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Labor of Love: Marty O'Reilly
How did the making of music become your life?
I spent most of my life being terrible at pretty much everything, including other musical instruments before guitar. The moment I learned my first guitar chord I was absolutely hooked. Over time I developed a passion, not just for playing guitar, but for many things relating to it: first singing, then writing songs, then performing, playing with others, being a band leader, touring, booking and promoting shows, managing the project. I’ve fallen in love with pretty much every aspect of my job... except the financials.
How did you get your start?
I had a couple guitar teachers- Saul Kaye, and Sean Carscadden, who ended up teaching me about much more than guitar. They taught me how to gig. Sean and I ended up starting a duo project together and we played some great shows. When I moved away to college I started a project with my current fiddle player, Chris Lynch, who had experience as a touring musician. Together we started this band with our original bass player Jeff Kissell, and we embarked upon the journey that I still am grateful to be a part of today.
In these times it's an incredible challenge getting by making music, how do you make it work?
I had to develop a lot of skills that many musicians and artists (including myself) aren’t born with. I had learn to treat my band as a small business once I realized that it is one. The key is to establish and articulate realistic goals and then work backward to map out a route to actually meeting them. For example, among my first set of goals was to be comfortably filling 200-300 capacity rooms in every major city on the west coast in three years. I looked at my rate of growth and figured out how many shows I’d need to play, how often, and how big of a growth in turnout I’d need to get me to 200 ticket sales in three years. Two years later we’d pulled it off. Then you reevaluate your goals and decide what’s next, taking in to consideration everything you learned the first time around. It’s an endless rabbit hole you can go down working backward from where you want to get to.
Who were your major influences?
In chronological order relative to my life:
Van Morrison, John Lee Hooker, Tom Waits, Leo Kottke, C.W. Stoneking, Andrew Bird, Grizzly Bear, Radiohead, Patrick Watson.
What guides your playing style?
It might sound silly or obvious, but my heart. I’m often a pretty sloppy guitar player. I’m not fast or fancy. I try to just play with as much feeling and honesty as I can. And secondly, I try to focus on my own voice as much as possible. Creating your own chord voicings, and paying attention to where your ear wants them to go really helps to create music that feels like you.
What's your rig?
My amp is a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. It's a simple, affordable amp, and I've never been able to beat the sound I get out of it. I keep it very simple as far as pedals go: Way Huge Fat Sandwich for low, fat, fuzzy sound, and a Rockett Audio Designs Archer Distortion for more of a high end, cutting boost. I got that one from CME!
A weird semi hollow by "Seville" that my dad found at a local music shop in Sonoma where I grew up. There’s basically nothing about Seville on the internet. I traded it for a PRS years ago, regretted it, and then years later the guy I traded it to just gave it back to me. I feel lucky to have it again.
I have two main guitars. The first is a handmade resonator guitar built at Roberto Venn School of Luthiery back in the 70’s. It’s the strangest, coolest guitar I’ve ever seen. The other is a C.F. Holcomb semi hollow. The builder is a friend of mine, and my particular guitar is one of the prototypes for his “Hunter” model. The resonator is for percussive rhythm stuff, and the semi hollow is for everything else.
Any gear you can't live without?
My setup is pretty simple but I have to stick to it. That being said I really can't play a show without my resonator.
I need that, and it's pretty important to me to have a decent fender tube amp that has both a volume and a master so I can drive the amp a bit without too much volume.
What do you have coming up? Albums? Tours?
Early stages of the next album. An East Coast run in May. A few great festivals this summer. Writing is the top priority right now.