Marcus Singletary: 'I'm Harder Now Than Ever Before!'

Resulting from complexity, the three conceptual projects that preceded Born to Be Wild were the toughest to complete. Initially, I approached the endeavor from the listener's perspective, or without true knowledge of how tough it would be to attempt to tie loose ends together within elongated song cycles.

Previously, I'd sit in seclusion to compose the songs, and follow up with rough demos and, eventually, fully produced recordings. For Defiance Science and Subversive Blues, I developed the  tunes on stage, then brought them into the studio after tweaking their functional parts in live settings. The South Africa Tapes was even more intricate due to the difficulty in merging those narratives.

Although I generally consider myself a perfectionist (and even though many moments during the concept trilogy relied on improvisation), these exacting tendencies departed for Born to Be WildAn honest attempt was made to incorporate the ear crunching production techniques heard on recordings by bands like the Black Keys and the Record Company - current alternative bands who can rightfully claim to exist, simultaneously, on the cutting edge and musical fringe. These sonics are laced with my singular musical style.

This time, I cite some inspirations openly. The 11-minute epic 'Space Train to Babylon' features a drum solo, and any well versed rock listener can point out where the instrument begins to sonically phase in a similar manner to 'Moby Dick' from Led Zeppelin's live album The Song Remains the Same.

'Freeform Guitar' pays tribute to guitarist Terry Kath, with the title's adjective used as a single word, instead of the two-word phrasing seen on Chicago's debut LP. Both 'Devil's Rage' and 'Top of the Sky' were completely written on the spot. For 'Sky,' I detuned the guitar to the point of illogicality, and played some rubbery bass lines underneath that are highly influenced by Primus' album Pork Soda and, specifically, the cut 'Mr. Krinkle.'

Years ago, a friend challenged me to write some lyrics expositorily, scribing in a notebook without a second thought. I wrote the title and premise for 'Devil's Rage' in response. In fact, the tune was inspired by Deep Purple's 'Fireball,' with the clearest similarity being the song's tambourine-laden coda.

There are many other points of interest, as well. '(I Don't Need Your) Permission' incorporates Zulu spoons into the mix as a percussion instrument, providing the perfect flavor to precede 'Siyavuya Ngoku' - translated from Xhosa to English as 'We're Happy Now.' I personally describe the cut as 'gospelese' which, to me, stems from being a person who has stepped foot inside a 'traditional African-American church' only once.

The limited exposure, however, was enough to comprehend the vast differences between it and its Catholic counterparts, including the predominance of guitars and pop music in Catholicism, versus Sunday-best dramatics, in the black environment. Truly fascinating is that while many of my acid-rock influences, including Iron Butterfly, Vanilla Fudge, and the Rascals, would never be described as having recorded any true gospel songs, surprisingly, each exhibited at least a semblance of its ethos.

In conclusion, Born to Be Wild represents fresh air, because committing to a certain format, over several years, forces pre-ordained structure. But while the conceptual pieces exhibited exploration and the unknown, the spirit of the true definition of improvisation - having the freedom to create without boundaries - is on full display.

Marcus Singletary - In Context and Time

From the moment I became a solo artist, I began placing myself in a variety of unique musical contexts. The idea originated from a desire to frame my albums' inspirations within different historical eras. The question was simple: what would a Marcus Singletary recording have sounded like in 1957? It was addressed with the material from Angel City Shootout (2004): old school blues-rock. Live at the Foxx and Live on Sunset (from 2005 and 2006, respectively) gave listeners an intimate glimpse of the stage show.

Marcus Singletary (2008) and Smokin' (2011) were based on the sounds of the late Sixties - specifically, the creations of producer Norman Whitfield and the many talented artists he worked with. A brief sojourn into psychedelic terrain was displayed through the improvisational performances from Take Me Out to the Ball Game (2008). Comparisons to Jimi Hendrix were made, but one of my favorite moments from that era was working with former Byrds drummer Gene Parsons on fitting his own invention - a double string bender - into a Telecaster I acquired specifically for such purposes.

