alabama in the albums “There Will Be a Light” and “Live at the Apollo”?
I had a great time playing with Ben and the Criminals. The Blind Boys was special. Made the way I love to make records. Show up, work out a new song, record it and next one. 10 songs in 2 days . To get to be in the room for “Mama’s Prayers” was epic.
Your last two albums have been recorded together with the Neptune Blues Club band. How did you start this project and who is involved in it?
Neptune Blues Club developed out of a bunch of neighborhood players in Long Beach. When I started working with Arvizu at his studio, these were the guys that hung around. So we jammed, had a great time doing it and I needed to make a record.
In the last few weeks you have been touring Spain and I guess it has been an exhausting (but great) experience. What do you enjoy the most when you are on the road?
I love how sharp you become as a musician on the road. Playing that intensely for two hours every day in front of people gets your skills together. This tour of Europe was about five weeks and being in Spain the last two has made such a nice end to a wonderful trip.
Recently you have started a new chapter in your career with The Magpie Salute. How did this band start? Many people thought that you and Rich would share the vocal duties and that you would perform more of your solo stuff, rather than relying so much on covers…
Mostly Rich’s songs. It’s not a cover if you wrote the tune. Let’s be very clear here, this is Rich’s band and he’s being very generous with the way that he is running things. It’s a fantastic band that’s only a couple weeks old and I look forward to the music that is going to be created.
It is obvious that Rich Robinson has been a relevant person in your career . How would you describe your friendship and musical connection? It seems that when you play together things flow in a special way…
Yes, it is very special. I’m getting to know Rich in many ways personally that I hadn’t known before. I like him. I love him. We’re family.
Now you have just released your first album with The Magpie Salute and there are rumours about an upcoming double album of original material. How are the rehearsals and writing sessions?
As I said, this band is only a couple weeks old. I flew to Woodstock to jam a couple of days. Now that is a record. Then, three days to learn 100 songs, four shows in NY, four in London and one festival. 13 days. You are literally listening to a band get birthed and grow before your very ears. We won’t rehearse for any more shows. We most likely won’t rehearse to make a new record. We’ll be on tour the rest of the year. There will be songs ready to record at the end of it.
In order to finish the interview, a science fiction question: If you had a fabulous time travel machine, who would you like to meet face to face?