CLEVELAND — Cleveland is a city full of music. From the variety of concert venues to the iconic Rock & Roll Hall of Fame—the city is rich with entertainment. And starting Thursday, those looking to explore the sounds of the city can do so for free at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of their summer concert series
Sounds like those made by Marcus Smith. Music has been rooted in his life from a very early age.
"I’ve been playing music for the last—feels like forever but at least the last 18 years," Smith said. “My stepdad actually was an artist here in Cleveland back in the late 80s. So when I was growing up it was always playing in our house."
The time he spent around music not only sparked his interest in becoming a musician but molded his sound—which boasts a little bit of everything.
“Earth Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder was always playing, stuff like Boogie Down Productions and Janet Jackson, Prince—it was always going on in my house," Smith said. “My style’s kind of hip-hop meets pop meets funk, soul, rock, all kind of balled into one."
Smith is eclectic. His unique sounds are rivaled only by his range of musical talents.
“So I started writing first, so that was my first foray into music. I started writing in seventh grade for poetry class," Smith said. "And from there I learned piano I taught myself piano guitar, bass, drums, ukulele, and trombone, kind of, I like to add that one but I really don't know how to play it. And, you know, I've just been I've been playing music ever since."
Last year, Smith received what he thought would be the opportunity of a lifetime.
"So in 2021, I was one of the resident rockers at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Crazy, amazing opportunity for me. Just to put me in front of the right people and give me the tools I needed to further my career," Smith said.
That opportunity, however, has turned into so much more. On Thursday, Smith will take the main stage outside of the Rock Hall to kick off the museum's summer concert series Rock Hall Live.
“What’s going on here tonight is our very first Rock Hall Live of the summer," Smith said.
“We have local singer-songwriter, rapper Marcus Smith, we are thrilled to have him up on our stage from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.," said Megan Wilson, manager of fan engagement at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Wilson rushed around the Rock Hall Thursday morning, with a walkie-talkie in hand, coordinating everything at the museum as they prepared for the big night—the first of the free concerts that all are welcome to attend.
"All summer long we’ll keep on doing these free shows for you guys," Wilson said. "We encourage reserving your free ticket online on our website rockhall.com. That’s also where you can find the lineup of all the awesome bands that are going to be gracing the stage."
Bands like Smith's feature keys, drums, bass, and guitar—fellow musicians who complement his every note, whether he's rapping, singing, or crooning along to the music. Music that Smith hopes will garner him more fans as his songs fill the downtown streets Thursday night.
"So tonight, I just hope to gain more fans. I feel like I'm at a point in my career where the material that I'm writing is some of the best that I've ever written. So that I so I know that I know that I'm putting my best foot forward so I want people to experience that," Smith said. "I think my goal for tonight is to pull the people in that otherwise wouldn't look at us."
And Smith is shaking off the nerves and getting ready to shine under the spotlight.
"Anytime I get on stage, it's nerve-racking for me. Like I've been doing it for so long, but it's still that those nerves get me but I'm honored, really to kick this off," Smith said. "When the keyboard player hits that first note, that's when everything just kind of washes away, and a sense of calm washes over me."
Meanwhile, Wilson is preparing for a whole summer lineup that features local artists as well as internationally known bands, like Jimmy Eat World, who will perform on Sept. 8.
"We are bringing everything from people who are just getting their roots going in Cleveland to nationally known artists," Wilson said. “I mean it’s the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If you’re seeing music at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you know it’s going to be awesome."
To learn more about Marcus Smith, click here.
For the concert lineup and more information about the Rock Hall Live summer concert series, click here.
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