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Guitarist Marc Ford on the Road with The Vulture

Marc Ford is back on the road in support of his latest solo effort, The Vulture. The record, released Oct. 14, features Ford’s backing band, the Neptune Blues Club, with Mike Malone (vocals, harp, keys), John Bazz (bass), and Anthony Arvizu (drums) behind Ford’s killer guitar and solid vocals. While Ford is well known for his work with the Black Crowes during the '90s, he’s also performed and recorded with an impressive list of musicians and is a respected producer and artist in his own right. The Vulture is Ford’s fifth solo record.

According to Ford, the record’s title track pretty much sums up the album.

“It’s a darker record than the last one,” he noted, referencing his 2014 release Holy Ghost. “I had the Neptune Blues Club on there on purpose to really separate it. This isn’t another Holy Ghost record. This is me back at it, and maybe this is some of the reasons there needed to be a Holy Ghost record. The Saturday night to the Sunday record.”

Always a music fan, Ford’s tastes are broad, a result of his life on the road.

“I’m still a music geek, just a nerd. I love it, and we all loved it,” he explained. “All those hours driving around for so many years, we would just sit and listen to the music and study the music and buy records. The big thing was the cool record stores in certain cities. We’d go crazy, and we just couldn’t get enough of it. It was like school, and we were watching videos and just studying how to do what we were doing.”

The eleven cuts that comprise The Vulture reflect that broad musical education. Listen closely and you’ll hear everything from blues to rock to funk to country. It’s a potent mix.

But for Ford, it’s really all about keeping things interesting.

“I’ve always kept myself challenged, and I just love to play,” he said. “I love backing up people, and I love fronting a band. I love all aspects of it because it’s a different type of playing and a different type of listening, and it’s just a blast to me. I tend to get bored pretty quickly. If I didn’t keep it interesting, then I’m not any good to anybody.”

The Vulture is the first solo album where Ford didn’t write all the songs himself. Several of the cuts are co-writes, and the opening track, “Devil’s in the Details,” is an excellent cover.

“I’m at this point where I don’t have this urge to write everything and blow people away,” Ford commented. “I’ve slowed down, and I think the music that I do is maybe better than it was, maybe a little slower coming, but it’s more potent. I guess that’s maturity. It’s fun again for me.”

Despite penning some pretty great songs, Ford still considers himself a guitar player at heart.

“I think of myself first as a guitar player, but I just figured, ‘so what else do you do?’ I guess you write your own songs,” he mused. “The guitar is how I got in, and it’s the thing that drew me to the music. So that will be the first love.”

According to Ford, the music is always there. It’s the lyrics that are often the challenge.

“Still, to this day, I hear the music before I hear the lyrics, or even maybe the melody,” he said. “I hear that subconsciously, but the music I hear first, then the lyrics have always been the hardest part for me. It doesn’t come as naturally. I can put a song together in a few minutes musically, but what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it, that’s the challenge. Sometimes it just comes out like it was written and handed to you, and those are the good ones. The ones that I write aren’t as good,” he laughed.

Although Ford has produced a number of records for artists like Ryan Bingham and Phantom Limb, for The Vulture, he chose to work with John Vanderslice (Spoon, The Mountain Goats, Samantha Crain). Ford had met Vanderslice while working on a friend’s album and was impressed with his talents and his methods.

The Vulture was recorded on analog tape in Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco.

“I love the idea of doing it that way [on analog tape],” Ford said of working with Vanderslice. “That’s how I made records. He’s just so good. To find somebody that really knows what he’s doing with that machine - he’s really, really old-school good.”

Ford was happy to turn over production responsibilities to someone else for this release.

“Our job was to count to four and play until the end, and that’s just a breath of fresh air for me because to produce and be the artist at the same time, it’s a very narrow perspective, and it’s exhausting,” he said.

Ford is looking forward to being back on tour with his band.

“There are a lot of years between the four of us playing music, and it’s real rich,” he commented.

A lifetime of touring hasn’t diminished Ford’s love for the road.

“It’s like the merchant seaman,” he laughed. “Once you do it, it’s in there, and you long for it all the time because there’s a romanticism about it. My job when I’m on tour, besides the shaking hands part of it, is really just sort of to daydream all day and play my guitar at night, which is what I would do if I wasn’t getting paid. That aspect of it is great. The other aspect of it is just the physical wear on you, especially in a van - 14,000 miles in a van.”

- With permission from Red Dirt Nation