Our Guest Marshall Lawrence by Monica Yasher

Posted on 4/11/2010 by Monica Yasher

Our guest today is Marshall Lawrence.  Marshall has been nominated for the Canadian Maple Blues Award, which is the equivelent to the Blues Music Awards in the USA!  Marshall tells us he enjoys playing with his band and also as an acoustic solo act, as both acts have their own flavor of the blues.  Marshall is recognized for his slide work as he has an endorsement from the Rocky Mountain Slide Company.  Marshall is the Doctor of the Blues!  Read on to find out why. 

1) I have read that you are an “acid blues” musician, which is a fairly new term. What do you think the definition of that is and how does one achieve it?

I’ve labeled my style of blues “acid blues” to describe the combination of all the various styles of music that I’ve played and now infuse into the blues and also for my fiery and adrenaline driven approach to playing the blues. I did the rock thing, I did the punk thing, I did the funk thing and, for me it was just a progression to come back home to the blues. I use all of these musical influences in my approach to playing Blues, whether I’m playing acoustic or electric. So for me, Acid Blues is a mixture of blues, soul, rock, punk, and funk and above all else, self-expression.

2) I read that at ten years old you had the music bug. How do you think a ten year old could know at such a young age that music was where it was at?

I first heard Jimi Hendrix when I was ten years old on the steps leading up to my family's attic apartment. Something in his approach to guitar moved and inspired me. I couldn't believe it, here was a person who could express his innermost feelings through an inanimate object and convey the essence of what I felt it was all about. This just blew me away and I knew I had found my direction. There was no turning back for me.

3) What do you like about playing in a band?

The thing about playing in a band is the camaraderie among the players. I also enjoy the musical interplay between the players and the various instruments in the band. You really can create a musical landscape with the other instruments in the band and you don’t always know where the music will take you. Musically it can be very exciting.

4) What do you like about solo work?

Playing solo acoustic blues and roots music is more intimate than playing in a band. When you are playing solo, it’s just you, your guitar and the audience. What the audience sees is what they get. You are up on stage naked, so to speak. You don’t have the rhythm section to move the song along or other musicians to add variety melody-wise. It is a very intimate musical experience for both you and for the audience. For me, playing solo is the “real deal”.

5) In your bio, it seems you have many electric influences. I haven’t read about your acoustic influences, who are they?

Some of my musical influences in acoustic blues are: Tommy Johnson (a big influence), Son House, Bukka White, Charlie Patton, Rory Block, Blind Willie McTell, Robert Johnson, Taj Mahal, and Roy Bookbinder.Music questions-CD

6) You had great reviews on your first CD. Was there any pressure on you to outperform your first CD, or did you just let the music take its course?

So far, I have released three CDs “Where’s The Party” (2003), “The Morning After” (2008) and “Blues Intervention” (2010). I am currently recording my fourth CD. It’s also an acoustic blues CD. My approach to writing and playing music is simply to have fun and let the music flow. When I write and record my general rule of thumb is "less is more" and keeping the sessions upbeat. It’s all about hooking up with my friends and having fun. The music just seems to take of itself.

7) For your CD, what was the most important thing you wanted to accomplish? Tribute to the era, taking your music to a new place, working with particular artists? What was important to you in this project?

The most important thing for me in making all of my CDs, in particular “The Morning After” and my most recent CD “Blues Intervention” was to keep the music real and to have fun.

8) What is your strongest point as an artist? What would you like to improve upon?

I think my strongest points as an artist are that I want to stay true to my roots and remain real to myself and my audience. And of course have fun. I want to keep giving the audiences the best performance that I can. Musically I want to be true to myself and play the way I feel. For me it's not about playing like this guy or that guy because they're popular at the time, it's about playing what I feel. If people at my gigs are having a good time and leave pumped and smiling then I've accomplished my goal. For me it's all about the audience and throwing a good party. It's not about me or my playing it's about having a good time and making sure I do whatever I can to help the audience have that good time.

9) Do you find songwriting challenging or does it come fairly easy to you?

