Vancouver-based Marq DeSouza is a former member of Solarbaby. He has shared the stage with artists like Sir Bob Geldof, Sarah Harmer, Drive By Truckers, Matthew Good, and Nickelback, and released five albums.
Cendrine Marrouat: Hello Marq, thank you for answering my questions. First, tell us a little more about you.
Marq DeSouza: At this point, you could call me a veteran of the singer/songwriter scene out here in Vancouver, BC. Far from typical though. I’ve bashed around through country, metal, and even showtune, jazzy type stuff in my various projects. I also used to be a professional drummer before switching over to do my own material.
CM: Is there a particular event that triggered your desire to become a professional musician?
MDS: It’s really all I’ve ever really been consumed by. Even after all this time, there’s nothing for me that even comes close to this incredible rush that comes with writing and performing. I thought that at some point that the thrill would be somehow diminish, or the riddles would be solved, but my awe of it has only increased.
CM: Your latest release dates back to 2009. What are the themes of the album?
MDS: With my last album, “… & All His Boyish Charms,” I set out to make an archetypal ‘singer/songwriter’ record. All that really meant was that I wanted a grab-bag of classic styles that ran the gamut, with my voice holding center court through the whole thing. It covered all the bases, with some radio pop, pure country, torch balladry, to a few flat-out rockers.
Lyrically, all I ever really try to do is hang some worthy meat over the musical skeleton. It’s sort of voodoo mathematics. There’s a definite story and structure there, but it doesn’t really reveal itself in any obvious way. It’s intangible to really communicate it verbally. The music tells the story. The listener must put the time in, which is the tough part these days.
The other thing I always do is avoid pretentiousness at any cost.
CM: How different is this album from your other ones?
MDS: All of my records have been vastly different, to the detriment of gaining much traction with any specific audience demographic. I just get bored easily I guess. At the heart of it though is the songs, and at their essence, they all fit as a piece no matter what record they’re from.
I can perform a song I wrote when I was a teenager, and it can sit alongside one fresh off the presses. It’s usually in the recording that you get to play around with how it could be perceived. It’s an aural fashion show. Sometimes you dress them up in glitz and glamor. Other times, it’s minimalist chique, and sometimes a funny hat makes all the difference.
CM: If you had to choose a specific song from your repertoire, what would it be? And why?
MDS: I have a song called “Keep Your Gunpowder Dry” that was on my third record. It’s 11 minutes long, and I seem to be living it out verse by verse, which concerns me.
CM: How do you usually work on a piece? Do you need a particular setting or do you go with the flow?
MDS: To this day, I’ve never sat down and written a song. I’ve tried to do that, and never gotten anywhere. All I can do is wait for inspiration to strike, and take advantage when it does. I write all my lyrics and melodies while I’m walking around doing other things, then just organize them when I get a chance.
CM: Sir Bob Geldof told you once that you reminded him of a ‘young Van Morrison’. And Todd Kerns has also called you his favorite Canadian songwriter. How does it feel, as an independent artist, to be acknowledged by such prominent peers?
MDS: I’ve always felt like an outsider, so anytime anyone acknowledges my work, it’s nice. The one thing I’ve found is that the more successful artists, who you might assume would be difficult or egotistical, are actually the nicest, most down to earth and easiest to deal with. There’s a reason they got where they are, professionalism being a huge part of it, but also a sense of security in their own skin and talent. That’s something I strive for regardless of commercial success. It’s a noble pursuit if you can manage to keep your dignity.
CM: You have performed with an impressive group of artists in your career. What is your favourite memory?
MDS: Funnily enough, all my favorite memories of performing hinge on how well I could hear myself. I’ve played a good 90% of my shows not being able to hear a damn thing. Most musicians would have the same experience. Sometimes it is the quality of the sound system, other times I’m being accompanied by musicians that need to hear themselves more than me due to unfamiliarity with the material. In those cases, I take the hit and let them go loud. It’s partly why I’ve enjoyed playing solo shows the last few years.
CM: Who are your influences?
MDS: I like simple, song-based ‘American’ music. That basically means the magical stuff that sprang from the Jazz, Blues and Country of the mid-twentieth century all the way through the Brits re-teaching it to the Yanks, to the punk/metal/hip-hop revolutions that followed. Wide ranging for sure. From Chuck Berry to Guns N’ Roses, with Manse Lipscomb & Cannibal Corpse book-ending either side of them.
CM: You have been busy organizing a small concert series that will take place this summer in Vancouver. Would you tell us a little more about it?
MDS: Yes! I am curating a summer music series at Trees Organic Cafe in the popular Vancouver tourist hub of Gastown. We will be having three performers every Saturday night from June to September. Admission is basically free, with the option of a donation going towards the hard-working musicians. It’s an excellent venue with great staff, killer coffee, and the best cheesecake in town.
It’s been an honor to ask some of my favorite unheralded players to be a part of it, while at the same time discovering a lot of talent that I’d somehow never come across. It’s astonishing what’s right outside your door.
CM: Where can people find more information about you and your music?
CM: Any last words?
MDS: As mentioned before, I’ll be at Trees in Gastown every Saturday night from June to September, so come on out and say hello, as well as hear some great stuff. And also, thanks for the support Cendrine!