Now that his El Dorado, which came out in January, has topped multiple charts — including Americana Folk, Blues, Current Rock and Top New Artist — Marcus King figures trying his hand at a solo album was a good decision. And some of that happiness can even been seen in the video for the track "Wildflowers & Wine," premiering exclusively on Billboard today (Feb. 14).
"It was a lot of organic steps that all came together in a kismet way for the record to work," King tells Billboard about El Dorado, which was produced by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and recorded with a supporting cast of well-credentialed players who recorded with Elvis Presley, Dusty Springfield, Bobby Womack and others.
"Having those cats work with you was a tremendous opportunity in itself, too good an opportunity to pass up. It's really not too far out of my comfort zone,” he continues. “It's still playing and singing, but in a different kind of environment, and to have these cats to look up to, it was pretty sweet."
The "Wildflowers & Wine" video, depicting King and his corps performing the song at Auerbach's Easy Eye Sound studio, captures the bonhomie King felt in the actual three-day sessions, where the troupe finished a dozen songs. "It captures the energy of the room and of the players there," King says of the clip, "and just the sincerity I hope that we put into every take. It's not the exact set-up we used, but all the instrumentation on that track was played live together as a cohesive unit and not overdubbed. That's what gives it that taste, that live feel."
Stepping outside of his harder-rocking, guitar-featuring Marcus King Band, El Dorado allowed King to work with different co-writers (including Auerbach and Pat McLaughlin) and dip into different musical influences, such as Sam Cooke and Tony Joe White. "The approach was a little more vocal-oriented, which was different for me," King explains. "It was something I was excited about and it was intimidating to perform with the cats in the studio. But after a few hours we all warmed up to one another and we really got moving on the material." The intimate approach also yielded more personal and autobiographical songs from King's pen.
"That's the only way to do it, man. That's the only way that makes me feel like I got something out or that I've expressed myself fully," he says. "I like it to be pretty deep in the way the artist is baring their soul. And the way I write can almost be jarring to other writers, 'cause I get real personal real quick. But these guys I wrote with helped me architecturally build this foundation where the words really resonated, and that really helped me convey what I was trying to say in a vulnerable way."
King and his band are just wrapping up a U.S. run and head to Europe for shows starting Feb. 21 in the U.K.. When it comes back across the pond, the group will be mixing headlining dates with opening stints for Chris Stapleton. King has added a horn section to the band as well, and the new material has provided more dimension to the concerts, he reports.
"I've really been having a good time playing El Dorado] live," King says. "The shows become more of a performance. We still have the improvisational aspects of the gig, and that's one of my favorite parts about performing. But we're approaching the show a little differently — not completely different, but with a little more to it. It's really just us evolving as a performing act."
Listen to “Wildflowers & Wine” below.