WHEN HE WAS 16, an age when most guitarists are still dreaming of playing their first high-school dances, Marcus Machadogot a call to perform the National Anthem at an Orlando Magic NBA game before a sell-out crowd of 20,000. “I should have been nervous, but the truth is, I was elated,” he says with a laugh “The crowd actually helped me perform. Practicing in my bedroom, I had always imagined what it would be like playing to an arena full of people, so when I heard them cheering for me, it wasn’t scary at all. It was pretty magical.”
In the years since his arena debut, Machado would be called to perform theNational Anthem a few more times. One such appearance was at Madison Square Garden before a New York Knicks game. “It’s always an honor when you get asked to play the song,” he says. “It’s a heavy piece of music, and it’s been done by legends, but I don want to imitate. There was only one Hendrix, one Stevie Ray Vaughan. I’ve always tried to try to put my own flavor into it and enjoy the moment. Let the song tell its story, but put some of your stories into it, too.”
“YOU CAN LEARN TO PLAY JIMMY PAGE OR HENDRIX SOLOS, BUT WHAT ABOUT WHAT THEY WERE FEELING? THAT’S WHAT I’VE TRIED TO TAP INTO”
Machado’s guitar style is a fascinating amalgam of influences. He picked up the guitar at the age of two and absorbed the music of his parents (his mother loved jazz, while his father favored rock) before discovering blues, funk, soul, and hip-hop. “Hendrix and Jimi Hazel were two biggies for me,” he says. “They seemed to be able to take everything and turn it into their own sound.” After a lengthy period of performing as a sideman for artists like the Family Stand and Weather Report’s Victor Bailey, he released his debut EP, 29, in 2015, to rousing acclaim.
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