One man, one guitar, and a lifetime of influences make up Hard Times, the unprecedented debut album by Marcus Bonfanti, released on The Guitar Label on 17th November 2008.
That lifetime may be just 26 years long, but the young Londoner, of Italian and British parentage, has packed enough playing into that time to create a distinctive sound, which may doff a cap to the very heart of the blues but is entirely his own.
With three years touring the world as a sideman, and hundreds of gigs with his own blues band, Marcus Bonfanti has the heart and soul of a confirmed bluesman, with the face of a rock star.
From a young age, Marcus was listening to classic rock, pop and blues, while rising through the ranks as a talented trumpeter at school – in demand by youth orchestras and bands. At the age of 15, however, a friend pointed him in the direction of Led Zeppelin IV, and everything changed.
“This was heavier than anything my father played at home. From the first bars of Black Dog, I wanted to be Jimmy Page.”
In his playing, Marcus is self-taught. “A few people showed me bits here and there, they taught me a few licks or songs but I could always seem to find my way around the guitar, it just felt right.” Practising first on his mum’s old acoustic, then a Fender Squire Stratocaster, he worked throughout the summer between school and sixth form to buy his first Les Paul – the Page guitar.
Soon he had formed a band with his best friend, and was being asked to play on sessions for musician friends. When it came to choosing a university course, only the Liverpool Institute of the Performing Arts gave him the musical freedom that he needed.
A three-piece blues band called Funtony, formed initially just to eat became so in demand, that Marcus left to concentrate on that.
During this period, Marcus was approached by his friend Sandi Thom to join her band for a world tour. “That was an incredible experience – my feet didn’t touch the ground. However, after three years I was ready to do my own thing again, and Sandi’s a good mate, she was incredibly supportive about me going off to do my own thing.”
Funtony had recorded an album in Liverpool, and some of those songs travelled back to London with Marcus last year. “I moved back to London with the songs I had already written, and started developing my own thing. I got a decent acoustic guitar, harmonica, and a stomp foot box that sounds like a bass drum and worked out how I could do these songs myself.”
With a successful support slot this past July on the Robert Cray tour, opening for Chuck Berry, Ian Siegal, Sandi Thom, Paul Jones and Dave Kelly and opening the main stage at last years Wychwood Festival, there are more dates in the UK this coming year to promote the album “Hard Times” which is currently available at gigs and online.