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Canberra Times Story

By Arne Sjostedt

Guitarist Marcus Sturrock has a penchant for keeping it real. Shying away from the at times pretentious and manufactured side of the music industry, he refuses to be labelled, packed up and sold out. Instead, this gentleman guitarist prefers to let his performance and passion speak for themselves.

Sturrock has played and jammed with a virtual brag book of musicians, and developed a reputation as being a wild and gifted performer. Artists he shares one degree of separation from include Tony McManus, Darryl Braithwaite, Angry Anderson, Vince Jones, Wendy Matthews, and keyboardist with the likes of Pink Floyd, Phil Collins and Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Robin Lumley.

Promoting two new albums Getting it Wronge and Too Many Strings, Canberra will have the opportunity to see Sturrock in action Saturday night at the Southern Cross Club.

Joining him will be vocalist Brooke Schiemer, singer song writer Nick Cornish and multi instrumentalist Andrew Clermont. Director of the Golden Fiddle Awards, Clermont is three times National Flat-pick Champion, plays with bands like Totally Gourdgeous and Dya Singh, and has won numerous awards for banjo, mandolin and violin.

Saturday's show will include everything from country to "swing, swing jazz, gypsy swing" and a little bit of blues. There's some Middle Eastern sounds, says Sturrock, "lots of Celtic, a bit of Flamenco, and some nice funk with a bit of luck." At the end of the night, the musicians will join each other for one big jam.

Having joined an ashram at the age of 14, with the rejection of materialism and ego that goes along with much Eastern philosophy, Sturrock is reticent to see himself as deserving the respect he has come to earn from audiences both internationally and in Australia. "Being recognised, being respected, I'm split in two ways. I don't like people respecting me because I'm a guitarist. I could be anything - they don't know me personally." He acknowledges, however, the thrill of live performance. "If you're playing in front of 40,000 people, its like - 'Good grief.' It's very illusory, it's very fake in a lot of ways - but you can't deny the fact, or I can't, that you come out buzzing. You can't take the smile off your face."

Not content to stay in one place for too long, he says his music is hard to put it in a box. "I get bored very easily, which is why I move on from one style of music to another. Even within my own repertoire as a guitarist."

While boundaries don't fit comfortably in his world, many of Sturrock's tunes are highly structured and technical. "I would find it really hard to jam all night," he says. Having come from a history of playing in groups like PJ Hooker and the Psyco Safari Band, Sturrock decided if he was going to play solo guitar well, he was going to work hard to stand out. "I thought I'll have to get so good that lots of people will like me, but be still obtainable to the point where it was still melodic."

He is also the first to recognise talent in others. "I know my limitations - I know when I sit next to somebody like Tony McManus - who plays one particular style of playing, a Cetic style, I sit there humbled."

Sturrock tours roughly three months of the year, runs Big Ears Recording Studio in Western Australia and works as a carer, providing musical therapy to sufferers of profound Autism. After doing 15,000kms by car for this tour alone, next month he takes off to tour Europe - stopping at Holland, Germany, Italy, England, Scotland and Ireland. Not surprisingly, he was hard to pin down when asked what he wanted to do next. "I ask myself what am I trying to do with life sometimes. Full stop. Music for me is a challenge on a lot of different levels." It's a challenge that has taken him away from his instrument many times. Returning, however, is as inevitable as it is a pleasure.

"When I get back to it it's like arriving home. It's not just that I'm playing guitar - I'm expressing myself in a way that I would like to."

Quotes

"Marcus has forged a truly unique sound from the acoustic guitar, Melody Harmony and in your face Rhythm on one instrument, Astounding"
- Tony McManus

"Had the pleasure of catching a performance by Marcus and was impressed by his original guitar style, stage presence and quality of his compositions, Marcus is obviously an accomplished and articulate musician/composer & performer in concert and on record"
- Robin Lumley (Keyboard player Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Phil Collins, Moody Blues & Procul Harum)

"Marcus mesmerized me with uniquely innovative heartfelt Vocal and Guitar styles. Funk, World, Flamenco, Folk, Jazz, Middle Eastern, Celtic and more, with simultaneous driving percussive solos on the Guitar body. Simple or technical, & passionate, a stand out composer"
- Robin Lumley (Keyboard player Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Phil Collins, Moody Blues & Procul Harum)

"This unique and highly regarded guitarist takes the audience on a journey through styles ranging from Celtic tunes to world music interspersed with trademark driving percussive solos played on the guitar body. An inspiring oral treat of technical, emotional, classical and funky originals."
- Fairbridge Festival