Welcome to Young Guns, our series exploring the most notable guitarists from the next generation of six-string legends. Today we end with Marcus Machado, the winner of our “Next Young Gun” contest. For more interviews with the guitarists inspiring us right now, click here.
Who: Marcus Machado wasn’t born with a guitar in his crib, but at age two, when other kids were learning to walk and speak, he began strumming on his family’s acoustics. He moved to electric at age four, influenced early on by both his father’s favorite rock acts (Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin) and his mother’s favorite jazz and disco (John Coltrane and Earth, Wind and Fire). Now 30, Machado has mastered a soulful, jazzy sound that’s both exploratory and accessible, and the joyous looks he gives while performing show how much he enjoys taking his audience through unexpected turns. A longtime sideman and collaborator for R&B artists like the Family Stand and the Weather Report’s Victor Bailey, Machado is prepping to move out on his own, with a new EP, Find My Way, set for release in mid-2015.
Bringing It Back: Machado hopes that beyond his own success, he can inspire a new generation of guitarists to stand at the front of the stage. “I’m a huge fan of Jimi [Hendrix], of Carlos Santana and Stevie Ray Vaughan,” he says. “While I feel like these days there’s a lot of great players out there, something has changed where you don’t really see guitar players as the lead people.” Machado wants to show young musicians the creative possibilities for the instrument – how, beyond rock & roll, it can enliven the sounds of R&B, soul and hip-hop. “I want there to be more instruments and instrumentals in the playing, period. Don’t just jump on GarageBand and FruityLoops, because when you make something on those you haven’t really put the work in.”
Family Affair: Machado’s brothers work as producers, his sister is a singer and all siblings join forces in the Mach-7 Muzik production group. Machado also cites the influence of his grandparents and wrote one of his new EP’s most ambitious tracks, “The Fifth Sun,” as a tribute to them. Here, layer upon layer of distorted guitar enters and recedes, making the song a stirring and adventurous milestone for how far Machado has progressed as a player. “There are like 20 or 30 guitars going back and forth on that one,” he says. “I did it for my grandparents who have passed away, and I think they would dig what I’m doing. It’s sort of a traveling song, because I was working on it for two or three months and it was the toughest one on the new album.”
Dream Team: In front of an audience, Machado rarely introduces any instruments beside his custom-made guitars, preferring a simple amp setup and minimal pedals. When he records at studios in New York or the Netherlands, however, he’ll employ various effects boxes and gadgetry in order to deepen or warp his sound. In these situations, he focuses more on mood and collaborative spirit, citing names like D’Angelo and Raphael Saadiq as his dream producers. What about that guy who likes to wear a lot of purple? “Absolutely Prince is on the list,” he says, “but it’s mainly because of the guitar and what he has been able to do as someone known for playing the instrument.”