Doug Martsch Spills Bluesy Solo Debut

Excerpted from the magazine for

For Built To Spill's Doug Martsch, what began as a few fun riffs to play while practicing guitar ultimately evolved into the material for his solo debut, "Now You Know." The set has been finished for more than two years but finally saw release yesterday (Sept. 17) on Warner Bros.

In contrast to Built To Spill's electric guitar epics, "Now You Know" offers a decidedly more intimate listen, thanks in part to having been recorded at Martsch's home studio in Boise, Idaho. The bulk of the tracks are built around blues-influenced riffs and slide guitar overdubs, with occasional added color provided by keyboards, cello, or the assistance of a local rhythm section. He even played drums on some tunes.

"I had no intention of making any songs for any release at all," the artist says of the set, which offers 10 originals alongside a cover of Mississippi Fred McDowell's "Jesus." "But over time, I wrote little parts just to practice or for things to do. All of the songs, even the ones with the band, were written that same way. It was never considered Built To Spill territory at all."

While Martsch's slide work found its way onto a handful of songs from Built To Spill's 2001 album "Ancient Melodies of the Future," there's little else in his catalog resembling "Offer" or the positively jaunty gems "Gone" and "Window." Listeners accustomed to the Built To Spill sound will revel in the aptly named "Instrumental," which struts like vintage Neil Young, or "Impossible," which works itself into a tense ball of layered guitars and drum rolls.

Just a few years ago, Martsch had to be talked into agreeing to occasional solo performances in and around Boise. But after a successful, short West Coast solo tour last fall, he gained the confidence to launch a full trek supporting "Now You Know." A new trek begins Oct. 5 in Minneapolis.

Buit To Spill fans fear not: Martsch says he expects the band to begin recording a new set next year. Asked if the homespun sound of "Now You Know" may influence future sessions, he admits, "We're not going to be a blues band, but you can't avoid putting in some things you've learned from listening to that music."

Excerpted from the Sept.21, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

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