Sings Country Music Standards updated the Marcus Singletary sound for the early Seventies, a time where acoustic songs, singer-songwriters, and country tunes ruled the airwaves. On it, I covered cuts by such legends as Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, and followed up by doing exactly what Cash and David Bowie did when they gained some recording studio experience. Defiance Science (2014) and Subversive Blues (2016) became the first two parts of a conceptual trilogy.

Subversive Blues introduced a character that would later appear in other places: the cantankerous disc jockey Bonnie Wright, who maintains a stiff upper lip even while voicing questionable opinions. Wright can be heard on The South Africa Tapes as the pitch woman for Sunshine Water Park in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and she returns once again during a segment from Daydream Station (2017) - a comedy album that collected the best bits from my radio program, Far Out Flavors.

2015's Marcus Singletary Live differed from the earlier Foxx and Sunset discs in its reliance on jazz, but The Sonic Admiral - Live! (2018) presented a whacked-out glimpse of a live experience during the concept era, where FX, Walt Whitman poetry recitations, and ethereal sounds reigned. Ambient textures were the basis for 2019's Journey to Sebhedris; Sebhedris was inspired by experimental artists like Hawkwind and John Cage. I had experienced some unexpected success with soundscapes before - namely, use of 'The Hero Returns Home' as a sample by electronic artist Ian Mart; this exposed the cut to an entirely different audience, so a film, The Sebhedris Experience (which merged the album's songs with a collage of kaleidoscopic images) was produced.

Born to Be Wild returns the music to hard rocking territory, as the album finds its musical focus in the late '70s and early '80s hard rock and metal scenes. The music does get cryptic at times, but most of the material, in my opinion, comes straight from the crypt. 'Space Train to Babylon' contains an arena rock drum solo, 'Freeform Guitar' is a musical tribute to Terry Kath of the band Chicago, and the title track covers Steppenwolf. However, the music does not sound dated. In fact, I believe its arrival is right on time.

The Concept Album Trilogy

Although I had previously conducted experiments with thematics, attempting to compose a fully connected conceptual piece was daunting. In the early portion of the '10s, I had begun revisiting albums by The Kinks, The Who, and Yes, and I quickly learned that listening was the easy part. I was unaware that I would even make such attempts until a gig promoter asked me to fill in a 75-minute slot on a Saturday night. As a result, I set out to compose all-new songs for the performance.

I emerged with the material for Defiance Science. Some, such as 'Blessing of the Guru' and 'Roll it One More Time,' found their way onto other albums; many were transformed beyond their original incarnations. 'Science' had previously been titled 'Overture,''Shangri-Rock' was a tune about composer Salieri, and 'Party Like a Star' was initially 'California Courtship.' The story itself was centered around the love affair between actors Primrose Luckett and Genovia, a woman who would eventually vanish into thin air while rebelling against the Hollywood establishment. After her departure, Primrose suffers a nervous breakdown that leaves him despondent on the proverbial Avenue Zero (located somewhere near Modesto, CA.)

Those characters championed freedom from structure, but Subversive Blues was an all-out assault on American culture and institutions. Abrasive sounds characterized the violent society in which a heightened version of Marcus Singletary lived - dominated by urban slaves battling amongst themselves over scraps. Similar to Defiance Science, anger and pain are on display, as the album's peak depicts raw, visceral violence. It concludes with a mellow soundscape, 'The Hero Returns Home,' that fuses ambient tones with a blues-based bass guitar.

Trilogy epilogue, The South Africa Tapes, does not unite Marcus and Primrose in Africa, but at radio station KFUC in Lawrenceville, Georgia, where station GM Primrose hosts the public affairs program Fact Files. Parallel stories are presented: KFUC's 100th anniversary, alongside the tale of South African apartheid. Primrose guides listeners through a series of archival broadcasts that capture station highlights including era-specific ads and features. I portrayed 20 different characters; one is cantankerous Southern belle (and DJ) Bonnie Wright. 

