- Deborah Hardy
When I got to the coffee shop where Marcus Eaton and I had agreed to meet at for an interview, I realized that I didn't know what he looked like. I ordered a latte, and, with pen nd reporter's notebook in hand, I sat down and waited. Each time the door opened, I looked up expectantly. I had not met Eaton before and I had only an e-mailed photo as reference. Several men who walked into the coffee shop looked a little nervous as they got a raised-eyebrow "are you the guy I'm waiting for?" gaze from me. When Eaton did arrive, I knew it had to be him because, one, someone had told me he was quite handsome, and, two, the guy walking in the door gave me the same look I'd been giving everyone else.
Eaton's easy smile, short, wavy blonde hair, cool glasses and casual attire give him a boy-next-door appearance. But on closer inspection, the carefree boy-next-door looked like a tired grown-up. Understandable, as he just finished work on his latest opus, Story of Now.
Story of Now is scheduled for a spring 2006 release. It's an hour of emotional, engaging and complicated music. He spent six months at the Tonic Room Studios working on the album--three recording it and three perfecting it. As the first full-length album for both the studio and Eaton as a solo artist, it was important on every level that this project be as close to perfect as possible. To achieve that, Eaton followed what he believes to be one of the most important rules in music: recognize talent. On this album he made sure to surround himself with musicians, producers and managers as dedicated to the process as he was. He even had the CD mastered by Grammy Award-winner Vic Anesini. From the first notes on the first track of the CD, it is clear that the production value of each song is as important as each performance.
No song on the CD is less than four minutes long and several contain complex time signatures. The songs blur genres lines right out of existence with a multitude of instrumentation and thoughtful, thought-provoking lyrics. "Burn It Down" has Latin beats, surprising and elegant chord changes, and Eaton's signature lyrical content. "Victims of What's Available" has a dizzying range of percussion, much of which Eaton performed himself. His songs have layers upon layers of sound and have a fullness often lacking in modern pop music. Every note and beat is sharply defined and exactly where Eaton wants it. His best instrument, his voice, is perfectly tuned and is somehow raw and refined at the same time.
As hard as Eaton worked to maintain his artistic integrity, he still (intentionally) created a commercial product. He's no dummy: He knows that to be a successful, professional musician his album has to sell. To sell the album, people have to hear it. To hear it, people have to know about it, which is why as he shops around for the right label, good promotion and touring support has to be part of the deal. Fortunately, he loves playing and touring so the more live performance dates a label can arrange, the better. And, unlike many musicians, there's not a disappointing difference between his live and recorded performances. With Eaton, what you hear is what you get whether it's from a CD in your car stereo, live on a small stage or from across a huge arena. And it's always good.
On January 12, the Egyptian Theatre premiered the locally produced film, Autumn Angel. Making it a full night of performance, Eaton was slated to play before the movie began. There were some obvious technical difficulties, and most of the crowd had come out to see the film and were not shy about voicing their disappointment about sitting through Eaton's performance. People talked and milled around while he was on stage. Some loud-mouth even screamed "Start the movie!" Eaton had to start and stop and re-start several songs. But, when everything was finally in place and he began to play, it was beautiful. Watching Eaton play is poetry in motion. Even loud-mouth mellowed out. Eaton has an uncanny sense of timing, plays a mean guitar and boy, has he got a set of pipes.
At 25 (yes, he's only 25), Eaton has a worldliness about him that belies his young age. He has been playing guitar since he was 9 and shows no signs of stopping. He has seen his share of success (with his band, The Lobby, and with a live solo CD), but Story of Now may just be Eaton's ticket to the big time. He better get rested up, though, because once the CD hits the shelves, there's going to be little time for sleep.