Interview with Marc Gunn
We get to know many people on GeekPost and sometimes we get to interview someone that we have been fans of for a long time. This is the case this time as we got to spend some time getting to know Musician and Podcaster Marc Gunn. Marc has been a staple at many ren-fairs and conventions such as Gen Con and Dragon Con through his career and we always make sure to check him out when we attend. We “Geeked Out” over this interview and we hope you will too.
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GeekPost: We have read that your dad was a major reason that you became a musician especially when it comes to comedy, folk instruments, and even the autoharp. Can you tell us more about this?
Marc Gunn: My dad loved folk music. He compiled a book of his favorite songs… or maybe it was songs from his folk sessions that he started attending at the start of the 80s. It was packed with a lot of great songs.
He had a regular session he’d take us to in Maryland. I remember sleeping on the floor under some bleachers while folk music filled some gym or somewhere. I heard a lot of songs. I even found some of my favorites. “Tennessee Waltz” was one such. “Ramblin’ Boy” by Tom Paxton was another. In fact, on my Cats n’ Celts USB drive, I have a recording of me singing that song when I was about 15 years old on the guitar. I learned both of those early-on on the autoharp.
My dad collected a lot of instruments during that time. The one I remember best was the banjo. I still love that instrument thanks to my dad, and I have his first one hanging on my wall in my office. Which I rarely play. But it’s there.
I also remember us driving cross country to visit family in Texas. He’d have his knee on the steering wheel, the banjo neck hanging out the window, as he drove.
He sang lots of songs. But what I remember most was that he would take any melody and make up lyrics. I didn’t know what Filk music was at that time…neither did he… but he was basically doing that. Silly lyrics about whatever the inspiration was. Those were usually sung a cappella though.
My dad played the autoharp too. But I don’t remember him playing it. He had 3 or 4 when I went off to college. I asked if I could take one. He said yes. But the autoharp mostly sat in its case while I attempted to learn the guitar and be a songwriter like Elvis Presley… who incidentally didn’t write songs.
It wasn’t until my second rock band, Breastfed, broke up at the end of 1997 that I finally picked up the autoharp.
GeekPost: How many instruments do you know how to play? How has your music evolved over the years?
Marc Gunn: I am mostly self-trained. I took a year of piano lessons as a kid. But stopped because I hated practicing. I had even fewer lessons with the guitar because the steel-stringed guitar my dad bought me cut off the circulation in my arm. It was too big for me.
I had one class on music theory in college. But overall, it didn’t help. I don’t consider myself paper-trained (snicker). I mostly learned to play by ear.
In college, I picked up the guitar. But I never got good at it. I could do chords and power chords. It was okay for the rock/punk music I was making. But when I found a lead guitarist with my band Breastfed, he quietly suggested, and I agreed, to put the guitar down and focus on singing.
Back then, my music was not good. It was fun. But playing rock music, my voice just didn’t develop. I had intonation problems. It just didn’t sound great. It was o-kay.
It really found its own after I picked up the autoharp.
The autoharp is a simple instrument to get started and feel like you’re accomplishing something. It’s a better background instrument for singers.
I learned to play it with a Mel Bay autoharp book. It had nothing but strum patterns in it. I started learning those patterns, little by little. Each time I learned one. I wrote a song with it.
I should point out again that my whole goal was to be a songwriter. So, this served me well.
Most of the songs weren’t great. But I started learning. And I developed a great appreciation of my voice and what I could do with it. Though I still had YEARS of work ahead.
Geekpost: Can you tell us about the humble beginnings? What about with the first band you were in?
Marc Gunn: My first band was Skander. My friend Jimmy aka “Johannes” and I started playing with me on electric guitar and him on keyboards. We added Monte on drums later.
But it was the Brobdingnagian Bards that felt like my real first band. That was after Skander, Plow Monday (a metal band I sang for very very briefly), and Breastfed.
We got together in 1999. I was working at the University of Texas at Austin. I would practice my autoharp on the South Mall. Someone asked if I wanted to try out for Renaissance faire. I said yes, but I was too scared to go alone. So, I asked Andrew McKee to join me. And the band was born.
GeekPost: With having been born on St Patrick’s day, do you feel like Celtic music is in your blood?
