Marcus Vaughn’s neighbors hate him. You can’t blame them. Recording an entire nine-song debut album in an apartment bedroom tends to generate some hard feelings with the folks next-door and downstairs. The set, appropriately entitled “Ceiling Noise,” is the culmination of almost two years woodshedding on protools, songwriting and vocals for the 25 year-old. While stylistically diverse, the record’s underlying theme revolves around Marcus’ relationships—with his girlfriend, father, a brother who passed away, the world he’s experienced and himself—and explores his connection to his musical influences that run the gamut from Johnny Cash to My Morning Jacket to Sigur Ros.
A guitarist by trade, Marcus moved to Nashville from Los Angeles in 2009 after the second of his two hyped bands broke up. It wasn’t to pursue a career in country but simply to be in a town that had an affinity for music in its soul and, frankly, cheaper rent. Once he arrived, Marcus eschewed playing out for staying in…and focusing not only on crafting songs for himself but also finding his voice: literally as a lead singer and figuratively as a solo artist—something he hadn’t done to this point as a lead guitarist and sideman.
The result is a collection of songs that reveal not only what he had to say as an artist but also what he was learning as a craftsman through experimentation with various recording techniques, sounds and styles. If one was to put a label on the result it would be alt-country, Americana or singer-songwriter; but Marcus’ mix of acoustic guitars with programmed keyboards, drums loops and layered vocal harmonies reaches beyond those musical borders.
All the songs except one are originals. And that one, “Newport Beach Memory,” is more of an adaptation than a cover. It’s a song Marcus’ father wrote in the 1980s and that he re-recorded adding some new lyrics and reworking the arrangement. It, along with two others (“I Walk For Two” and “Your Blood in Mine”), are odes to his family, which experienced the death of his younger brother a few weeks after his birth, making Marcus an only child. The dichotomy of familial emptiness and closeness caused by that tragedy certainly shaped Marcus’ outlook and is reflected in tracks such as “We Are Here,” “While The World Falls Apart,” “Save My Soul,” and “Shine On,” which was inspired by a conversation he had with Patrick Swayze at a guitar shop in L.A. shortly before the actor passed.
While the seeming darkness of the material is balanced with lyrical hopefulness, “Ceiling Noise” is definitely steeped in introspection making it the ideal debut for a musician who has decided to follow his own vision after years of collaboration and artistic compromise.
This album is a good beginning for Marcus, who’s not sure where it will lead other than the road for as many gigs as he can get. And regardless of what they think of his music, that’s something neighbors will very much appreciate.