Marshall OKell is fresh from playing at the Byron Bay Bluesfest for the fifth time, having been touring since 2013 for his latest album Birdy. With a vibrant and electric live performance that is a must-see Christie Ots caught up with him about a life spent dedicated to music and why his latest release means so much to him.
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Birdy, released in April 2013, holds a special place in Marshall’s heart. Showcasing collaborations from amazing artists and friends like Hussy Hicks, Hat Fitz and Chase The Sun, Birdy was produced by the late and great Brian ‘Birdy’ Burdett.
Speaking of the recording experience Marshall says it was beautiful and amazing and heavy.
“Losing Birdy right towards the end of it, I just had to take some time out from the music. I would listen to the songs and just get floods of memories from our time hanging out together and he was like my brother so that was really hard,” he said.
To finish the album Marshall called upon a few friends, like Leesa and Julz from GC duo Hussy Hicks. “We all sat around and sang songs together and cried and helped each other through it. When I started this album I approached Birdy and wanted to record all of the songs that we sit around and play after the gigs. We spent a lot of time with the girls, as well as others, just sharing our special songs; so it’s a big family album.”
Playing certain songs, like Birdy, still managse to spook Marshall and it’s taken almost eighteen months to be able to play the song without being thrown and forgetting lyrics.
However playing at Bluesfest almost seems like a homecoming and Marshall has played several times since winning the Bluesfest Busking competition in 2007.
Recounting a story from one of the five Bluesfests it is easy to understand why the festival is one of Marshall’s favourites.
“One year at the Juke Joint stage, it was so packed you couldn’t fit in anymore people, and they had these big security guards that had to hold the speakers up because people were jumping so much they almost fell over.”
“We had a couple of thousand people singing Friends for Life to us, which gives you a crazy energy.”
Having been on tour for almost eight years now, with breaks in between to record, music is clearly a full-time job.
“My dad was a great muso and I grew up around him and his band. I love it, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I wake up early most days and before I’m clouded from the day I just start jamming. I keep the inspiration flowing,” he says laughing.
“Partying, surfing and making love all help. I try not to force the writing.”
Having played music since he was eleven Marshall has quite the back catalogue to pull from, and mixed songs from Birdy with old favourites at Bluesfest; proving once again to be a crowd favourite.
Beth Hart and The Wailers are just some of the artists that he wanted to see for himself, as well as John Mayer – though just to see him play guitar,
“I like him when he’s playing guitar, not when he’s talking,” Marshall explains laughing.
To catch Marshall’s passion and energy with a set as electric as Bluesfest, head to Blues on Broadbeach, 22 May.