Adam Marsland has always been a kind of underground sensation. In the early to mid 1990s, he was the frontman for Cockeyed Ghost, a Los Angeles-based power pop punk band that was part of the city’s music scene.
Marsland, who performs Sunday night at The Boulevard Tavern said, “We were a fairly big local band. We made the cover of L.A. Weekly. We toured a bit. We got a record deal...”
Cockeyed Ghost played South by Southwest, toured with Shonen Knife and opened for bands like Third Eye Blind and Fastball.
“Then the usual thing happened in the ‘90s,” he said. “The label ran out of money.”
Marsland and Cockeyed Ghost suddenly found themselves out in the cold.
“I learned a kind of valuable lesson from that,” the singer/songwriter said. “It’s kind of conventional wisdom now, but not so much back then. You really have to kind of be able to stand on your own two feet. You’re only as good as your last record deal, and if all the record companies are going bankrupt, you’re not going to last very long.”
So, Marsland built a recording studio in his home and worked on other people’s records. He made himself self-sufficient, which allowed him the ability to work on his own material and release it.
During the last 20 years, he has released 11 records, most of it solo material and none what anyone would call a hit.
That doesn’t bother him — or at least, there’s not a lot he can do about it.
“The way things are, there’s not as much infrastructure as their once was for original music,” Marsland said. “There are lots of reasons for that, but the bottom line is it’s hard to get a big enough audience for that kind of thing.”
So, getting his kind of music out has to be more personal.
He said,”To go onto bigger things, you need to get on a TV show. You need NPR or Mojo to do a piece on you. You need some sort of deus ex machina [something beyond anyone’s control] and that hasn’t happened to me — but I’ve carved out a pretty good niche as a session player and a producer.”
Marsland has made a living and kept his artistic integrity. It’s put him in a good place so that he’s been able to revisit material that he thought he might not have given his full attention before.
The singer is currently out on the road, touring in support of “Go West,” a double CD he released in 2009.
“I’ve never tried anything like this before,” he said. “Usually, you’re promoting the new album or just doing what you can do and letting people pick and choose.”
“Go West,” he said, might be his best work, but five years ago, Marsland wasn’t really touring. At the time, he hadn’t spent a lot of time on the road in almost a decade and felt the record didn’t really get the support from him that it needed to maybe find an audience.
So, after going out on the road last year and even playing some out of the way places like Charleston, Marsland thought he would go back out on the road to play songs from “Go West.”
The record contains challenging material, he said.
“Some of the songs are very serious and not real crowd pleasers. You’ve really go to dig in and present them.”
There are fun and upbeat songs, but also dark tunes about depression, loss and child abuse.
Marsland said “Go West” was the sort of record that takes a little time to absorb.
“It’s something you have to kind of nibble off of until it becomes part of your life. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.”
So far, people on this tour are embracing it. Record sales have been good.
After the tour is over and Marsland heads back to California, he said he won’t be in a huge rush to record another record — at least not one of his own. There will be work to do for other people.
“I’ve recorded 11 records of my own,” he said. “That’s a lot for people to get into. I’ve been thinking of doing some sort of compilation maybe.”
Reach Bill Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5195 or follow @LostHwys on Twitter.