Nashville-based singer-songwriter, co-writer and film and TV composer, sideman and musical director, Marc Copely has had a profound musical journey. After a horrific but life changing car accident, Marc has gone on to work with such icons as Bono, The Edge, Willie Nelson, Roseanne Cash, and Joe Walsh.
“When I reflect on the various things I’ve done, what ties everything together is respect for the music,” Marc says. “It could be performing ‘Nessun Dorma’ with the East Village Opera Company, writing a song for Willie Nelson, or getting hired by Buddy Miller to play on a McCrary Sisters’ record, for me, it’s all about serving the music.”
In all his creative guises, Marc’s work is characterized by getting to the roots, the organic essentials of the music. Because of this, his sensibility encompasses all Americana, country, blues, singer-songwriter, rock n’ roll, and the various modern offshoots of these foundational genres. He’s a musician with, as they say, “big ears,” and this means what unifies his approach as a singer-songwriter, co-writer and film and TV composer, sideman and musical director, is the larger sonic picture.
As a songwriter, Marc can supply lyrics, chords, and vocal melodies. His versatility and humility have enabled him to work in refreshingly diverse situations as a writer. Marquee highlights include: the track “Midnight Run” performed by Willie Nelson and featured in The Weinstein’s movie Lawless, the track “Little White Lies” featured in the film Butter, starring Jennifer Garner and Hugh Jackman, and co-write highlights such as “Breathe Into You” with Carole King, and “Something Beautiful” with Tracy Bonham and Greg Wells. As a dedicated composer of film and TV music, Marc’s work has appeared on shows such as Late Night with David Letterman, Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Brothers and Sisters, Grey’s Anatomy, Pawn Stars, Cajun Pawn Stars, American Restoration, NY Ink, Psychic Kids, Duck Dynasty, and the ABC drama The Fosters.
In the context of being a sideman onstage and in the studio, Marc’s refined musicality and artistic intuition have an enabled him to work with some of modern music’s most beloved names. He’s opened for Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and The Eagles on separate tours with JD & The Straight Shot. He’s made cameos on TV and films such as Dancing With The Stars and the American Music Awards, American Idol with Constantine Maroulis, and the blockbuster film New Year’s Eve, playing alongside Jon Bon Jovi in the fictitious rock band Jensen. Most recently Marc appeared on ABC’s hit show Nashville, playing alongside Florida Georgia Line in the first ever live performance to appear on a television show series, and the movie Annie produced by Will Smith and Jay-Z.
As a producer, Marc is aesthetically aligned with Americana-tinged producers who can conjure up vibey recordings. In this realm, some of his inspirations are Daniel Lanois, Ry Cooder, Buddy Miller, and T Bone Burnett. One highlight on his producer reel is the Strawberry Lover (Rykodisc 2005) album by soulful folk artist Jess Klein. The album debuted as the number one most added album on Triple A radio a week before its release, and has earned favorable reviews from critics nationally and internationally.
Marc was born in Worcester, Massachusetts and began his professional career at 19, gigging around Boston as an in-demand guitarist, backup vocalist, musical director, and producer. From the start he was devoted to American roots music, and his early professional work was in a blues context, working alongside such legends as B.B. King, James Cotton, and James Montgomery. During this nascent period, Marc was dead set on moving to Nashville, as he felt it was something of a spiritual home. However, the night before he was officially going to actually move, he was in a near fatal car accident after a gig that resulted in his resuscitation by the side of the road, and seven separate fractures in his arm.
The road to recovery, and playing music again, was arduous but positively transformative. A friend passed along hundreds of albums for him to explore, and, during this time, he began to formulate his panoramic view on music. As he sat listening to song after song, he began writing his own songs that would later appear on his critically acclaimed 2002 RCA solo debut, Limited Lifetime Guarantee. His first single received steady radio play and quickly boosted him into the national spotlight, prompting appearances on VH1, MTV2, and features in publications from Billboard to GQ Magazine. He toured as a solo artist supporting Coldplay, Our Lady Peace, Vanessa Carlton, and many others. In 2009, he released the diverse and rootsy follow-up, Harp & Plow (Valcope Recording/United for Opportunity). The record was pre-nominated for a Grammy Award© in the “Best Americana Album” category, and chosen as an Editors’ Pick in the June, 2010 Issue of Guitar Player Magazine. Marc is currently writing his third record.
Due to the feverish pace of his career, Marc had to put off moving to Nashville for many years, but he recently made his dream migration come true. “I was so emotional when I got on the plane. I was thinking ‘The last time I tried to move to Nashville it didn’t happen. I hope this plane lands.’ Now here I am and it’s only taken me 18 years!,” he says with a good-natured laugh.
The journey to Nashville has indeed been winding and filled with surprises and surprise successes. The most meaningful for Marc, however, was hearing Willie Nelson’s recording of his song “Midnight Run” for the movie Lawless. “I started tearing up when I heard it,” he recalls. “It’s not a sad song, it’s about running moonshine, but it was one of those moments in life where everything felt right and just made sense.”