DS Interview – Marc Orrell (ex-Dropkick Murphys) on his new project, Wild Roses

Marc Orrell is probably best known for his eight-year stint manning lead guitar, and occasionally piano, duties for Dropkick Murphys, a period of time that just so happened to coincide with the band’s meteoric rise to fame. In the years since leaving the Dropkicks, Orrell has relocated to California from his native Massachusetts, and spent some time in Jim Lindberg’s post-Pennywise project, Black Pacific.

Orrell can now be found fronting his own project, Wild Roses. The band recently released their debut EP, Denim. We were lucky enough to catch up with Orrell has the band are putting the finishing touches on their first full-length, recorded earlier this summer at The Bomb Shelter in Nashville. Click here to check it out our interview.

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): First and foremost, you’re fresh on the heels of your Wild Roses debut EP, Denim, hitting the streets. (Congratulations on that, by the way.) What sort of feedback are you getting from people so far?

Marc Orrell: Thanks! I am very excited about what the future holds for writing and pursuing things with Wild Roses. The possibilities seem endless. So far the feedback has been great. People seem to be digging it from the tours and shows to the Denim EP. Been making new friends and seeing old ones along the way. I can’t wait to do more.

Walk us through the origin of Wild Roses, if you could. Did the songs on Denim come from ideas you had been toying with over the years, or were they all written specifically for this release?

I have been writing quite a bit over the years, discovering new sounds and styles and a bit more about myself hanging out in Los Angeles. Trying different things here and there, having fun and generally trying to go with the flow and see where it takes me. Wild Roses basically started because of a friend of mine who books the bands at The Whisky, Jake Perry. Jake and I played hockey together when we were kids growing up in central MA. He booked me a solo show down at the legendary club that I did with just me and an acoustic guitar but I wanted the songs to have a bit more life to them so I asked him to please book me another show and said I would have a band next time, then I called up some friends of mine to come jam with me on a few songs I had kicking around and it kind of just took off from there. The next thing you know more songs are blossoming quicker and easier in a solid direction and tours are coming and going and now an EP has been released. It all started happening by itself right before my eyes. Fucking crazy how things like that happen.

Denim is definitely more of a straight-up, blues-inspired rock album than people might expect if they are only familiar with you through your time in the Dropkicks (although, maybe not if they’ve also listened to Rick Barton’s recent work). Aside from the obvious (Rolling Stones), what else were you listening to and drawing inspiration from at the time Wild Roses started?

Hah! I think even dogs know that I like the Rolling Stones. I do listen to a lot of different types of music. I am a huge Ryan Adams fan so I probably get a bit of inspiration from him. Maybe some from The Replacements and David Bowie. At the time WR started I was listening to a lot of LCD Soundsystem and the first Sleigh Bells record. I’m all over the shop, I am a bit ADD and sometimes have trouble staying on one subject. Look! A butterfly!

In a recent interview with Nick from Run Don’t Walk, you mentioned that Wild Roses is the focus now. After years of progressively bigger and bigger tours and shows with the Dropkicks, what’s the experience been like effectively ‘starting over’ with a new project, particularly from a live performing perspective?

It is a humbling experience. I have never been happier than when I am playing music, so for me, that over shadows touring in a cool tour bus or playing a huge festival even though those are great perks. The “starting up” process is frightening and exciting at the same time. I knew that building an audience would take some time so I am remembering to stay patient, trying to contain my excitement and just trying to get the tunes out to as many people as possible and hope that some people like them. I have been lucky enough to get on some rad tours and play on some great shows where people are very supportive so the live performance aspect has been sweet.

On a similar note, are the writing and performing processes different for you in a project where you are the frontman versus writing and performing as part of either someone else’s project or as part of a larger ensemble?

On the writing side, I have been trying to keep my mind open a lot more these days so there is more room to run around. I move forward with ideas easier if I just keep going rather than saying “nawwww, fuck that”. In the end, if I don’t really like it, I try to write another one instead of going around in circle. It is important for me to try and follow through though. Being a singer is a little different for me. I have to remember I can’t get another vocal chord down at the store if it breaks.

You also recently went to East Nashville for a recording session with Andrija Tokic at the Bomb Shelter (which is perhaps most noteworthy as being the combination behind one of my favorite albums in recent years, Alabama Shakes’ Boys And Girls). What brought you to Tennessee and what can we expect to hear from that session?

I heard the Alabama Shakes record, which I love. I got in touch with Andrjia through my friends who are in a band; “Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rackettes“. They are a rad nine piece, 60’s style R&B/Soul review band from Australia. So amazing, you should check them out. They worked with Andrjia briefly last year and I heard the raw sounds that they captured on that recording and the songs had such style, swagger and character. Andrjia works to 2 inch tape on a 24 track and it all sounded like something that could be a rad experience and so different from the way I’ve been recording over the past few years with Pro-tools. It had been 10 years since I recorded with tape so it was a bit of a throw back Thursday. Andrjia is a great, supportive guy and he helped me back up on the horse again. Tape can be pretty confronting because if you mess with the mix to change one part you don’t like you can screw up the parts of the mix you do like so the energy when you’re recording is a lot more intense, like “don’t blow it Marc!”.

Was the lineup you recorded with the same one you’ve been touring with, or is Wild Roses’ lineup still fluid at this point?

The Bomb Shelter sessions line up of musicians I worked wit were all local Nashville gems that Andrija helped me put together. Fucking amazingly talented players and all round great guys. I like jamming with other people to get different vibes going. There is no solid line up for Wild Roses yet, still working out the sounds and songs and just keeping things open for any opportunity to play and record when I can.

The last that I think we heard from you musically, prior to Wild Roses, was after joining Black Pacific. How’d that opportunity come about?

I got an email from Joe Sib at Side One Dummy asking if I was interested in playing with Jim Lindberg’s new project. I didn’t really know Jim personally before that but Joe sent me a few songs they were about to release on Side One. They sounded great so I got together with Jim, Gavin Caswell (bass), and Alan Vega (drums) and we fit like a glove jamming out the record. Another great bunch of guys. I realize how lucky I have been to play with so many cool people over the years.

There was talk of another Black Pacific release there for a while. Now that Jim is back with the Pennywise guys, is it fair to still consider Black Pacific an active project or is it on everyone’s back burner?

Everyone is doing their own thing right now but I hope we will get to jam again sometime in future. Love those guys. We have a blast playing together. We all drunk text each other a lot about how much we miss each other like an ex-girlfriend haha!

As a fellow early-30s Boston area native, I feel blessed to have grown up at the end of what was a pretty amazing scene. In more recent years, between guys moving away and a what seems like a comparatively smaller number of newer bands starting up, the Boston ‘scene’ has obviously become increasingly fractured. Any insight on why? Is the ceiling too low in Boston compared to some other places?

I’m not totally sure and I feel like I have been out of touch a bit with Boston music trying to get my head screwed on living over in LA but I’d like to see more all ages clubs open up everywhere. Couldn’t you build a stronger scene for a longer period of time while they’re young? Ages 15- 21? That’s 6 years. You could inspire all kinds of kids in that amount of time. Seems to me that a scene would be stronger, and last longer, the younger you start. A scene isn’t just about music. It’s about a community. Build a home for the kids to start a family so they can have a place to go to make friends and start bands. That’s what it was like for me growing up in MA

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