Story by Dick Hildebrand
Photography by Syx Langemann
“I’ve always known this is what I was meant to do.” That’s how local musician Max Marshall, 33, describes his international aclaim as a solo performer.
He was born in Windsor and grew up in the area surrounded by a musical family… undoubtedly a circumstance that would have a profound effect on his future. He has a younger brother, who never pursued music. Max’s mother studied music in university, his father was musical, his aunt was a cellist with the Toronto Symphony for some time and is a member of a steel drum orchestra which occasionally tours. Even in grade school, the young man’s eclectic musical tastes included Jimi Hendrix, the blues and east coast folk music, for which he had a “deep admiration and respect”. He didn’t have other hobbies, even though his mother signed him up for hockey. When that failed, he tried his hand at soccer, another project that ended in calamity, as Max kicked the ball into his own team’s net! Finally…and he was only 7 at the time, he asked to be left alone to play his guitar.
“That is all I wanted to do,” he says laughingly. Always interested in the arts, Max finished his high school years at Walkerville Collegiate and headed to the University of Windsor where he “briefly” studied classical and jazz music on the upright bass. “However, I couldn’t….no, didn’t finish,” he says, “because I wasn’t able to rein myself in to the discipline of the post secondary world. Nonetheless it was still a good learning experience.”
He’s always had music in his life, but as he puts it, “it’s always been on my terms.” He had a difficult time working under teachers and succeeded in being his only and best critic. Being the consummate perfectionist he admits to being very hard on himself, which in turn, he believes, allowed him to become a better teacher. Despite his hectic performing schedule, he still manages to teach music two days a week.
Every year from springtime to the fall, he’s on the road performing all over Canada and the United Kingdom, where he’s amassed a fairly large fan base. This year, he managed at least 200 performances and was reviewed in the latest issue of the British publication, ‘Blues Matters’, which is syndicated across the U.K.
At one point in his life, he was somewhat of a rolling stone. He worked in a butcher shop for a few years and spent some time at Memorial University in St. John’s Newfoundland studying folklore and returned to Essex County where he was about to become a father. A second child is on the way and should be arriving in May of next year.
Max’s foray into music began at an early age. He started playing the piano at age 5, switched to the guitar a couple of years later, and then transferred to the bass. Fewer than 10 years ago, he picked up the guitar again which proved to have been a boon to his career. He worked hard at developing his finger-picking style, much like the late Chet Atkins, and eventually became the accomplished guitarist that he is today. Incidentally, he was only 14 when he began his bar gigs at the former California’s on Walker Road. “But we were pretty bad,” he recalls.
Max was in his 20s when he decided to go it alone. He wanted to be “totally on my own — it’s actually quite isolationist but my style of guitar playing is stand alone. Your thumb is your bass player, your first finger is your soloist, while the others perform the rythm.” Besides that, he adds, “band members these days don’t make a lot of money, but as a single act you can actually earn a living wage.” And yet, having lost the desire to work with others, he hasn’t totally given up on bands. He’s still a member of the Kenneth MacLeod and the Windsor Salt Band which was popular about ten years ago and still performs a bit these days with lots of Cape Breton east coast tunes and other popular covers. He’s also a co-founder of the Soul Delegation, an 8 piece soul-funk-Motown band which makes frequent local appearances.
A versatile performer, Marshall’s first priority is to please his audience and he’ll pretty much honor all requests. Locally, he concentrates on playing covers of popular tunes in bars, clubs and private events. On the road, he does a lot of original songs, a number of which can be found on his album titled ‘Songs From a Little Green House’, which was recorded by Mark Plancke of LaSalle. It features only Max and his trusty acoustic guitar, or as he likes to say…. “recorded straight off the floor on a traditional tape recorder.” They can be ordered by logging on to maxmarshall.org. A third album is in the works right now and will be primarily recorded by Marshall at his Harrow area home, although several of the tracks will be engineered by Luc Michaud at Highland Studios in Windsor. Watch for it in the spring of next year.
Already, 2018 is shaping up as a great year for Max Marshall. He’s already been signed to perform at the Kingsville Folk Festival and Weekend Blues International in Montreal and will also be on the road again for a cross-Canada tour and another set of shows in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe. All of his appearance dates can be found on his website, along with a number of examples of his music.
Right now, he’s getting set for the holiday season and is filling his calendar for private parties and other related events.
Anyone interested in booking this exciting singer is invited to e-mail
. He has devoted his professional life to music and considers himself extremely fortunate to have the earning power to make it a full-time career.
Summing up who he is, Max has a simple explanation: “I am a finger-style, country blues, ragtime, folk machine!”