Country rock and honky-tonk outfit Guy Marshall rate as one of Knoxville’s best bands due in part to the caliber of their sidemen — talented players like lead guitarist Eric Griffin, or pedal steel/multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Keeney. Yet the newest addition to the Marshall family will neither play nor sing so much as a single note on stage.
“We just got a new member, in the form of a business consulting manager,” enthuses Adam McNulty, who started Guy Marshall along with wife Sarrenna McNulty back in 2011. “We’re preparing to go out into the wide world. In the past, we’ve gone out and toured just a bit. But we’re preparing now to tour as a band a lot harder in 2017.
“We want to take the family group we’ve started in Knoxville, and create other family groups in other places.”
McNulty refers to the group of friends and followers who attend Guy Marshall performances as his “family group,” and it’s an apt phrase, in so many ways. The band was founded by a husband-wife duo, and named after Adam’s grandfather Guy Marshall Shirley, who loomed large as both a colorful family patriarch and in his encouragement of McNulty’s early love of bluegrass.
And there’s a familial sort of intimacy at Guy Marshall performances, a sense that Adam and Sarrenna, their soulful harmonizing the beating heart of the band’s sound, are sharing a special moment, a beautiful secret with everyone in the room.
Now McNulty wants to share that secret with the rest of the world. “We’ve been writing a lot as a band,” McNulty says. “Playing more venues is our goal, and we want to have a full album of work ready by the middle of the year, maybe an early fall release.
“These are all what-ifs, but that’s the plan right now.”
It hasn’t been all that long since Guy Marshall’s last (and first) release, The Depression Blues from June of last year. But because that record, as far as first records go, was so long in coming, McNulty says there’s been lots of change afoot as the band tackles new material, songs written in the wake of TDP.
“The way music goes with me is that the music I write changes about two years behind the music that I’m listening to,” McNulty says. “It takes a while for it to sink in. And the last few years, I’ve been listening to a lot of old country. So the songs that are coming out now have more traditional country influences, as opposed to the first record, which had more of a Neil Young, rock ‘n’ roll fell to it.”
McNulty has said in interviews past that the band’s earliest inclinations were toward bedrock country and mountain music, and that changed somewhat as he grew more comfortable incorporating his latter-day fondness for rock music into Guy Marshall’s songwriting. But a shift back toward more rural and southern influences had already begun prior to the release of The Depression Blues, as Marshall assimilated Keeney’s pedal steel, and took a turn toward honky tonk and outlaw country.
“Maybe the others would kick me for saying it, but our newest music definitely has a different feeling,” McNulty says. “And it’s a more country feeling.
“The last record had a singular feeling, and it had a lot of pedal steel, which helped give it a consistent feel. This next one will have that consistency, too, but in a whole different way.”
Guy Marshall will play Preservation Pub Thursday, Nov. 24 at 10 p.m.