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Exclusive: Johnny Marr Drops North American Tour Dates, Talks New Solo Album ‘Playland’

Johnny Marr, 2014.
Jon Shard

Johnny Marr

The former Smiths guitarist also gives an update on his forthcoming autobiography.

American fans will soon get a chance to watch the venerable Johnny Marr perform tracks from his forthcoming solo album, as well as some classic tracks from the Smiths and beyond.

Playland, Marr’s new solo album, is set for an Oct. 7 release via Warner Music Group. He previously announced a slew of coinciding U.K. tour dates for October, but he’s not about to leave his American fans cold. Marr tipped Billboard off on an upcoming North American tour, which starts Nov. 9 at Washington, DC's 9:30 Club (full itinerary below).

Smiths Guitarist Johnny Marr Announces New Solo Album, 'Playland,' Due Oct. 6

“We want to be known for being a great live band,” Marr proclaims to Billboard, clearly not content to rest on the reputation of his past. For the recent reboot of his solo career, Marr hooked up with his current band for the 2013 album The Messenger. At his 2014 dates, he intends to play tracks from that album, Playland, the Smiths, Electronic (his now-defunct collaboration with New Order’s Bernard Sumner), as well as covers from seminal acts like the Clash and the Animals.

One song that should keep the hips shaking (much more than the Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now?,” guaranteed) is the impossibly catchy “Easy Money,” the first single from Playland. Check out the video below, which features a romp through a casino and a can’t-miss shot of Marr bending down to the camera and flashing a couple stacks of cash at the 1:45 mark:

“It’s a commentary on how we’re all rushing around, being motivated by money, without even bothering to bat an eyelid about it,” Marr says. “I’m not making a complaint,” he assures. “I’m more lampooning all the rushing around we do. That’s why I tried to write something quite upbeat and commercial. And I tried to wrap it up in a tune everyone can jump around to when they’re drunk, because I think that’s funny.”

This sentiment was highly influenced by the time Marr spent recording in London; “every square foot of it is busy and manic,” he says. Coming into the studio via the London Underground and then driving out most nights, he got a well-rounded sense for the city during the making of Playland, and remarks that its art scene has been thriving in recent years. Still, the album also alludes to his hometown of Manchester, as the track “25 Hours” describes his artistry as a form of escape from an often suffocating Catholic upbringing.

Speaking of which, Marr devotees have been awaiting the arrival of his autobiography since he announced plans for it in late 2013. Marr tells Billboard he’s “not sure” when he will turn his focus on it (perhaps in “18 months or a couple years, when the band has played and played and played”) as he’s currently giving all his attention to Playland.

“But I make notes when things pop up that I shouldn’t forget about,” Marr assures. “That way, when I come to do it, I’m not stuck looking at a blank page. There’s a lot that’s going on in the background that is just part of getting ready for it. I’ve got two really good friends who have published very good books: Andrew Loog Oldham (who’s written a couple) and Nile Rodgers. They’ve given good advice and pointers.”

And not that he needs reminding, but we can think of one more noted autobiographer with whom Marr shares a memory or two with.

Here are Johnny Marr’s upcoming North American tour dates:

Nov. 9: Washington, DC (9:30 Club)
Nov. 10: Philadelphia, PA (Union Transfer)
Nov. 12: New York, NY (Gramercy Theatre)
Nov. 14: Asbury Park, NJ (Stone Pony)
Nov. 15: Brooklyn, NY (Music Hall of Williamsburg)
Nov. 16: Boston, MA (Paradise)
Nov. 18: Clifton Park, NY (Upstate Concert Hall)
Nov. 19: Montreal, Quebec (Corona)
Nov. 20: Toronto, Ontario (Danforth)
Nov. 22: Columbus, OH (Newport Music Hall)
Nov. 23: Detroit, MI (St. Andrews)
Nov. 25: Chicago, IL (Vic Theatre)
Nov. 26: Kansas City, MO (Arvest Bank Theatre)
Nov. 28: Denver, CO (Gothic Theatre)
Nov. 29: Aspen, CO (Belly Up)
Dec. 1: Missoula, MT (Top Hat Lounge)
Dec. 3: Edmonton, Alberta (Starlite)
Dec. 4: Calgary, Alberta (Republik)
Dec. 6: Victoria, British Columbia (Sugar Nightclub)
Dec. 7: Vancouver, British Columbia (Commodore Ballroom)
Dec. 8: Seattle, WA (Neumos)
Dec. 10: Portland, OR (Wonder Ballroom)
Dec. 11: Eugene, OR (Wow Hall)
Dec. 12: Sacramento, CA (Ace of Spades)
Dec. 14: San Francisco, CA (Independent)
Dec. 16: Pomona, CA (Glass House)
Dec. 18: Solona Beach, CA (Belly Up Tavern)
Dec. 19: Los Angeles, CA (El Rey Theatre)
Dec. 20: Los Angeles, CA  (El Rey Theatre)