Marcus King talks new Rick Rubin produced album, Sheryl Crow, Crossroads

Marcus King’s career has been red hot. King released the Dan Auerbach produced Young Blood to critical acclaim in 2022 and was a highlight at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival in September. Allison Scavo caught up with King to discuss his recent experience at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, sharing the stage with his wife Briley, his evolution as a musician, a sneak peak at his next album produced by Rick Rubin, his onstage gear, and more.

Your wife has been joining you on stage. I want to talk about the duet you did with her. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?

She comes and joins us whenever the timing works out. She’s really busy with her company as it is right now, but whenever she has the time to come out and join us on the road, she comes out and rides on the bus with us and sings with us. We all really love having her around.

She has a beautiful voice. Does she sing with you every time she’s on the road with you?  


I love that.

She does. We make it a really special part of the show. She comes out and we have a few songs that we kind of rotate through and she comes out, we’ll do one, and it’s just a nice moment to be able to sing to each other.

How was it sharing the stage with Sheryl Crow at Crossroads?  

I love Sheryl. I met Sheryl for the first time at Crossroads in 2019 in Dallas and she was so kind and so gracious. She’s always been just like almost like a mother figure to me in the band. She’s so sweet and so gracious. And so just, selfless and kind with her time. I’m really thankful to her as an artist and as a human being.

Marcus King and Sheryl Crow share the stage at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Crossroads Guitar Festival)

So when you played at Crossroads, it was your second time. Can I ask what your favorite part of that festival is? 

I think the root of it is really my favorite part and just the cause and the giving back and just raising money for his (Eric Clapton) rehab facilities (Crossroads Centre Antigua). I think that’s a really great cause. It’s a worthy cause for us all to be getting together and playing and you get to run into buddies that you might not get to see. But you get to see some wonderful music too and you never know who’s gonna show up. I think it’s all around a great time.

I think it is a pretty apt name. You know, sometimes we all come to a crossroads and just need a little help from our friends.  

Amen. It’s a wonderful charitable cause. 

How would you describe the evolution of your style over the course of your recorded albums? 

That’s a real fine question. I think it’s just kind of an evolution of me as a human really and just learning. How to look deeper within myself and allowing myself to be as vulnerable as possible behind the microphone and when I’m writing.  

You can really tell too. The fact that you mentioned vulnerability with your albums really hits home with me. So moving forward, looking onwards, what can you say about your upcoming album? What’s the vibe of it?  

Just to kind of double down, it’s a very vulnerable take on how a relationship can just kind of fall apart. When you’re trying to make something work that’s just not working. It’s been the project I’ve been working on for over two years. It’s the first record I’ve worked on with Rick Rubin, my producer. He’s also the head of the label I’m with. He’s just a beautiful human. He was really able to help me become even more vulnerable and cut right to the point of all these songs. It was a really beautiful experience and he was the right guy to produce this record. He really helped me get to the poignant nature of all these songs and just, you know, none of it’s metaphorical. It’s all really straight to the point. 

I love the theme of it because that’s such a real situation that nobody really talks about. You know, especially in country [music], they talk about the after effects. No one ever talks about in the middle of that breakup or trying to force it. 

Yeah, the record is called Mood Swings and it’s just about being on the wrong medications and going in between therapies and being in a relationship with mental health issues while also being in a relationship, struggling with mental health. It’s really taxing on all parties involved and it’s a really difficult time. When you add substance abuse into the mix, self-medication, it is just really difficult. And then you add other psychological things like codependency. That’s kind of what the first single’s about. The first single’s called “Come Fuck My Life Up Again.”  For some of us, it’s detrimental to our mental and sometimes physical health. The relationship could be codependent in nature. That is rooted in how you want them to come back. You feel like you don’t deserve to be happy.  And this record’s kind of a journey to discovering that you can be happy. 

So your current touring lineup, how did you find them? How did you all come together? It’s such a perfect dynamic.

So my drummer and I, we’ve been working together for the longest. I met [Jack Ryan] when I was like 17 years old, maybe a little younger. We started working together like, immediately, and both had the same drive and the same vision, and the same hunger for it. So he and I really kind of kept the ship afloat during the hard times and the low times. And, you know, he was an Eagle Scout, so he was just really, just that kind of personality as far as sticking with your team. He helped me through a lot of personal battles as well. So playing this music with him, all the things that I’m talking about, the sensitive nature of it all, he can really see where I’m coming from and how everyone else around me was affected by my mental state and everything and how horrible my relationship was at the time. The mania and everything that goes with it.

So, him and my bass player [Stephen Campbell], they’ve been with me the longest since like 2014, maybe 2013 even. And they seem to go through all the ups and downs [with me]. So, it’s really a treat that they’re going to be playing this music with me live.

