Tucked away in the back corner of Ben’s Next Door last night, among the cacophony of clamoring plates and conversations was Marshall Sims. He was there celebrating the release of his new single “BESTFRIENDS” which is now available on all the major digital music outlets. Accompanied with his band members Nathaniel Sigh (Keys), Mike Smith (Bass), Ronnie Collins (Guitar), and Cedric Edmon II (Set), Sims gave an unusually seasoned sound and performance not commonly associated with artists in his age group. Despite the less than subpar quality of the sound system at Ben’s Next Door (Which is a bit shocking considering the relatively high plate prices and the fact that the establishment is a part of Ben’s Chilli Bowl which has been a staple in DC for decades.), Sims and his band pushed through and put on a rather enjoyable show.
There is no over embellishing when it comes to Marshall Sims. He knows his lane when it comes to music and sticks to it. That’s so important especially when most young artists are so consumed with finding their voices that by the time that they do, so much music has been wasted. His first set opened with a Marvin Gaye cover of “What’s Going On?” which as aforementioned complimented the tone of his voice. He then went into “The Red One”, and “Love”. It’s such a shame that youngsters aren’t as interested in the art of crooning anymore. After his show Sims was available for an interview:
Harvey: Coming off of your recent performance at The Howard Theatre, how do you feel about it?
Marshall: It was an amazing experience, I've been praying for the Howard Theatre to give me a chance since I was a senior and it’s been about a year since I've graduated, so seeing it happen the way that it did was amazing.
Harvey: And how did it happen?
Marshall: Well I interned with Shiba Haley and when I was in school she asked me what I wanted to do in life, and she gave me the chance.
Harvey: How long have you been involved in music?
Marshall: I’ve been singing since I was 3, and I have been writing my own music since I was 19.
Harvey: Do you remember the first song you wrote?
Marshall: The first song I wrote… there wasn't a title for but I remember it was for my dad who passed away.
Harvey: Who Influences you?
Marshall: Donny Hathaway, Sarah Vaughn, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, and Raphael Saadiq.
Harvey: What is the writing process like for you?
Marshall: Experience first. I write all of my music based on experience, experiences that touch me to my core. I just kind of allow it to do what it wants and I write about it.
Harvey: At what point did you realize that music is what you’d be doing?
Marshall: Well like I said, I've been singing since I was 3 and then when I went to high school I did musical theatre so that was my first time ever being on stage and performing, and it’s been the most amazing feeling I ever felt in my life. I've had the desire, but it wasn't until I’d written my first song and then let someone hear it and they enjoyed it, and I was like well maybe I can do this and then somebody gave me a chance, I got on stage, the response was good and the rest is history.
Harvey: What can listeners expect from this upcoming project of yours?
Marshall: Jazz Blues and Rock n Roll
Harvey: In that order?
Harvey: How long did it take you to complete it?
Marshall: I’m still not done with it; I’m releasing it in three installments. Jazz (Vol.1), Blues (Vol.2), and Rock n Roll (Vol.3). We just released the first song from Volume 1 and we’re in the process of mastering the rest. There will be three songs per volume.
Harvey: Now is there a reason for that particular order?
Marshall: I like how it sounds
Harvey: Which do you lean towards?
Marshall: Rock n Roll
Harvey: Really, any rock influences?
Marshall: Jimi Hendricks, I love Jimi Hendricks… “The Wind Cries Mary.”
Harvey: So do you play as well as sing?
Marshall: I played keys when I was 3, until my dad passed at 7 and then I stopped, which I regret. Hindsight is 20/20.
Harvey: Do you think you’ll ever pick it back up?
Marshall: Yea, I’m learning. Like I can identify keys, I know my scales, but I just don’t know how to… play.
Harvey: So on your next project, if you literally had your choice of any 3 artists that you could work with, musician or singer, who’d they be?
Marshall: Wow, Raphael Saadiq, I’d love to work with Raphael Saadiq. Kanye West, and Janelle Monae.
Harvey: What is it that you learned about yourself that you may not have necessarily known in finishing this project?
Marshall: I've learned that there is a purpose behind everything that you go through. If you just go through something and you just allow it to come and pass, it doesn't really serve you or anybody else. I think that we all go through things for someone else; So that we can be an example, a testimony, and so that we can be a blessing to someone else. So I've learned that nothing ever stops with me.
Harvey: What is your intent with music?
Marshall: To make people feel better when the listen than they did before they started.
Harvey: So is that how you’d describe your music, as ‘feel good music’?
Marshall: Yes. Did it make you feel good?
Harvey: Yes. It did.
Beneath the superficial piles or racks on racks of riffs and runs, and meticulous melismatic mellow drama is where Marshall Sims can best be heard. This is most evident on “Wisdom”, which he sang during his second set. His singing technique reflects his songwriting which is simplistic and effective in story telling, although annoyingly the stories were constantly rudely interrupted. His microphone kept going out, but Sims kept his cool and made it work as best he could. There is a bright future ahead for Marshall provided he continues to hold on to his humility while weeding through the grassroots of hole in the wall joints and back alley bars. It is these kinds of experiences that birth long standing musical careers.
What’s Going On
The Red One
Remember The Time
Light It Up
For The Little Ghetto Boy
Fabric of a Man