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The Patriot Ledger - July 26, 2002
Music Scene: Copely Making it on his Own

Worcester guitarist Marc Copely had been cruising along, bouncing from one band to another, with vague ambitions of someday doing his own music. Four years ago an encounter with a wandering moose knocked Copely out of music for a spell, but he came back with his solo debut, ''Limited Lifetime Guarantee,'' on RCA Records. Copely is now touring as the opening act for Canada's The Tragically Hip, including shows Friday through Sunday at the Somerville Theater.

''I was the typical kid who fell into rock 'n' roll guitar through performers like Cream, and Jimi Hendrix, and that led me into the blues,'' Copely said from a Chicago tour stop. ''I used to play all the time in Worcester, and then Boston and Cambridge. I was primarily a guitar player -sort of a singing gun-for-hire.''

He spent a year studying at Boston's Berklee School of Music, before concentrating on playing guitar full-time. But the 1997 accident was an eye-opener. Driving home from a show in Maine late one night, Copely and a friend struck a large moose on the highway. The guitarist took the brunt of the impact, suffering severe head trauma, fractures in two places on his left arm, a broken left wrist, dislocated shoulder, bruised ribs and a serious back injury.

''The moose thing is what it is,'' Copely said with a sigh. ''Ultimately, it helped me out. I was able to take an extremely negative and painful situation, and turn it into something hopeful and positive.''

Laid up at his parents' house to recuperate, Copely could still write with his one good hand, so he began writing lyrics and sketching out musical ideas. He also began keeping a journal of his thoughts and feelings, and where he wanted to go with his life and music. Several months later, when Copely was able to venture out again, he began playing informal jam sessions. His first real gig came as a result of a Sunday night get-together at a club in Salem.

''Mary Lou Lord was in the club one week and heard us, and liked my playing. She talked to me afterwards about needing a guitarist for her tour, and we exchanged CDs. My joining her band happened pretty naturally.''

After playing with Lord, Copely joined the James Montgomery Band. But both are now secondary to his desire to make his own music. ''Mary Lou was one of the first people who looked at me and said, 'You're good and I like having you in my band, but why aren't you doing your own thing?'''

It worked. Soon he met his manager, Peter Casperson, who helped him get a major label contract. The songs on ''Limited Lifetime Guarantee'' easily span several styles. There is a post-grunge indie rock sound, but also a visceral drive reminiscent of some of Copely's classic rock idols. And there's a very effective use of layering guitar sounds to give the tunes added depth and intriguing textures.

The first single is ''Surprise,'' a witty but wicked breakup song, where Copely's vocal is all evil delight. ''Crystal Clear'' is more of a ballad, with gorgeous guitar interwoven. ''Brutal Light'' rocks with more grit than most of today's music, and again Copely's vocals are riveting.

The album is performed by a trio, with bassist Dave Hull and drummer Josh Freese. Rocker Tracy Bonham does a guest spot on violin on the song ''Right to My Head.'' Copely's studio wizardry makes his group seem like a much bigger band.

''The three of us played most of the album together, almost as if it were a show,'' Copely explained. ''But it is definitely a challenge to play that live, so we are now playing with an amazing guitarist named Adam Widoff. It makes for a different approach, since we now have a quartet with a lot of improvising going on, but it's an exciting thing.''

Though Copely's album came out June 25, already he's completed a summer tour opening for Our Lady Peace. A week ago he started as opener for The Tragically Hip. ''We've been pretty fortunate in who we've been working with,'' Copely admitted. ''People have responded to the record, and really liked it. That is extremely satisfying. The Hip have been very nice to us, and given us anything we needed. They are a very interesting band to hear up close.''

Copely's weekend at the Somerville Theater will be a homecoming of sorts - his first area gigs since the record came out. ''It's more of a challenge playing in front of my dad,'' he said with a laugh. ''He won't be afraid to come up afterwards and say 'Hey, that third song was a little off.' But really, it'll be fun and I can't wait to do it.''

- Interview by Jay Miller

Courtesy of The Patriot Ledger

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