We were lucky enough to snag a few minutes with legend Marcus Benito before he hit the stage with DMA'S at the Forum. He provided insight into what it takes to be a musician and what life on the road is really like.
Music clearly plays a massive role in your life. How long have you been involved in the industry and where did you get your start?
I started playing in bands when I was 13. I’ve pretty much played or worked in music ever since then. When I was 16, I decided the best way to really jump start my career in this lucrative industry, was to offer to go on the road with some bigger bands for free. I left school and spent those first few years surrounding myself with some pretty amazing musicians and music professionals, and developing relationships that I rely on constantly, even still to this day.
You’ve played and worked alongside some pretty awesome names in music. What has been your favourite or most memorable gig?
That's a tough one. As a session guitar player, I have done sold out shows in huge arenas, played half time shows at football finals and been to some pretty crazy places in the world to play, and of course I’m super grateful for those opportunities and experiences. But honestly, I think I’ve had more amazing "pinch yourself" moments when working for bands that I’ve watched from the start when they were playing for 100 people, then to see them play a huge sold out show to thousands of people. Hearing 20,000 punters sing the opening melody to ‘Strange Diseases’ by Gang Of Youths, seeing 10,000 Scottish fans soccer chanting ‘DMA’S’ before they walk on stage...that shit is wild, it gives me goosebumps just typing it. Thats why I got into music, it's a feeling that cannot be replicated.
Tell us how you prepare for a show. Do you have a pre-show ritual or routine that is crucial before performing?
No rituals or routines per say. My time these days is split between playing myself or working for the players. When playing, I am generally quite relaxed, I just try to walk onstage warm and full of energy. Because I am a musician also, when I work for other bands, I have the ability to know first hand what it feels like when a player walks on stage and something doesn’t feel right or something goes wrong. Because of that, I am extremely methodical and thorough leading up to the performance. I’ll generally go through a pretty extensive checklist covering the gear, the space and any quirky preferences the artists may like.
What is life on the road like? Any wild tour stories you can share with us?
It’s funny that we still get asked this question a lot. Life on the road nowadays is so different to the times you read about in a Keith Richards book. It's so professional now, it has to be. Social media keeps everyone on their best behaviour always and the sheer amount of bands/musicians waiting in the wings to take your position means you must deliver 100% at every show, every single day.
Touring requires you to constantly be on the move - what are your packing essentials and how do you prepare for months of being away?
I’m awful at packing. I would love to say that after all these years of living out of a bag, I have it down pat, but I really don’t. I pack EVERYTHING. 4 pairs of shoes/boots (thanks Croft) every piece of clothing for hot/cold/rain/snow/hail and apocalypse. I always tour a bunch of different health products, as its really easy to slip into eating terribly and getting unwell when touring. I always pack a skipping rope and resistance bands and try to do a morning workout/stretch. I also travel with a diffuser and some essential oils, as tour busses with 11 people tend to not smell amazing. It’s not such a rock and roll list now that I read it back…seems more like a yoga retreat doesn’t it?
The reality is touring is really f*cking intense. If you want to do it for living, and maintain your health/sanity, then you need to do all you possibly can to offset the late nights, bad food, lots of alcohol, bad beds/no beds, heavy gear, countless hours on aeroplanes and more.
Style is important when you’re on stage in front of tons of people. How would you describe your personal style? Does it differ on and off stage?
I’m a huge fan of the classics. Denim is my go to for pants and jackets, a basic tee and a quality pair of boots. People still look at guys like James Dean as style icons for a reason.
What’s your go to CROFT* shoe when you’re on tour?
Recently, I’ve been wearing the Camden boots in Cigar and loving them. They are the perfect mix of casual and dressy, and when travelling light, you need a boot that can handle a few different scenarios.
In addition to being a talented musician, you’re also a tour manager and creative director. Tell us more about your experience on the business side of things.
Being able to do both roles has assisted my career greatly. I literally wouldn’t have one without the other. Playing guitar for a living is amazing, but I honestly equally love the challenge of working to design an artist’s live show, or navigating the world and all its stresses for a band. My biggest lesson in this life so far is that knowledge is power, so I always suggest to any young working musicians out there to spend some time learning Music Business, Creative Design, Tour Management, Travel and Logistics, Accounting, etc etc. The less you rely on someone else, the better.
What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about the life of a musician?
That it’s REALLY HARD WORK and not just parties!
If you could play with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Hrmmm, tough one. I think the answer has to be Pink Floyd.
Who are you listening to at the moment? Any new songs or bands that are playlist essentials?
As I write this I’m listening to ‘Catching Flies’ a young producer of electronic/chilled beats from London. I love this kind of ambient background music for working and on planes etc. I generally stick to this slightly more ambient genre with artists like BONOBO, Fleet Foxes, The War On Drugs, etc.
What’s on the horizon? Do you have any exciting performances or tours you’re prepping for?
I’ve just finished a huge few months away in Europe and OZ with DMA’S, watching them absolutely nailing some giant performances. Now I have a few rare weeks home before I start the Fleetwood Mac tour in the US.