Marcus Foster, a spirited and charming lad with a sheepish smile, apologizes when conversation goes awry. We don’t blame him: it’s 10:30am on the Saturday morning after a sold-out show at The Music Hall of Williamsburg in support of Michael Kiwanuka. And like the valiant Brit that he is, Foster is being a gentleman about it.
Foster is the kind of guy whose fingertips ooze with creativity. It takes mere minutes to understand that under the lights, in the middle of that stage, with a guitar in hand, he is in his natural habitat. And he demands that you join him, with music that summons you to stomp your feet and an energy that is infectious.
Before we talked music, Foster directed me to check out a video that he and keyboardist, Jack Standen, have made featuring some recent footage from the road cut to his new single, “Worn Down By Time.”
AUTODIDACTICISM: I used to listen to all my parents’ records, but I became interested in [music], myself. I used to play at this blues club near where my dad lived every Tuesday with these old guys, and I’d get up and play my guitar. Eventually, when the crowds liked that, I started getting into it and singing. My parents were encouraging, but I guess I just become a hunter for blues music and soul and stuff like that when I was a kid. I just kind of taught myself.
TOURING WITH MICHAEL KIWANUKA: It’s going well, yeah. It’s going really well. It feels like we’ve been on the road for a month already, but Michael’s really fun and everyone’s been really nice. It feels like it’s a really good fit, with Foy (Vance). We’ve got one more show with Michael, and then we’re going to go on the road with Ben Howard. It’s about 10 shows—going on the road for a month with them, so that should be fun.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK: We’re in Brooklyn right now. I’d love to live in Brooklyn. I love New York. I mean I have lots of friends in New York, but the buzz about it is right—it feels like it’s on fire, you know. It’s cool.
THE BEST SHOWS HE’S SEEN: My first concert actually was one of the biggest influences on me. I went to see Buddy Guy with my mom at Royal Festival Hall when I was about 12. That’s when I knew that that was what I wanted to do. He went right up to near where I was—we were quite far back—and he was right up to where we were standing and he had a really long lead. He was just playing the lead in the audience, and it was just amazing. He’s just such a great performer. And another one was Prince, probably, about a year ago at Hop Farm, and Tom Waits as well played in a circus tent in the middle of Dublin. But you know, there are lots. I went to see Sharon Jones a couple of years ago and she is an amazing performer. I like people that can make an audience feel good and control an audience and have them in their grasp. That’s part of what I want to do.
ARTISTIC ENDEAVORS: Well, I used to paint. I used to be a painter and when I got to art school I stopped painting for some reason and just started doing other, weird, random shit. I started to realize that the art I wanted to make was a bit more about object and space. I kind of left painting and never looked back.
CHOOSING MUSIC: I’ve been playing music for some time. Live, I guess, since I was about 15, but I also went to art college, so I spent the last six years [there]. I’ve only really been doing [music] full-time for two years. I did a couple of tours here while I was doing my Master’s [degree], and I was just trying to make music and art at the same time. As soon as I graduated I recorded and released a record, which came out last year… And here we are, just kind of getting started.
WHETHER HE’S EVER CONSIDERED GIVING UP MUSIC: I don’t want to say yes, but yeah. It’s tough. People think it’s so easy… It’s pretty intense but, you know, I love it and I believe in what I do and I just need to keep going. I love performing live. I could do it everyday, all night. Especially playing with people, my band.
THE RECORDING PROCESS: I like doing a lot of the stuff live, just going in there and getting my band together and just playing. I think it’s kind of like, through playing, stuff comes out that, you know… But I want to approach things slightly differently with this next record. I want to piece together the music with some sort of instrumental stuff and work on it a bit more—see how it goes.