Hundreds of hours of research went into the research, and ultimately, the two characters meet up for an interview where both men team to comment on post-Apartheid human interest stories. The South Africa Tapes explores if the people, on both sides learned anything from the experience. Answers are revealed within the interview, but ultimately, all three installments show that while unfortunate circumstances in life do occur, a positive attitude is the first step toward resolution.

Living On the Edge Has Its Consequences: Rock and Roll Tragedies

Living on the edge has its consequences. Rock singer Rusty Day of Cactus' coke-fueled existence resulted in a violent demise. A fascination with guns defined Chicago guitarist Terry Kath, and former Grand Funk Railroad manager Terry Knight, who once said he was, "Not afraid to wear the black hat on occasion," died doing just that.

The stories are even more fascinating when they involve your own acquaintances. The murder of Al Filan, a teacher of mine during high school, at the hands of a prostitute was shocking. During the day, Filan assumed a mild-mannered, middle-aged persona. After work, the happy-go-lucky guy was quick to flash cash for casual sex, with a temper that led to an outcome far more stereotypical of celebrity deaths, where mystery and intrigue, often involving sexual escapades, cloud the facts.

Filan was the only teacher I ever encountered who encouraged me to make money. Others would sarcastically loan me books written in Ebonics early on and then, later, outright discourage me from attending college. But Filan fairly judged students according to character and talent. After becoming a musician, I befriended Gena Penney, another rare person who offered me considerable support as the booking agent at Los Angeles' Whisky a Go-Go.

While other agents were either turning away customers at the door by telling them I was not booked on the nights I was actually on the premises getting ready to perform, levying passive-aggressive "punishments" by taking time away from sets for not setting up in under two minutes, or absolutely trashing me behind my back with me being informed about it by third parties, she treated me like a human being, and cared about the music I created.

Then came the reports from Vegas: Penney, found dead in a hotel room filled with white powder. A boyfriend, fleeing back to LA in her car. It was amazing to learn that such a sweet person lived such a scandalous life more suitable for many of the musicians she booked, including Tracii Michaelz, drummer for the LA glam-rock band Peppermint Creeps.

I met Michaelz when he was working at Fortress, a studio best known as the location where Kiss recorded an album. Both of us were regular sights in the building, back then, and we engaged in many conversations about music. The uber-friendly Michaelz I remember from that time was not the same Michaelz I encountered a few years later, as his alcohol-ravaged condition had deteriorated to the point where he was basically homeless, down-and-out on an enabler's couch while storing his drums in a room so tiny that it was impossible to set them up.

At a local shop, he and a small group of hangers-on randomly invited me back to their apartment for drinks, to which I obliged. Big mistake. Michaelz did not have enough money for a rehearsal space, but did have ample amounts of time to heavily imbibe copious amounts of liquor, and to drift in and out of consciousness. From out of left field, though, came an unexpected litany of N-word degradations, F-bombs, and constant taunts directed toward me from him and others in the group.  It clearly was the only reason they invited me over, but in an odd twist of fate, I left the party, mentioned it to my then-partner, and promptly learned these were her close friends.

Michaelz died from alcohol poisoning soon thereafter, and within weeks, I ran into another one of the guys at a different Hollywood party, who then started profusely apologizing for the ordeal - an unexpected change of heart that could not mask the question of whether or not he had already profited from the sale of Tracii's drums and other belongings.

Why Hip-Hop and R&B Were Not Factors In My Musical Development

I consider assumptions that I, for whatever reason, am either a hip-hop or R&B artist insulting. Even some booking agents have simply labeled the genre on contracts "R&B," when on those particular occasions, set lists featured tunes by the Grateful Dead. What many people fail to understand is that I did not encounter these styles much, regarding my own personal background.

When I was growing up on the South Side of Chicago, my neighborhood was, for the majority of my time there, comprised of white Christian Evangelicals who would attend yearly retreats in the Dakotas. I studied at Catholic schools throughout my early life, as well, where the most commonly heard music was from Jesus Christ Superstar.

