Q’s With: Marcus King On Recreating ‘The Last Waltz’ And Making The Most Of Quarantine

Marcus King
Michael Weintrob
– Marcus King
Marcus King Trio including Mastodon’s Brent Hinds, performs a “Four Of A Kind” livestream in Nashville July 27.

Marcus King – the 24-year-old guitar prodigy and leader of The Marcus King Band – found his solo full-length debut, El Dorado (produced by Dan Auerbach), and headlining tour sidelined thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, but isn’t letting that stop him from performing. With the advent of livestreaming, he’s been able to play from his living room but decided he wanted to do something bigger.

Hence, “Four of a Kind,” a four-week benefit for MusiCares with different themes and guest players streaming live Monday nights, and capping Aug. 3 at 6 p.m. PDT with a tribute to “The Last Waltz” that brings together some of roots rock’s finest artists and friends, including Billy Strings, Maggie Rose, Elizabeth Cook and Mastodon guitarist Brent Hinds. King talks with Pollstar about the series, “The Last Waltz” and staying positive while quarantining. 

Pollstar: How did you come up with the concept for Four of a Kind and pull it together?

Marcus King: It kind of evolved. It was initially me and our keyboard player in our living room and I started having these grandiose ideas and brought them to my manager. Someone within my management thought it was nonsense and I thought it was a fun idea.
The idea to do four shows came about because I wanted to give people some variety and different stuff. If we’re playing a three- or four-night run, we don’t like to repeat material or recycle anything. The way we like to do it is to have a fresh thing. We hadn’t been able to play El Dorado in its entirety. 
You normally have a lot of people in your band, and guests on the weekly livestream. Are you staying socially distant?
There’s two keyboards, singers, horns,and a lot of people to take on the road but doing this at home gave us a chance to play. Billy Strings, Maggie Rose, everyone who is playing with us are in Nashville. We’re trying to keep it socially distanced, but it’s a pretty big warehouse we’re playing in at Premier Global Productions, so everybody is distanced. 
The shows are certainly varied. Brent Hinds of Mastodon seems pretty left field.
We just asked Brent if he wanted to come hang out. We’re friends. We are all quarantined and we thought he’d want to come play. And he was really excited to do so. I’ve been a big fan of his playing and Mastodon’s music. 
And for your finale in the series, you’re doing a tribute to “The Last Waltz.”  Will it be a recreation of the concert film or the album? Or something inspired by it?
It’s as close to a re-creation as we can get. We’re not doing every performance from “The Last Waltz,” but it’s damn near close. We’ve been working real hard learning that material and play it as much tribute as we can. We have some great friends like Devon Gilfillian, Elizabeth Cook, Jennifer Hartswick from Trey Anastasio’s band and a bunch of others playing, too. 
You’ve chosen MusiCares as a benefit recipient.
We are supporting this organization helping musicians in these trying times because they’ve been a success and musicians are getting hit pretty hard not getting to do what we love. 
How are you and your team coping with this lockdown, and keeping momentum going? 
I just don’t know. We’re doing what everybody says is safe to do. We all needed to take a breather and take our foot off the gas a bit. I’m taking it as a positive. The silver lining is to spend more time with family and focus on physical and mental well-being.
Maintaining your relevance is important to do but we all just stopped. It’s not like I got into an accident and just our band had to stop for a little while. Right now, there’s nothing happening, but I’m pretty confident that when it comes back it will be stronger than ever. You put out what you can, and we’ve all got time to work on records now without the time pressure of getting on the road.