The rest of the guys, I’m trying to go chronological here. Christopher Spies, our saxophone player and percussionist, he’s just one of the finest musicians you’ll ever meet and a beautiful person to be on the road with. He’s a really funny guy, really caring, really empathetic. He brings an awful lot to the table and to the tour bus. He’s been with us since 2019.

And then Mike Runyon, our keyboard player. He actually came along because our last keyboard player was a dear friend of mine. He had a really serious heart condition. He’s good now and we’re all really thankful for that. But he wasn’t able to continue on the road. My wife actually introduced me to Mike Runyon, who’s become one of my favorite musicians and favorite people.  He’s just a wonderful dude. He plays keyboards, organ, and piano for us.

Drew Smithers is my favorite guitar player. He’s got a very soulful approach to the way that he plays. He’s unlike any other guitar player I know, and his spirit and his just kind nature is one that’s really welcomed in a sometimes chaotic atmosphere. So he’s always a really even keeled energy to have around. He obviously brings that approach to the way that he plays, which is great.

And the newest members of the band are our trumpet player, Alex Bradley, and our trombone player, Kyle Snuffer. They’re just wonderful pals of mine that I’ve known for 10 years plus. They’re from Asheville, North Carolina. I used to go up there partying and writing all the time, playing music. They’ve seen me through multiple bad relationships. They’ve seen me through a  lot of years of substance abuse and just almost cries for help. Having them around is a really comfortable and logical decision. To have those cats playing this music, for one, they’re really incredible musicians, but they’re great friends too. So everyone out on the road with us is just  really near and dear to my heart and my soul. It only makes sense that they would play this music with me.

That’s beautiful. It’s like bringing home with you on the road.  

Yeah, exactly. 

Tell me about when you’re on the stage, your live setup and the gear that you have. I know that there’s a very cool story behind your red guitar.  

Yeah. So my red guitar when I was 18, I was going up to New York City for the first time to do some shows. My dad felt compelled to give me my grandfather’s guitar. He had it in his possession after my grandfather passed away when I was 14. He was the patriarch of the family. A guitar player and fiddle player. He was a career serviceman in the Air Force, and he played music on the weekends his whole life. When he was overseas, his band would back up artists like Charlie Pride and Johnny Cash in one instance. So when the artists would come over solo, he would back them up or open for them, as it were. He was a Country and Western musician his whole life. That’s what he kind of raised me up on; listening to George Jones and Merle Haggard, artists like that. And my dad, also a musician, knew the importance of having that guitar with me. Going into a major city like that for the first time where we’re all just country boys and he just felt like I needed some kind of beacon of light, something to kind of show me the course and keep me grounded. That and that guitar kind of became that for me, like my lucky rabbit’s foot. You know, it just became more and more kind of scary to keep it on the road. So that’s when I started working with Gibson and we developed a custom model for me to use out on the road. We actually ended up releasing, I think, 50 signature models of Marcus King 345.  

So what else do we use out there? We use orange amplifiers. We love orange amplifiers. We use Fender amps too, but I have them all wrapped orange. I just, I like the color orange. Everything’s really uniformed out there. It’s an orange stage. 

Do you have anything that you want to add? 

I just am really blessed to be able to do what I do. I’m just thankful to the fans and thankful to the folks that come out and share their time with us. Our view of it on the road is that if we’re coming to your town on a Tuesday night, you know, that’s always going to feel like a Saturday night if you come and see us. We’re going to give you that night you came to have. You got your babysitters at home and, you know, maybe you’re gonna call in sick to work the next morning, whatever it may be. You’re taking your time and coming to spend it with us so we’re gonna give you every ounce of ourselves on the stage. We’re just going to show you how thankful we are.


Nov 28 – Bloomington, IN – The Bluebird
Nov 30 – Columbia, MO – The Blue Note with Meg McRee
Dec 1 – Tulsa, OK – Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Dec 2 – Newkirk, OK – 7 Clans First Council Casino
Dec 3 – Columbia, MO – The Blue Note
Dec 8 – Las Vegas, NV – Dolby Live with Cody Jinks
Dec 9 – Las Vegas, NV – Dolby Live with Cody Jinks
Dec 29 – Greenville, SC – The Foundry (Doin’ It For Dingledine Benefit Event)
Dec 30 – Norfolk, VA – The NorVa
Dec 31 – Raleigh, NC – PNC Arena with The Avett Brothers

Stay tuned for Blues Rock Review’s upcoming coverage of King’s November 30th show in Columbia, Missouri.

Allison Scavo

Allison Scavo is a concert photographer local to Kansas City who travels all over the country capturing photos of live music. She has experience in all genres and events of all themes. Allison is an avid fan of music, specifically its historical relevance, developmental importance, and magical entertainment. She tries to show her appreciation by taking snapshots of musicians as they embody the definition of talent.

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