Musician and graphic designer Marcos Harkness, is pleased to announce the release of debut album, Pictures for A Living, an original and experimental take on roots music by his new band, The Marcos Lightning. In conjunction, Harkness has gathered together prominent North Carolina artists and designers to take his collection of impressionistic, image-rich tracks, and pair them with an exhibition of visual interpretations. The resulting collaboration is a beautiful tapestry of the integral artistic community of North Carolina — thoughtfully woven through song.
Harkness, himself an award-winner graphic designer and illustrator, has designed album art for musicians ranging from Townes Van Zandt to Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, and even Beyoncé. However, he has kept his own musical abilities under wraps until the past few years. On Pictures for a Living, Marc Harkness reveals that he’s not only an incredible visual/graphic artist, but a compelling musician as well. Showcasing his vast and versatile musical talents, “southpaw” Harkness not only plays the banjo, mandolin, acoustic and electric guitar...but plays them upside-down and backwards! His style and technique makes his sound distinctive and unique, alternating between haunting and fun, but always memorable. You may find yourself humming Harkness’ melodies for days on end.
“For a while, I resisted showing my songs to my musician friends — I mean, some of these folks operate at a very high level of musicianship. So I’ve been taking a few years to try to hone the craft, and try to get the requisite amount of bad songs out of my system to make way for the good. It took me a while to get past my perfectionism and to stop killing my children as soon as they came out, so to speak.”
“It’s a problem I run into as a designer and artist — being self-critical to the point of constipation. But with my design projects, I have deadlines and clients, so I have to stop pondering the perfect outcome, and get the work out. I’ve had to apply this to music —give myself deadlines and goals, and stick to them.”
While living in Washington, D.C., Harkness began hosting neighborhood jam sessions in his living room; these gatherings turned into a band, the bluegrassy buskers The Stick Mob, who released their debut EP of original songs in 2011. Harkness moved to North Carolina later that year and formed the Carrboro-based folk duo Quiet the Voices.
Also upon moving to North Carolina, Harkness connected with Mark Simonsen, multi-instrumentalist from the popular noir-rock band The Old Ceremony. Harkness asked Simonsen to help him produce a collection of his songs, ranging from the grim wilted bluegrass stomp of “Custis” to the buoyant dixieland kiss-off, “Pictures for a Living,” for which Simonsen recruited a horn section featuring members of Countdown Quartet and Peter Lamb and the Wolves.
“I credit Mark Simonsen and (engineer) Thom Canova with giving me the structure with which to arrange and record these songs. I had tried to self-record this album, but me doing it was like trying to re-invent the wheel. I knew that I needed someone to crack the whip on me, tell me to move on, or tell me a more efficient way to do a take or re-write a part.”
Other featured musicians include Roger Gupton, who produced and recorded Harkness’ haunting “Crooked Horn”; Phillips Saylor, who contributed clawhammer banjo and fierce electric guitars; and Harkness’ Quiet the Voices partner, Rose Gray, who added her sweet lilting vocals to “Day/Field” and “Starboard.”
To add another facet to Harkness’ innovative and artistic gem, Washington DC-based filmmaker Chris Preperato shot and directed two music videos for the project (“Starboard” and “Custis”).
The CD will be released on Tuesday April 10. There will be a gallery show and concert at Amplified Art in Raleigh, NC. The show will feature poster designs by prominent North Carolina designers Robin Vuchnich, Dave MacMillan, Carol Nix and Skillet Gillmore, as well as Harkness. There will be a live performance of the CD’s songs, and large-format posters will be available for purchase along with the CD.
Stream tracks from "Pictures for a Living" at www.reverbnation.com/marcoslightningharkness