Spotlight: Marc Ford

Brian Robbins on May 11, 2020
Spotlight: Marc Ford

When the Magpie Salute veered off the road in February 2019, after two years of hard touring, guitarist Marc Ford returned home to California, knowing something wasn’t quite right.

“We were all pretty burnt at that point,” he says, calling from his San Clemente home. “We’d gone at it hard and the band was great, but it’s discouraging when you throw everything that you can at it and, for whatever reason, it isn’t working. Rich was making all the decisions with Magpie. He ran it the way he wanted to run it—good, bad or whatever—and it ended up the way it ended up.”

The “Rich” he is referring to, of course, is Black Crowes cofounder Rich Robinson. Ford did two tours of duty with the Crowes (1991-1997 and 2005-2006) and his renewed friendship with Robinson was the nucleus of The Magpie Salute’s 2016 formation.

But, after a few successful runs with The Magpie Salute, Ford started to feel that something wasn’t quite right. Beyond financial issues, there was a vibe hanging over the band, which the guitarist still can’t quite describe.

“We’d been told we weren’t touring again in 2019,” says Ford. “And that’s all any of us knew. Rich and I still talked about things now and again; but, little by little, we were talking less and less. And then, one day, I tried calling Rich and he’d changed his phone number.”

By the time that The Magpie Salute’s second studio album High Water II was released last October, the band members were starting to wonder what was going on. A month later, they found out the answer along with the rest of the world: Rich Robinson had reconciled with his brother Chris and reformed The Black Crowes with a totally new cast of players.

“It’s too bad that it was handled that way,” says Ford. “The rest of us were just waiting around for Magpie to start back up—if we’d known there was no future for the band, we would’ve done other
things. Nobody else was calling us—as far as they knew, we were busy with Magpie.”

“But,” he adds with an air of California Zen, “you just gotta move on.”

Over the winter months, it appeared that part of that moving on process would involve forming a new recording and touring project with Eric Lindell. Lindell—a Bay Area-born, New Orleans-based singer/songwriter/bassist/guitarist known for his mix of blues, soul and funk—first crossed paths with Ford when they both played the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival in 2007. Twelve years later, Lindell reached out to Ford about getting together again for some recording and touring. They dubbed their new venture the West Coast Reunion.

“Eric came to me with the idea of doing something,” says Ford. “We weren’t even sure at first what it was going to be, but it began to morph into something… We were starting to write new music together and book gigs.”

And then, as suddenly as it started, the West Coast Reunion ended, just a day before their spring tour dates were set to be announced.

“It started with Eric and it ended with Eric,” says Ford. “I couldn’t really get a real reason from him. He just said, ‘This ain’t happening—I’m out.’”

Ford pauses with a dry chuckle. “Two scenarios in a year where things weren’t handled well and I kinda got left out to dry.”

Regardless, Ford is still excited about all he has coming down the pipeline. In the near future, he will release his 2010 solo album Fuzz Machine—which is true ambrosia for guitar enthusiasts—on vinyl. He’s also jumped back into production work—his past credits include albums for the PawnShop Kings, Ryan Bingham, Steepwater Band, Chris Lizotte, Jonny Burke, Phantom Limb and Republique du Salem—and he is already slated to work with Texasbased singer-songwriter Red Shahan.

Ford explains that, in his role as producer, he’s “really just a trusted opinion. People are paying me to have an outside perspective and to be a problem solver for anything that might come up. I’m kind of an interpreter, I guess—that’s how I see it. It’s not always going to be the best-sounding record, or it might sound better than most. But at least, hopefully, the record will let the artist tell their story and get their ideas across.”

Another project that Ford has been involved with showcases his guitar prowess. “That one’s for my buddy Dan Moore [co-writer of “Devil’s in the Details” on Ford’s 2017 album The Vulture]. Dan’s a really great songwriter; a bunch of us went into the studio and played through 10 of his songs in two days.”

And, of course, there are live dates being booked with the Marc Ford Band, which will likely include drummer Phil Jones and bassist Michael Mennell.

“I know we’re looking at some East Coast dates” says Ford. “We’ll see where things go from there. It’s all good.