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There is a long tradition of musicians looking to their elders for guidance when exploring music history.
But 19-year-old Calgary guitarist and singer-songwriter Marcus Trummer had to reach back beyond the normal avenues to find the early classic-rock influences that inform his band’s debut EP, These Roads. It wasn’t older siblings, or even his parents who had the source material.
“I stole a lot of CDs and stuff from my grandparents, actually,” says Trummer. “My grandpa is into the classic rock: The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Bob Dylan. My parents don’t necessarily listen to that stuff as much.”
Which is not to say his parents’ musical tastes didn’t contribute. Trummer’s father is also a guitarist and introduced his son to jazz and blues greats. His mother, who plays oboe, was more into alt-rock such as Green Day and the Arctic Monkeys.
It all presumably found its way into the DNA of These Roads, recorded with producer Steve Dierkens at Studio D in Calgary. But it’s probably the classic-rock strains — the Stones, Allman Brothers and 1980s blues-rock revivalists The Black Crowes — that is the most obvious reference point on the record. All written or co-written by Trummer, the four songs on the EP reveal the Calgary teenager to be a precocious guitarist whose vocals possess a wise-beyond-his-years weariness perfectly suited for the genre.
As it turns out, Trummer is among the old guard in the Marcus Trummer Band. His 16-year-old brother Silas plays drums. Guitarist Linden Conroy is also 16, while bassist Karl Salingua is 19.
In the grand tradition of warring rock ‘n’ roll siblings, things aren’t always smooth sailing in rehearsals.
“Sometimes we have some disagreements,” Trummer says. “Sometimes when we’re trying out new ideas it will get pretty heated. The other two guys in the band are trying to play traffic control. But it is good to have that relationship because we can be really honest about things.”
The Marcus Trummer Band will be among the acts contributing to the National Music Centre’s virtual gala, RISE UP! A Celebration of Resilience on Dec. 4. The annual fundraiser will feature pre-recorded performances by Jann Arden, Corb Lund, Tanika Charles, Caleigh Cardinal, Louis-Jean Cormier and Jan Lisiecki. It will be hosted by country star Brett Kissel and broadcaster Jackie Rae Greening.
Trummer and his bandmates recorded their segment last week at Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre. Participating in the fundraiser is a bit of a full-circle moment for the musician. Trummer was among the teens who frequented the centre’s after-school jam club, which is where he first met Conroy. He also just recently completed the online AE West, a five-week online program that schools emerging artists in the skills required to negotiate the business side of the music business.
It suggests that, despite his youth, Trummer seems set to be in this for the long run. He admits it was something he fretted over upon graduating from James Fowler High School last year.
“I was the one kid who wasn’t really doing anything other than music,” he says. “Everyone was like: ‘Aren’t you going to go to college?’ ”
“I felt that the music industry, especially when you’re starting out and I still feel this way, is a big game of trying everything and hoping things work: sending emails and hearing nothing, putting stuff out there and hoping people like it. I was struggling with that a little bit and not knowing what the future might hold and knowing music was what I wanted to do.”
Trummer channelled some of his anxiety into the track, Waiting for the Storm to Pass, a soulful R&B number that was also one of his first co-writes. He penned the tune with Calgary country singer Aaron Pollock, Juno-winning producer Spencer Cheyne and singer-songwriter Annika Cheyne, who is Spencer’s wife and formerly one-half of country duo Leaving Thomas.
“Coming from a blues background and having a rock ‘n’ roll attitude, meeting these country writers helped push my song idea,” he says. “I came with the song idea but they helped flesh it out. It was a bit of a magical afternoon and evening in the summer of 2019 on a back patio. Little did I know that now all the co-writes I’m doing are over Zoom. So I look back on it pretty fondly.”
Given the pandemic, the sentiment of that song may hit a more universal chord these days. As with all artists, the Marcus Trummer Band has had to endure the significant speed bump that is COVID-19. Calgary’s cautious reopening to some forms of live music allowed the band to play some shows over the summer. The songs on These Roads certainly suggest a band that tailors its songs for the stage. Fade Away, for instance, rings in at nearly 10 minutes long and travels from mellow acoustic-blues to a marathon jam session.
“Who knows what the future holds, and that sort of relates to the songs on the EP,” he says. All these songs touch on the challenges and the uncertainty we face in life in general. I don’t want to shy away from it, but a lot of the choruses and a lot of the message behind the EP is that even though things are challenging and we never know what’s going to happen the next day, I think that was the case before COVID. But we’ve really been exposed to that now. All we can do is keep on keeping on.”
These Roads is now available. Rise Up! A Celebration of Resilience will premiere for free on Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. MT. Visit studiobell.ca/gala2020.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020