One thing Marcus King can guarantee fans that come out for his concerts promoting his new solo album, “El Dorado,” is they won’t hear strict reproductions of the studio versions of the songs from that album, or for that matter, from any of his previous releases.
“My least favorite thing is to hear someone basically put a cassette player on when they get on stage,” King says. “That’s no fun.”
In the case of some of the “El Dorado” songs, King and his band have been pretty much forced to divert from the studio versions. On the ballads such as “Break” and “One Day She’s Gone,” King prominently incorporates strings, while thick retro-styled female backing vocals are a big part of the song “Beautiful Stranger.” These elements are not in the instrumental/vocal arsenal of the Marcus King Band, which includes singer/guitarist King, drummer Jack Ryan, bassist Stephen Campbell, trumpet/trombone player Justin Johnson, sax player Dean Mitchell and keyboardist DeShawn Alexander.
It hasn’t taken long for the “El Dorado” songs to transition into their own entities live, King says.
“We’ve been test driving them for a while, and they’re just becoming different songs out here, staying true to what they are, but obviously, we don’t have a string section out here and we don’t have as many vocals and we don’t have a full horn section,” King says. “So, it’s a lot different out here, man, and I think anybody that comes to see the live show would agree.”
Along with using strings, horns, female backing vocals and also singing for the first time in falsetto on several songs, something else makes “El Dorado” different for King.
It’s the first Marcus King solo album. Although the Marcus King Band is very much intact, circumstances led King to step away from his group to make the new album.
“The opportunity availed itself to be able to work with some legends, like (drummer) Gene Chrisman and (keyboardist) Bobby Wood,” King says, mentioning two musicians who were original members of the Memphis Boys, the house band at Chips Moman’s famed American Sound Studio (they played on Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” and Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” and many other famous songs).
“I had to make a decision, and I’m glad that I did it. I feel it’s important to step away from the norm every now and then. It refreshes you in all senses of the word.”
For “El Dorado,” King teamed with another in-demand producer in Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.
“Well, we started writing together a couple of years ago. He (Auerbach) called me out of the blue, or his manager called me out of the blue and said, ‘Dan wants you to come to Nashville and do some writing,” King says, explaining his history with Auerbach. “That really sparked a good friendship and a good writing partnership.”
Despite the wide range of instrumentation, the “El Dorado” album came together quickly. King’s writing sessions with several respected tunesmiths (Paul Overstreet, Ronnie Bowman and Pat McLaughlin) took only about a week and a half and recording was finished in three days.
Marcus King Band, Belly Up Tavern, 143 S. Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach, bellyup.com, 8 p.m. Monday, January 27, $26-$76.