Marc Gunn: I didn’t until I started playing it. Synchronicity kind of struck me. I honestly didn’t know what Celtic music was until I started playing it. Enya was my Only entryway into the music and she’s more New Age.
Ironically, I released my second solo album, Irish Drinking Songs for Cat Lovers, in 2004. After releasing it, I learned March 17 is also St Gertrude’s Day. She was the Patron Saint of Cats.
Sooooo… yeah, again, about that synchronicity thing… LOL
GeekPost: How does your family feel about your career? Have they ever inspired you? What songs did they inspire you to write?
Marc Gunn: My family is amazing. I met my wife at a house concert in Virginia while I was on tour in 2009. We were married less than a year later. And from day one, she was extremely supportive of my music. Don’t make fun of me as a musician when she’s around. Hehe. She’s amazing!
From the start, I wanted to write songs about my family. But I never felt good enough at writing. And my early attempts were not great.
The first song I wrote for my wife that was actually good is on the 2022 CD, Selcouth. It’s called “Wherever I May Roam”. Musically, it was inspired by The Saw Doctors. It’s a great jam song if I have a band to jam with it.
Lyrically, it tells the story of life before, during and after. I wrote it shortly before we knew Gwen was pregnant with our second daughter. So, it’s very meaningful.
That song led to “Name On My Soul” which is one of my most-requested songs. Another song about our early romance with a great sing along part and another, even better, jam song.
I wrote “The Prettiest Hobbit” for my second daughter a couple days after she was born. That one was inspired by the Irish song “I’ll Tell My Ma”.
It wasn’t until I started the In the ‘Verse podcast with my friend Mikey Mason though that I really felt like I was writing great original songs… and my family gets included in them…sort of.
With the podcast, we watch episodes of shows we love. The first season was all Firefly. The latest has songs inspired by Doctor Who, The Hobbit, and the animated Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. Then we write a song inspired by themes from those shows. It’s been great for making me feel like a capable songwriter.
There are a lot of inside “jokes” in each song I write. Things inspired, sometimes by my wife, and sometimes kids or other things in life.
The song “Blink” is inspired by the Doctor Who episode of the same name. And another song from my next album, Come Adventure With Me.
And yes, it’s about that episode. But it’s also about me not wanting to miss out on my life with my family. From spending too much time on the computer or my phone or whatever. My family is the most-important thing to me. That’s why I don’t tour much anymore. I love my life with my family.
GeekPost: Lyrics in your songs range from beautiful to hilarious. Tell us about your writing process.
Marc Gunn: I don’t write nearly as many comical songs these days. Early on though, I wrote mostly based on the absurd and satirical. Those are two of my favorite comedy writing styles. A lot of those were parodies.
Parodies to me are easier to write comedy-wise. As I think about it, that’s probably why I don’t write many comedy songs. Because I’m steering away from parodies to write more originals.
But every now and then, I write songs like “Reavers Drinking Song”. That’s a satirical song based on the idea that the reavers from Firefly are regarded as insane and yet, they can fly a spaceship. So surely, they have their own drinking songs.
One of my most-popular original comedy songs is “Don’t Go Drinking With Hobbits”. That one was inspired by actual events at Dragon Con. Though I like to talk about it as if it came from a hobbit event I attend every few years.
That one started with the chorus. I based the chord progression on “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” but I wrote my own melody.
That’s a quick cheat for me. Find another song with interesting chords and use that.
I don’t do it as much these days unless I find myself getting stuck in a rut. Then I grab a chord progression.
A lot of my songs started with rhythm. I figure out what to play on the autoharp. Then I start making up lyrics until I have an idea for a song. Then I’ll construct a story from there.
Though sometimes, I start with an a cappella lyrical rhythm that I add autoharp to later. It varies a lot.
GeekPost: We have had the privilege many times to see you perform at Gen Con. What is your favorite part about conventions? What is your least favorite part?
Marc Gunn: I love conventions. It’s a tough call between Gen Con and Dragon Con. I feel like I get less overwhelmed at Gen Con, which makes for a better overall experience. That’s my least favorite thing at big conventions. I’m very noise sensitive. So, I get overwhelmed easily.
