One of the biggest shake-ups of the 2006 music year was Marc Ford leaving the Black Crowes…again. He has re-emerged, though, and released Wired and Weary in March. He’s been busy since then, and has a tour shaping up that will take up up and down the east coast in the Fall. Honest Tune Photo Editor Brad Hodge caught up with the guitarist to pick his brain for a little while.
Honest Tune: Your music has an obvious Nashville influence – a bit of country in it. Would you say it has played a role in your musical evolution, and have any certain artists really struck a chord as an influence?
Marc Ford: Definitely. Outlaw country is what many of our generation’s musicians pulled from. Not only musically, but also there was an influence on the attitude. Hank was bold, and for his time a little bizarre. He didn’t take shit from anybody.
Any genre of music that sings about people’s pain seems to be linked.
HT: One more question about influences. You have said many times “I don’t play rock music. I play rock and roll. The roll is where the blues is at, the gospel, the swing.” You were a part of the Grammy winning “There Will be a Light” with the Blind Boys of Alabama and Ben Harper. The Blind Boys are certainly one of the most prolific influences of gospel to younger generations. What other gospel influences would you cite?
MF: Mahalya Jackson, The Staples Singers, Bill Withers and Al Green. I got more gospel through the music of the Delta and the old hymns.
HT: You have played with many great bands, from the Black Crowes to Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals. And of course, Blue Floyd with the late Allen Woody. Is it more gratifying to be playing your music on your terms?
MF: This is more gratifying. It is born of me, and allows me to tell about things that have happened or emotions. I mix fiction to keep it from being to personal, but it is me.
HT: Your most recent album Weary and Wired is a great album, much like the first It’s About Time. What are your favorite things about this record or is there direction you would point your listeners?
MF: It’s one of those special records. It was already made before we started. I just had to get there and play. Doors kept opening, and next thing I knew it was done. Music will show itself, it wants to be heard. Sometimes it is a burden to carry all of it around and not be able to get it out.
“Smoke Signals” and “Currents” I would recommend. There is a lot in those songs that I was able to get out. As we mixed the record I came to tears. It was nice to have released it, to be able to finally just put it out there.
HT: Not only have you made a marvelous record of your music, you have begun to do some masterful production work. Do you feel more free, or in a more natural state as the musician or the producer?
MF: I have just been around music for so long I guess I know what to look for. I really don’t know the technical side of producing. It is definitely a different perspective. You have to step back and get a broader sense.
HT: How does it feel to be playing your music with your son Elijah? There has to be something special about sharing that talent with him.
MF: It is a great experience. I get to live through him. It allows me to appreciate it all more.
HT: I am sure that you all shared many jam sessions – were you able to teach him a lot?
MF: Actually, this is the most we have played together. It was really more that I wrote down some chords, went on tour, and when I came back he could play the guitar.
HT: Is there anything Elijah has brought to the table, or taught you?
MF: He has a different approach. It is all brand new to him. He brings a freshness to it all.
HT: The band is about to tour Russia, starting tomorrow. Have you ever played there before? If so how does the music scene and the fans differ from here in the USA and other parts of the world?
MF: I have never played there before so I can’t answer most of the question.
However I will tell you it is exciting to be going to Russia and taking my son. One of the best things about having him around is that he deserves it. He works hard, and may have not have had the experience of coming up in garage bands, using shitty equipment, but he gets it.
HT: Historically touring and the lifestyle that goes with it has been cited as a big part of the ghost that haunts Marc Ford. You are now playing with Elijah, old friends “Muddy” Dutton and Doni Gray. Is the road a friendlier place for Marc Ford these days?
MF: You can set the tone for any situation. When someone else starts making decisions for your life, it is hard to keep any control. For me I either have to get real mad and say some shit, or just go away, disappear and that is not a good option.
I pick the crowd this time.
All photos by Brad Hodge / bradhodgephoto.com