Take 5 : Marcus Gray

Marcus Gray is a British singer songwriter who doesn’t like to define himself as solely one genre or another. Making music he likes and what excites people is purely what drives his prodigious talent. He was born in SW London, grew up in Surrey and moved to the artistic hub of Brighton on the South Coast in 2018 where he thrives to this day on the musical and creative vibes generated in the city. He recently released his debut single Free Man. We wanted to find out more with a Take 5…

When did you realise that you wanted to be a music artist? What or who has inspired you?

I’ve always been moved and influenced by music from pretty much a toddler. I was in the school choir as a kid, and a handful of primary school orchestras (playing trumpet) and musicals. Unfortunately, a long line of not particularly great music educators pushed me away from the hobby and by 13 or so I was pretty much one of those kids who ‘hates music’. 

At 13 I went to see The Pogues at The O2, my first gig, and Frank Turner was supporting, we caught the last couple songs of his set, and I was, as cliché as it sounds, blown away. Completely in awe of the stage presence and so when I got home I looked him up. The next bit was pretty standard; I suddenly discovered a type of music I hadn’t before, lyrically brilliant and sophisticated yet so relatable. For the next 3 years I basically listened on repeat. Shortly after The Pogues gig, I got an acoustic guitar for my birthday and taught myself to play. Writing came shortly after, and now 7 or so years down the line here we are. 

I could list a long line of inspirations BUT, the short list of who initially got me into writing is Frank Turner, Bob Dylan, Noel Gallagher and Bruce Springsteen

Who, living or dead, would you dream of collaborating with?

I’d obviously love to work with any of the names above, but I’m not a fan of writing with other people. Everything I write has a strong meaning behind it, and, almost always, that meaning is personal and getting someone else involved in that process would take some pretty deep levels of trust. This being said, there’s a big group of people I’d love to be in a room with and see them write.

Tell us about your single –’Free Man’- what is the song about?

Free Man was written differently from most of my songs, in the way that it was written in the car driving back home to Brighton in May some time. I had this repeating melody in my head and so just started playing around with words as my voice memos recorded. I think I wrote the 1st, 2nd and 3rd verse in the car. The rest came later. 

The song is about running from my own mind. In the opening verse I sing ‘I wanna be a free man, clean man, I’m running through my dreams man’, this is my way of saying I’m frantically running through my own thoughts. “leaving the doors, open for me” refers to doing my best to keep my options open. 

I won’t dissect the entire song here, but the chorus talks about time passing quickly, lies from wise people and how I can only be me. 

Tell us five things you love about the city you live in – Brighton –  and why……

  • 1. It’s generally a pretty positive place to be.
  • 2. The music scene is good, plenty of open mics to test waters for those starting out.
  • 3. Being by the beach is always a winner.
  • 4. A fair few good pubs.
  • 5. I’m only a 10 min drive from the Sussex Downs

What are you most looking forward to this year? 

The lockdown being over, having a pint (or 10) and playing a shit tonne of shows.