Michael Deeds: Ex-Boisean Marcus Eaton, David Crosby soar on new album

mdeeds@idahostatesman.comJanuary 26, 2014 

Dammit!” David Crosby scolded. He’d just heard Marcus Eaton’s acoustic guitar performance of “Holding On to Nothing,” one of 11 songs that wound up on the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s first solo album in more than two decades.

“I really wanted to play on that,” Crosby complained fondly. “But you played it better than I’m going to be able to play it.”

Eaton laughs at the anecdote. Phoning from his home in Sherman Oaks, Calif., where he moved from Boise in May 2012, he gratefully shares stories about laying down tracks for “Croz.”

Eaton played nearly all of the acoustic guitar on the album, which took more than two years to make. He sang on eight songs and co-wrote two. He’s now a member of Crosby’s touring band.

On Thursday, Eaton will appear on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” (11:35 p.m., NBC), helping Crosby showcase the album’s shimmering, stratospheric first song, “What’s Broken.”

The friendship has been evolving for years, but everything still feels borderline surreal sometimes, Eaton admits: meeting Crosby through a mutual friend in 2009; cautiously watching their musical relationship grow; collaborating extensively with Crosby and his son, James Raymond, on “Croz”; joining Crosby’s band for a tour that begins Tuesday; performing two days later on “Fallon.”

Oh, and singing harmonies with the most recognizable member of Crosby, Stills and Nash ...

“It’s nuts,” Eaton says. “It’s like otherworldly.

“What a huge shot in the arm. It’s an awesome experience.”

Eaton grew up in Pocatello, the son of Steve Eaton, an accomplished producer and songwriter who penned tunes for Anne Murray, Art Garfunkel, Glenn Campbell and The Carpenters (including a Top 40 hit in 1977, “All You Get From Love Is a Love Song.”)

Marcus moved to Boise more than a decade ago, performing as a singer-songwriter locally and regionally. A stunningly proficient acoustic guitarist, he’s spent the past 15 years on a roller coaster of hopeful highs and disappointing lows. He’s traveled hundreds of thousands of miles gigging, improving, chasing his dream.

Then he met Crosby.

When I spoke to Crosby about Eaton in 2011, it was clear that the connection between the now 72-year-old and 33-year-old was real. Crosby bragged that Eaton played guitar “like God on a good day.”

But it turned out that it wasn’t just Eaton’s fretboard skills that suited Crosby; it was his voice.

“Marcus has this eerie ability to sound exactly like me — right above me,” Crosby explains in a short making-of-“Croz” documentary video at RollingStone.com (find it at my “Words & Deeds” blog).

The discovery was a revelation for Eaton, too.

“I had so much fun playing guitar on this album,” Eaton says. “But singing those vocals was just even beyond that for me.

“I got to be all over this thing, man. It’s incredible. It’s incredible. What a trip. What a huge honor. God, it’s so fun. The thing that’s really fun now is, it’s kind of a test to see if it would actually work live. Because obviously, there’s some nerves involved. This is the first new thing Crosby has done in a really long time. Who knows? What do you do when you get out on stage to see if it’s going to work?”

Ten days ago, they opened a Santa Barbara, Calif., concert by playing the entire album. The second set consisted of classic Crosby material.

“Man, it was just awesome,” Eaton says. “We nailed it. It was killer.”

The tour will continue through February. The majority of shows are sold out.

In March, Eaton will focus on recording his own album, which he plans to release later this year. He raised more than $31,000 on Kickstarter to fund it. He’s hoping for Crosby and Raymond to be a part of it.

Eaton and Crosby have many similar musical ideas, unusual as that might initially seem.

“We just have the same perspective on a lot of things,” Eaton says. “The thing that I really love about him in addition to everything else is he just pushes himself to do new things.

“I want to keep things progressive and keep moving forward, and he’s 72 and doing it. He’s doing it.”

The two musicians share a joy for quirky time signatures throughout “Croz,” which still manages to sound soothing and gorgeous. Maybe it’s Crosby’s voice, but it evokes the 1970s while feeling modern.

“That album is a SERIOUS piece of work,” Eaton says. “Just a serious undertaking. Not for the faint of heart.”

The men also have a passion for the perfect song. That’s why Crosby happily acquiesced most acoustic guitar duties to Eaton.

“He’s a very humble guy,” Eaton says, before summing up his mentor: “What a cool person, and a great person to look up to.”

STAGECOACH INN WAS NOT THE RANCH CLUB

Last week’s column stated — incorrectly —that a co-worker witnessed smoking at The Stagecoach Inn. After publication, he realized that he had been at the nearby Ranch Club, not the Stagecoach, which hasn’t allowed smoking in years. It was an honest mistake, but a boneheaded oversight on both our parts. We regret the error.

TONIGHT IN ‘THE OTHER STUDIO’

Join Tim Johnstone and me as we discuss music and spin new songs from acts including Crosby and The Hold Steady, plus preview a free Monday night concert from bluesy singer-guitarist Hamilton Loomis at Jo’s Sunshine Lounge in Boise.

“The Other Studio” airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.

IN SCENE MAGAZINE JAN. 31

- The Boise Art Museum gets haunted with two exhibits: Anna Fidler’s “Vampires and Wolf Men” and Stacey Steers’ “Night Hunter House.”

- A guide to what Treasure Valley restaurants are offering for Valentine’s Day — and how to get a reservation.

Michael Deeds’ column runs Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life. He co-hosts “The Other Studio” at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River and appears Thursdays on Channel 6 News. Email: mdeeds@ idahostatesman.com. Twitter: @IDS_Deeds

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