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Spencer Marcu

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Damaged All My Goods Spencer Marcu 03:52

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Around 2008, Spencer Marcu was on top of the world. The LA native was well-liked by his classmates. He had the attention of several girlfriends. Life was good. “I was this guitar player singer going to parties at 13; hanging out with older kids.” Then all of a sudden it wasn’t. “I started experimenting with things, if you know what I mean. It felt like living like a rock star at 13.” Marcu’s rock star behavior eventually caught up with him. His parents shipped him off to a camp far out into the Utah wilderness where he could, they hoped, reshape the trajectory of his life. “I lived in the middle of nowhere where I had to make fire with my hands and get a second chance at life because I was abusing the one I had,” he said. “That gave me a whole new perspective. It taught me better ways to communicate who I really am.” Anyone put through the kind of crucible that Marcu endured at such a formative age would almost certainly come out the other end changed. The six mile hikes every single day, being forced to dig holes to use the bathroom, sifting through remains each night for hours on end, careful to leave nothing behind; he couldn’t wear a watch and they even refused to tell him what time it was. His only communication to the outside world? A single letter he was permitted to write home, once per week. And when he finally got back home to LA, he suddenly realized the whole world viewed him differently. “I was no longer the cool kid anymore,” he said. “When I got back, everybody thought I was the kid who went too far. Everybody was kind of scared of me.” Feeling isolated, Marcu returned to the one place he could always receive salvation: Music. “In 2009, I wrote 80 demos,” he said. “Then in 2010, I wrote 100.” He hasn’t stopped writing since. Music runs through Marcu’s blood. His father is an Academy Award winning songwriter, who earned his Oscar for writing the Dirty Dancing anthem “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.” And though he has been out of Marcu’s life since he was 16—his mother has been a guiding force behind his career and his biggest supporter -- his father gave him an early education into the finer points of song construction. Although he didn’t specifically teach him how to write songs, “My dad would point out chords on the radio when I was a young kid. I'd ask him to show me the chords back at the house. He'd show me really complex songs byThe Beatles.” Before long, Marcu was shredding Jimi Hendrix solos off the Woodstocklive album, note-for-note. He had the tools. Now he had something to say. “I had a lot to talk about after my parent’s divorce and going to Utah and my experiences with friends and girls and this and that. There was so much I was waiting to get off my chest and it came flying out like a hurricane.” He wrote and wrote and wrote. Then he started a couple bands, among them a duo that played manyshows, including packed houses at the Whiskey A-Go-Go and the Viper Room before ultimately deciding to go their separate ways. “That time wasvery productive for me personally, because I found my voice, I found my sound, I found my songs; it was meant to be. And then when the band split, it was fine because I had free reign to produce myrecord.” The record he produced is called Homemade; a savage, grunge meets blues-inspired explosion of cathartic, purifying rock and roll. It’s an experience of growth as told through 11 separate tracks. Some of the songs were written recently, right before it was made. Some were completed just after his return from Utah all those years ago. In fact, the song “Home,” one of the album’s true standouts, was only the third song he cooked up just after he returned home to LA. “They never tell you when you could go home,” he explained. “You're begging them, 'When can I go home?' The first week you're just straight crying, because you're being ripped out of your house at such a young age from your family. It was a very obvious and easy song for me to write because those are things that I know. 'Gotta pack up fast / Won't eat cold again.’” The basic backing tracks were initiallyrecorded at Stagg Street Studios in the Valley. Marcu playing all the instruments himself. Well, almost all of the instruments. To take care of the backbeat, he brought in Kenny Aronoff, a world class drummer and frequent collaborator with Bob Dylan and Neil Young. After that, he hit Megawatt Studios where he spent a day with the legendary Joe Barresi dialing in fresh, eye-widening guitar tones. The owner/engineer of Megawatt, Jeff Sheehan, who also engineered on Nirvana’s Nevermind taught him about engineering before he ultimately ended up at King Sized studios. For six months he recorded at King Size by himself, assisted only by a series of engineer interns who didn’t always have the finest grasp on the English language. One day, producer Rob Schnapf, who was working in the next studio over, noticed he was having some difficulty and interceded. He offered sage advice, as well as the use of Elliott Smith’s Yamaha guitar to use while he recorded the song “Coming or Leaving.” Once recording finally wrapped, he linked up with Soundgarden engineer/producer Adam Kasper who helped him mix down the album, “Adam is an amazing person to work with and once he became involved the record revealed itself. It was better than I had ever imagined.” But while he recorded in some great studios and was assisted by some of the best record producers on the planet, the feeling of the music remained the most important thing. Thus, half of the album is filled out by the demos he originally tracked at home. “They were just better performances,” he explained. “The $4,000 mic sounded just as good as the $300 mic. I started thinking to myself: Homemade. It’s something that comes from the heart. Something you make with your hands. Your grandmother's homemade recipe; nothing can beat it!” Homemade unfolds like a journey through Marcu’s own experience. It’s filled with searing guitar solos, bombastic choruses and flashes of hard-earned wisdom. “I think it's gonna be an experience for people,” he said. “I was able to create these dilemmas of character that everybody goes through. We all have to deal with bad habits. We all have to deal with leaving things alone. We all have to deal with "Did I mess up?" We all have to come to terms with all those kinds of questions, and so for me, I'd like to add a positive and optimistic perspective and experience for people.” The album is also his effort to try to bring a spirit of joy and happiness back to music, because despite the state of the world, despite his own personal challenges, at heart, Marcu remains optimistic. “I'm at the end of this record’s journey,” he said. “I'm saying the things I wanna say. I'm doing the things I wanna do. I don't have any more bad habits holding me back. I've learned to leave things alone if it's not working out…music is supposed to be a healing and spiritual experience.”