Honestly, I don’t necessarily consider myself a song writer. Musicians like Bob Dylan, Guy Clark and Rory Block are songwriters. I don’t really write songs, I simply make them up. They sort of just come to me and I have to catch them when they do. If I hesitate they disappear. For me, it is sort of an “in the moment” type of thing.

10) What is your gear of choice?

Electric Gear:
1974 Gibson ES355
1979 Gibson ES347
Marshall Lawrence Signature Model Guitar Amp from Pascal Vinot Custom Amps (in preparation)
Marshall Lawrence Signature Model Guitar Slide from Rocky Mountain Slides Company

Acoustic Gear:
National Style 2 Single Cone
National Estralita Deluxe
National Style 1 Tricone
Morgan Dreadnaught
Marshall Lawrence Signature Model Guitar Slide from Rocky Mountain Slides Company

11) How is acoustic different from electric for you?

For me, playing acoustic guitar is more real than playing electric guitar. It is just you and the guitar. There are no amps or pedals. What you see is exactly what you get and hear. When you hold the acoustic or resonator to your body and play, you can feel the guitar and the strings resonate and vibrate. It’s as though the guitar is part of you. All the music is coming from your heart, fingers, body, and emotions. For me it is a total and direct connection to the instrument and the music.

12) I read that you were obtaining a PhD. If you weren’t singing the blues what would you be doing?

I actually have a Ph.D. in Psychology. I can’t imagine myself not playing or singing blues. Throughout my academic career and since I was about 10 years old I have always played music. The evening before I handed in my Ph.D. dissertation, I played a gig at a local pub, got home at 3 am, handed my dissertation in at 8 am and was on the road to California for my post doctoral position that same day. Music, in particular blues, is a major part of my life. It’s like food or air. I need it to survive and function. My other passion though is working with troubled teenagers, which I’ve done for the past 10 years.

13) What has been your greatest moment?

So far my greatest moment was being nominated for a national Maple Blues Award in Canada. To be acknowledged and recognized by the Canadian blues community was quite an honor. My other greatest moment was seeing my CD “The Morning After” chart at Number 1 on Roots Music Report’s Canadian Roots Airplay Chart and Chart on Root’s Music Report’s Roots Blues Charts.

14) What do you wish to accomplish next?

The biggest goal in my musical career at this time is to open up for Rory Block, Taj Mahal, and B.B. King. That would be my greatest joy.

15) Why are you called "The Doctor of the Blues"?

Fans gave me the name "Doctor of the Blues" because of the approach I take to the blues. The blues is a healing music and I play the blues to heal myself as well as to provide the healing sounds to the audience. I was initially called the "Doctor of the Blues" by a fan in Kingston, Ontario many years ago. As I was playing at a local pub I noticed a young man staring intently at me and smiling. After the set was over I approached him and thanked him for coming to the gig. He told me that he had been seriously depressed, did not feel very good about himself, and that after hearing and seeing me play he felt better about himself. He decided things weren’t really all that bad for him, and saw that there is still passion and caring in the world. He said I healed him, called me the "Doctor of the Blues" and the name stuck. The interesting thing is that he did not know that I had a Ph.D. in Psychology.

16) What is it about the blues that you find the most intriguing?

The blues is a healing music. It allows you to express what you feel any way you want. Some people say that the blues is a down music, you know it's sad and depressing, but it's not. The blues is actually a happy music. You may be singing about some bad patches in your life but through the singing you are working through it and passing on a lesson to whoever is listening. Through the telling you feel good and so does the audience. Everyone can identify with the blues. Blues helps us laugh at our troubles, helps us put them in perspective and helps us move on. It lets us know that we are not the only ones that have experienced bad patches in life. I owe a lot to the blues.
Presently, Marshall is in the studio recording.  Look for his upcoming gigs soon!

Copyright © 2010 Copyright Monica L. Yasher and Marshall Lawrence. All Rights Reserved.

Photographs provided by Marshall Lawrence. All Rights Reserved.
Thanks for sharing your life with us, Marshall!

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