I was exposed to rap music in my teenage years, as the area's demographics began to shift. It failed to make an impression on me, and in the years since, it has only become less appealing, as almost all musicality has been stripped away from it.

Interestingly, my parents possessed a true disdain for what they considered, "Black Exploitation Music" - namely, anything marketed to African-American audiences between the late Sixties and early 1980s. I wish I had asked them more about this, as each stated it in separate conversations, but it was clear that only a rare moment would arouse their interests in these sounds.

In ways, I deviated from their path, as today, even though I do not consider hip-hop and R&B factors in my musical development, I always cite Norman Whitfield as my favorite producer. Whitfield was solely responsible for the "psychedelic soul" movement, which fused Motown's musical standards with contemporary rock stylings in that same era my parents loathed.

Gaming + Sports = Guitar?

Although I began tinkering around with an old, beat-up acoustic guitar that I found in the garage at the age of eight, I cannot say I was interested in pursuing music as a career for many years thereafter, as I did have a rather normal childhood, and was involved, like many, in playing sports and video games.

Starting with Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, then branching out to Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda, I noticed the then-latest crop of games had become a never-ending maze of nothingness. Flight Simulator was instantaneously forgettable after take-off. Bulge, a game based on the famous war battle, was as boring as its title suggests. Moving on to Madden Football was more exciting. Becoming an avid fantasy baseballer could be considered more intellectual. Even then, I was increasingly finding inspiration in the more-diverse landscapes painted by music.

My parents possessed a vast music archive which, after awhile, I utilized at will. My mom preferred rock; my father was a fan of pop. When I began tuning into the radio, I originally gravitated toward classical music and jazz stations. These artists' names were inscribed on my bed sheets - much to my mother's chagrin. However, what truly turned me on were the older forms of rock and roll on the airwaves, and many of the artists they did not own in their collection - namely, The Animals, Hollies, and Buckinghams. Their musical sensibilities were different than those of Bach, Wagner, and Coltrane, but in my opinion, they and other groups including Steppenwolf and the Rolling Stones wrote timeless tunes containing great arrangements, hooks, melodies, and vocals.

As a result, my muse was the topic heavy music of the "classic rock" era of the 1960s and 1970s. In junior high, the kids also displayed a strong interest in that ethos; there, we would trade 45s by The Monkees, discuss Steve Miller Band's Number 5, and listen to rock music during lunch breaks. Across the street, Beverly Records carried all the out-of-print classics by legends like Arthur Lee and Love and Spooky Tooth that were rarely mentioned in magazines.

Early on, I owned a 1966 Harmony bass and a Sears model guitar with a battery-operated speaker attached to its front side. I received a red Fender Stratocaster as a holiday gift, and set out to play for real - although my true development began in college, playing alongside Northwestern music majors who were far more talented, at the time.

Those sessions were more essential to my development than my first formal piano lesson. A teacher named Burger showed up at my door and attempted to teach me the only piece he knew, "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Of course, this was not the Buddy Guy blues song, and I already knew how to play the toddler tune. I wanted to learn Dave Brubeck and Modern Jazz Quartet-style jazz comping, which was too advanced for his skill set. Following a litany of insults rendered upon a child, he left, and I was free to enter into worlds I would both desire and develop. and Other Marcus Singletary Related Websites - Avoid the Kitty Litter!

Because the Internet is cluttered with kitty litter, this article lists and describes the various links where you can find the information most relevant to an online search for Marcus Singletary.
Marcus Singletary's Official Website, where you can read updates and press, and learn more about the music. The site covers all of Singletary's various projects, from his eclectic album releases and radio programs to his experimental short films.
Redirect of the official Marcus Singletary biography, located on Wikipedia at:
Marcus Singletary on Wikipedia. Read about Singletary's background, and follow the story as it develops.
Marcus Singletary on Soundcloud. Hear various podcast episodes, and check out Marcus Singletary's Guitar Lessons in audio form.
Watch Marcus Singletary videos, follow, and be a part of the Singletary family.
Marcus Singletary on Daily Motion. Watch Marcus Singletary's directorial debut, The Sebhedris Experience - an experimental short film combining kaleidoscopic video images with ambient music.

