Catching up with legendary Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr

Johnny Marr
Johnny Marr


What would legendary Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr now in his fifties — say to his 19-year-old self, just about to embark on a career that would lead him to become one of the most widely acclaimed and respected rock musicians of his generation?

“Don’t give up.”

And what would 19-year-old Marr say to older Marr?

“Keep a good haircut.”

Alongside frontman Morrissey, Marr is best known for his work with seminal ’80s British indie-pop band The Smiths. After The Smiths disbanded, Marr went on to become a guitarist-for-hire, appearing in and collaborating on a variety of projects with artists like The The, The Pretenders, The Cribs and Pacific Northwest indie rockers Modest Mouse.

While working with Modest Mouse, Marr lived in Portland and visited friends in Eugene twice. “A proper college feel,” Marr tells EW of his time here, adding he’s glad for a chance to finally play a show locally.

Marr is touring in support of Playland, his second solo record after 2013’s The Messenger. Marr says his recent creative hot streak comes from touring with Modest Mouse, seeing parts of America for the first time and getting back in touch with the music that inspired him in his youth: The Buzzcocks, The Gun Club and Iggy Pop. Alongside Marr’s signature guitar work, the booming, iconic drums of the Iggy Pop classic “Lust for Life” can be heard on the Playland title track. He has been covering “Lust for Life” at recent live shows.

Marr says this all led to the confidence to step into the spotlight and lead a band, and that it’s “gratifying” for his work as a frontman to be so warmly received by audiences and critics alike.

Nevertheless, Marr says as a boy he dreamed only of being the lead guitarist.

“It’s the best job,” he says. “I know loads of singers that will tell you otherwise, but they’re wrong.”

Johnny Marr plays with Toronto’s Hooded Fang 8 pm Thursday, Dec. 11, at WOW Hall; $20. All ages. CANCELED