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Music helps Marcus King overcome social anxiety and connect with fans

Marcus King, center, carries on his family’s musical legacy with “The Marcus King Band.” (Jacob Blickenstaff)
Marcus King, center, carries on his family’s musical legacy with “The Marcus King Band.” (Jacob Blickenstaff)

When Marcus King was young, he toyed with the idea of pursuing psychiatric work or becoming a priest when he grew up.

But as the son of blues guitarist Marvin King and grandson of a regionally-known guitarist, King knew there was a good chance music would be in his future.

“Realistically, I think I always really knew what I wanted to do from the time I started having those thoughts,” he said.

King was also drawn to music as a child because it allowed him to express himself in a way his social anxiety couldn’t hinder.

“Later I became more self-aware of it and could channel it more directly through the music,” he said. “But at a young age, it was a way for me to get those emotions out that I wasn’t able to say.”

Though performing may be an odd career choice for someone with social anxiety, it has taught King, who said he loves meeting new people and is frustrated when his anxiety makes him incapable of doing so, how to deal with it.

The Marcus King Band will perform at the Knitting Factory on Friday.

2015 saw the release of the Marcus King Band’s debut album, “Soul Insight,” and in October, the Greenville, South Carolina native again added to the King family’s musical legacy with the release of “The Marcus King Band.”

On the album, King’s pleasantly rough voice ranges from spirited and rousing to the world-weary croon of a man much older than his 21 years.

Though they’re frequently classified as a blues act, the Marcus King Band is much more, as bassist Stephen Campbell, keyboard and organ player Matt Jennings, trumpet and trombone player Justin Johnson, guitarist King, saxophone player Dean Mitchell and drummer Jack Ryan blend elements of blues and soul with Southern and psychedelic rock.

Guitarist Derek Trucks is featured on “Self-Hatred,” and Warren Haynes, of Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule fame, played slide guitar on “Virginia.”

Haynes also produced the record, an experience King said put the band’s mind at ease as they set to work on their major label debut.

“There was a little bit of pressure that he took off and allowed us to be ourselves,” King said. “The guidance that he provided allowed us to be the best us that we could be in the circumstances.”

“The Marcus King Band” peaked at number two on the “Billboard” Blues Albums Chart.

Less than a year after the album’s release, the Marcus King Band is already working on a follow up. The band has been demoing songs, and King is read to write even more.

It’s through his writing that King is able to bypass his social anxiety and connect with fans.

“I always love to talk to people and hear what they’re going through,” he said. “Whenever our music can help somebody through something is a very gratifying moment.”

In this way, King acts as the therapist he thought he one day might become. But even now, music wins.

“The degree would be nice to have but I think I prefer this,” he said with a laugh.

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