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Check Out My Short Film, "The Sebhedris Experience"

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Please check out my MOVIE, "The Sebhedris Experience."

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Sleepless Nights and Long-Term Motivation

As much as I enjoy the company of women, sex was not the reason I became interested in playing music. Music lasts forever, whereas sex and relationships generally do not. In fact, I've always disputed the supposed "carnality" of music, as I cannot say I've ever reached an orgasmic state by simply listening to a song, or watching a live performance.

Most of my musical joys have occurred above the belt, as I would equate great musical experiences with the inducement of meditation and psychological levitation more than anything physically oriented - hence the notion that an audience can "see through" a performer's intent.

The concept of "work" is often viewed as a laboriously negative process left unseen and under-appreciated. The general inclination is to only exert so much energy, but what has kept me going since the beginning, however, is the pursuit of excellence through full dedication to attempts at musical innovation.

This is the entire mode of practice for actors, who must assume the role of magician to convince an audience into belief. Give credit to those effective, here, as they are able to profit. But, of course, true creativity is a struggle to expand ideas, and not just a journey toward revenue generation (yet another physical pleasure.)

Surviving in music is tough. The difficulty of the individual tasks, alone, has led to many sleepless nights and even non-stop work periods that have lasted over 50 hours at a time. This is why, in order to accomplish the creative goals many have set out to achieve for themselves, extreme personal loyalty is essential.

It Takes Superhuman Effort to Shape a Narrative

Even though I hold mostly centrist political viewpoints, my upbringing was quite conservative, and early experiences definitely impacted my professional life by leading me to careful, constant analysis of all actions I've ever taken.

In elementary school, I noticed that most of the students were unable to focus on anything at all, making it difficult for them to learn, as they had not yet developed patience. It was easy for me. I developed this trait in childhood, when I would adhere to my own self-imposed scheduling. My parents were horrified by this, as they felt I was regimenting my life far too much, too early. But it was their own rigid discipline that ultimately influenced it, as my life did not include social activities but was heavily geared toward academic achievement.

This became important when recording in a pro studio environment for the first time. On paper, I pre-organized the sessions that would occur at North Hollywood, CA studio Clear Lake Audio, although I naturally adhered to it without looking. The one time I did, I realized I had been working parallel to it, all along. The engineer was not thrilled, as he was used to musicians slacking off during frequent periods of down time.

It was a revelation to me, however, as I realized I preferred less spontaneous work environments, even as my music frequently included improvisation. It takes superhuman effort to be a perfectionist. I am accustomed to spending long hours not just in musical creation, but in continually shaping a narrative.

Contact Marcus Singletary through his website,, and follow him on Twitter - @SingletaryMusic.

Character in the Age of Fear

I do not take vacations, nor do I deviate from the path I have set out for myself. Such a lifestyle may not appeal to some, but it is perfect for me. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans claimed they were "bored" and "lonely" due to a temporary loss of social outlets. They cried over beach closures, and loaded up on liquor in a pain-relief panic. But instead of concentrating on misery, committing to a particular path in life is a better option, regarding the development of a human's character.

Some claim "isolation" when, so often, they have willingly separated themselves from different segments of society. A network news story on right-wing protesters at Michigan's Capitol contained symbols of the Confederacy juxtaposed with images of people at proverbial "breaking points" caused by the role of law and order in their lives. It is tough to envision this particular group comprising a diverse set of individuals, as it has become standard for pandemic reactions to mix with partisan responses.

Significant focus, though, is necessary for forward motion both in times of peace and during crises. Barring outside distractions from gaining influence over the Work is crucial, as energy and time - both amongst the most important factors in the pursuit of creativity - are wasted within over-emotional responses to unexpected events. However, a positive outlook and an expanded network are essential for a sincere stride toward self-improvement and unwavering personal motivation.

Contact Marcus Singletary through his website,, and follow him on Twitter - @SingletaryMusic.