My favorite part is playing a show where you have a couple hundred people singing along to songs I wrote. Yeah. It’s the rock star dream. And it’s happened several times and it’s quite mind-blowingly awesome!
GeePost: What would you say is your favorite album from when you were in Brobdingnagian bards? What about as a solo artist?
Marc Gunn: My favorite Bards album is Brobdingnagian Fairy Tales. It was our best-developed album. It’s still very Renaissance festival focused but it starts reaching out into the music that I would ultimately do as a soloist, sci fi drinking songs.
My absolute favorite album is my latest Selcouth. That’s because it has a bunch of original songs… songs by ME, and they sound great, and it’s fun. And I got to collaborate with some great artists like Screeched Inn and The Muckers. It just makes me super proud. Again, I also Love singing those songs.
That said, I think Don’t Go Drinking With Hobbits is a fantastic folk album. Scottish Songs of Drinking Rebellion is a fantastic traditional album. Sci Fi Drinking Songs is prolly my best comedy album. And I love Flower of Scotland by Kilted Kings because it has a lot of original songs too that I love to sing, including “Name On My Soul”.
GeePost: How long have you wanted to visit Ireland? What was it like to finally get to play there some years back?
Marc Gunn: Honestly, I never thought much about visiting Ireland until right before I went. I think Scotland was more on my mind, being of Scottish heritage (Gunn is a clan in Scotland). And my mom lived in Italy. She instilled in me a love of travel.
But I saw bands doing vacation tours. So, when I was at Things Celtic in Austin (now located in Dublin, Texas), we worked out a deal to do a bus tour. It was reasonably successful. So, we did another. Next thing I knew, I had fallen in love with Ireland too.
GeekPost: Do you consider yourself a geek and if so, what does that mean to you?
Marc Gunn: Ah. Being a geek. I’ve been one most of my life. I prefer the term geek over nerd. That’s because of the negative connotation it had back in the 80s.
For me, it’s a love of things geeky. It’s being outside the normal. It’s selcouth (which means “when everything is strange and different, yet you find it marvelous anyway”).
Geek was more appropriate. It reflects my love of science fiction and fantasy and Renaissance festivals. It’s about the TV shows, the movies, the gaming (that I used to do more of).
It’s super reflective of my life and, of course, my music.
GeekPost: We along with our readers are a big fan of pets, especially cats! We have 3 ourselves: Loki, Crowley and Castiel. Do you have any pets you’d like to tell us about/show us a picture?
Marc Gunn: My wife and I were the Brady bunch of cats. She had two girls (Jenga & Rain). I had two boys (Tiziano and Torre). Sadly, they all passed away slowly over the past few years. But they were super important to us and of course, TnT were a big part of my music for Irish Drinking Songs for Cat Lovers.
Since then, we’re back up to four cats. We got Pompeii and Emmie a couple years ago and Emo and Thorn, Murder Cat, earlier this year.
GeekPost: What would you like our readers to know the most about you?
Marc Gunn: I guess the thing I haven’t talked about is podcasting. I started way back in 2005 and still have three podcasts that have continued since then (Brobdingnagian Bards Podcast, Pub Songs & Stories and my flagship show, Irish & Celtic Music Podcast).
I mentioned that recording of “Ramblin Boy” back in high school. Well, I recorded it on a cassette where I was pretending to be a DJ. That was probably my first entry into “podcasting” even though it wasn’t published back then.
I love it as a medium to share ideas and stories. The new Pub Songs & Stories is a great example of that. Because you get behind the scenes stories about some of the songs I write and play. It’s kind of awesome having this medium and knowing how to use it.
I also continue to host tours through my company, Celtic Invasion Vacations. I’m planning another trip to Ireland this year. As I said, I love to travel.
Thank you so much for allowing me to share my story. If anyone wants some free music, they can visit https://marcgunn.com/media/the-geek-post/ and I’ll give you some free MP3s from Pub Songs & Stories podcast.
And Follow Him on Social Media
The GeekPost would like to thank Marc Gunn for taking the time to let us all get to know him more. It would take you many hours to catch up on all of Marc’s content but as long-time fans ourselves we can promise you it is time well spent. Check out Marc Gunn at the links Above.