So, How Was Your 2020? is a series in which our favorite entertainers answer our questionnaire about the music, culture, and memorable moments that shaped their year. We’ll be rolling these pieces out throughout December.
Marcus King started off 2020 by releasing El Dorado in January. Produced and co-written with Dan Auerbach, the album solidified King’s place as the most exciting Southern-rock artist in years. “With a gruff, soulful rumble of a voice, a deep love of Muscle Shoals, and a fluid, rapid-fire guitar style that recalls both Duane Allman and Mountain’s Leslie West, King has been blowing minds at events like Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival and headlining big rooms like New York’s Beacon Theatre on his own,” Rolling Stone’s Jonathan Bernstein wrote back then.
As such, King was looking forward to a huge year, including a summer tour with the Black Keys. When the pandemic hit, King made the most of it, though, pivoting to livestreams and playing a series of innovative shows that had him teaming up with Mastodon’s Brent Hinds, as well as Billy Strings and Elizabeth Cook. He also hosted a Last Waltz tribute and played several drive-in dates. Overall, King’s livestreams raised more than $80,000 for charity.
Rolling Stone spoke with King about his year, the art that moved him, and more.
The album I listened to the most in 2020 was:
Singing for My Supper by Early James. I love that record. I had come to know James through Dan Auerbach; we all worked together under the Easy Eye umbrella. So I had met James early last year and when his record came out, I was really just kind of floored by it. And we took him out on the road with us and he just became family really quick.
I see James as a Tom Waits kind of a presence, you know? He’s just got this really gravelly voice. Really interesting approach to Southern music, and it’s really refreshing.
My favorite TV show to stream during quarantine was:
My girlfriend got me into New Girl. I got really obsessed with it.
The song that will define “2020” for me is:
I guess R.E.M.’s “The End of the World as We Know It.” Athens always, always has great bands like Widespread Panic and R.E.M. It’s a great city.
I’d define my current state of mind as:
Man, I’m hopeful. I am really optimistic about the music industry. And I’m optimistic about people in general. I think we’re all going to be better human beings after something like this, and appreciate things a little deeper.
The viral video I kept coming back to in quarantine was:
My girlfriend showed me a video of this kid that says “apparently” a lot. And that’s a really funny video. It’s really funny and really heartwarming. And you know, that’ll get you through a rough day.
The old-favorite album I returned to for comfort this year was:
Pet Sounds. It’s been one that I always come back to when I’m not feeling myself, I’m feeling really down. It’s become like a home base for me. When I listen to that record, I feel safe. And just musically there’s always something new to listen to. So it’s like, you can listen to your comfort music while also discovering something new that you maybe didn’t hear before. I just can’t think of any other record that does that for me. Because I’m always trying to listen to new stuff. You know, as we should? Yeah, that record, it’s home without being home and you can always find new stuff.
My other album would be Bridge of Sighs by Robin Trower. That’s the first vinyl that I ever bought on my own at 11. I went to a record store at one of those little shops and bought that record and the cover just kind of jumped out at me. It’s a fantastic album.
“When I listen to Pet Sounds, I feel safe.”
The old-favorite movie I returned to for comfort this year was:
It’s not a very old movie, but it’s [2017’s] Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. That’s such a good movie. I watched it again last night.
A new hobby I picked up in quarantine was:
I’ve been doing some housework stuff. I got into you know, trying to do some lawn maintenance and really just leaning into some home renovations, man; that was kind of my project this year.
The celebrity I’d most want to quarantine with is:
Bill Murray is the obvious one. I don’t really know. I don’t know if anybody wants to quarantine with strangers. But I guess we know each other a little bit. I met him through the Love Rocks thing. And he emcees the Clapton Crossroads [festival.] So we know each other but we’re not quarantining together.
The most interesting thing I learned to cook during quarantine was:
Well, my lovely girlfriend, Haley, has a lot of vegan recipes. So I’m always trying to do my own spin on that and trying to come up with some vegan recipes. As far as me, I got a grill this year so I’ve just been grilling a lot. We’ve gotten Beyond Burgers down. You know grilling veggies. It’s always fun. Maybe like a cedar plank salmon.
The best book I read in quarantine was:
Let’s see. I started quite a few. This year has been just really reflective. I started like, easily four books and just, it’s like, there’s nothing going on with there’s so much going on, you don’t have time to do anything? That’s what this year’s like to me.
Something positive that happened to me that nobody noticed was:
I got a new puppy. I’m sure people noticed that. Otis, a Great Dane mix. We got him right before the shutdown too, in March. It’s been amazing, man. We got him as such a little bitty puppy, and now he’s huge. He’s massive because he’s got a lot of Great Dane in him. And he’s kind of runs this house, man. It’s been great, seeing him grow up.
The mistake I learned the most from this year was:
The mistake I learned the most from was our last show before the shutdown in Copenhagen, Denmark. And we were all really tired. And we were all looking forward to getting home. And we didn’t savor every moment of that live performance. I’ll never do that again.
The biggest hero of 2020 was:
How about Dolly Parton, man? I finally watched the Dolly documentary. She donated a million dollars to vaccine research. She’s a champion.
A word or phrase I never want to hear again is:
“Are you hangin’ in there? Are you hangin’ in there OK?” Everybody says that shit, man. I’m tired of hearing that.
The thing I’m least looking forward to in 2021 is:
Probably the first few months, and I’ve boiled it down to a fairly good analogy, which is when you’re on the road, and you have to drive through Kansas. You know, beautiful people, beautiful countryside. But back in the day, when we would do that drive in a van, it would be not a lot of things to look at for a long time. And you’re looking so forward to getting to Denver. And when you get to Colorado, you don’t really realize it, but there are just three more hours of the same shit until you get to Denver. So I think that’s kind of what 2021 gonna be like. It’s you made it to Colorado, but there’s still no view for at least a few months.
The thing I’m most looking forward to doing when the pandemic is over is:
Just seeing people get together.
My biggest hope for 2021 is:
Just togetherness. No more divisiveness in our country. And that’s a big ask for sure. I just want to see people get along and see people happy and see people really savoring every moment. Because I think we all know now that it can be taken for us.