- This event has passed.
Guy Marshall live at The Hummingbird in Downtown Macon
June 24, 2017 @ 10:00 pm - 2:00 am| $5
It’s a vivid memory for Adam McNulty: crawling over rocks and fallen trees at the headwaters of mountain streams, his smiling grandfather — the man for whom he would later name his band — beckoning him onward.
Guy Marshall Shirley would help his grandson turn over rocks, catching crawdads and salamanders with hands callused from decades of hard work as service station owner in the Appalachian mountain town of Boone, N.C. Together, they’d walk down to where those streams widened out into rushing rivers, stands of trees crawling up steep hillsides around them, ground fog slipping over summits like the ghosts of ancestors long since passed.
Shirley passed away in 2008, but the kind of man that he was and the land he called home lives on in the music made by McNulty and his wife, Sarrenna. Together with a few talented friends, they’ve made Guy Marshall an up-and-coming East Tennessee roots-rock outfit that plays with touching beauty and sincerity.
“I’m big into family, so a lot of the songs I’ve written about my grandfathers is a desire to have known them better — both of them, especially Guy Marshall Shirley,” Adam McNulty told The Daily Times this week. “He was just a hard-working guy in the Boone area, an upstanding guy, and the coolest thing to me was that he was a real funny guy, but he seemed as deep as anything. He was a guy I always looked up to as a hard worker and a prime example of a man taking care of his family.
“We’ve tried to vocalize or put into words why we love that so much. There’s just something about the old ways and men from that era, they just seemed to have something I don’t think too many people have anymore. It’s something we’ve lost, and a lot of our songs are kind of reminiscent of those things.”
McNulty grew up in the Seymour area, the son of a mom who started him out on Alison Krauss and Union Station. His first concert was one by the Indigo Girls; when he started playing music as a teenager, his guitar teacher — Eric Griffin, who now plays as a member of Guy Marshall — turned him onto bands like Radiohead. Later on, he immersed himself in Bob Dylan, absorbing the singer-songwriter’s lyrical prowess as best he could.
McNulty first met his wife when they were kids growing up in the same church — one that Griffin attended as well, Trinity Chapel in Fountain City. Both Adam and Sarrenna were home-schooled and attended Friday classes together, bonding over music.
“He was always like, ‘Sarrenna, come listen to this in my car!’” she said. “It was completely innocent, just the two of us sitting in his car, listening to David Gray or Jeff Buckley. Adam has always been a music lover, and he’d show me all kinds of music when we were kids.”
The two started dating when they were 17; they married soon after and sang and played at church, but Adam always worked on songs on the side. He didn’t share them with anyone, however, and Sarrenna urged him to let the rest of the world in on the songs in his head that were finding their way onto paper. Enter Jamie Akins — now the bass player for Guy Marshall — who attended church with the newlyweds.
“He really pushed Adam to start showing his music to people and hone in on his writing skills,” Sarrenna said. “He was part of helping us decide that we wanted to do the band thing. He pulled together a couple of people we had gone to church with, and we started to play music together in his basement, going through some of Adam’s songs and giving them some structure.”
Griffin, meanwhile, was busy playing around town with a band called The Young and stepped away from music after The Young broke up; after the McNultys invited him to attend one of Adam’s first solo shows — at Vienna Coffeehouse in Maryville (the couple was living in Louisville at the time) — he was inspired to start playing again, and wanted to do so with Adam.
“They played a couple of times together, and from that point Eric was just a part of the band,” she said. “From there, we’ve continued trying to expand and do the best we can.”
They recorded a four-song demo, and this weekend they’re part of Vestival, the annual South Knoxville arts and heritage festival that takes place in the community in which they now live. They’re scheduled for a May 30 performance at Brackins in downtown Maryville as well, and the band hopes to hit the studio soon.
“Adam has these stories in his mind that he has to get right,” Sarrenna said. “Right now, he’s taking banjo and fiddle lessons during alternating weeks, and he’s also taking drum lessons. It’s insane, but it’s like he can’t stop. He’s always wanting to learn more about music.”